Dec 20, 2006

Yield to "The Bus" Law?

The following is a copy of a letter sent from a concerned bus driver of Kingston Transit to Noam Saidenberg of the Ministry of Transportation. It is followed with a reply that in my opinion, is totally unacceptable.

Noam Saidenberg,
Ministry of Transportation
I am a driver with Kingston Transit, (Kingston, Ontario) and I, like many of my fellow drivers, have several issues with the yield to the bus law. Mainly that it is not enforced. The police consider it a very low priority, and therefore pretty much ignore people who fail to yield to the bus. This is not just an issue in Kingston, but everywhere, as I have learned from talking to other bus drivers in other municipalities.
It is easy for your office to say that enforcement is up to the local police forces, but isn't it your job (the MTO) to make sure they are actually enforcing it?
Subsequently, people have no fear of legal retrobution for their actions, so they continue to stream around buses attempting to re-enter traffic, like we are nothing more than a bag of garbage left on the road.
Section 142, subsection 3, states that: No driver of a bus shall re-enter the lane of traffic adjacent to a bus bay and move into the path of a vehicle or street car if the vehicle or street car is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield the right of way.
Obviously no-one at MTO has ever driven a transit bus. It doesn't matter if you are in a bus bay or stopping on the travelled portion of the road to load or unload passengers. The second you stop, the flow of traffic starts moving around you, and it doesn't stop until you signal and then force your way back into the stream of vehicles. If you don't, you'll sit there all day. It is always impractical for the driver to yield the right of way, because they see the bus signal come on and just speed up to get in front of you. Many people take stupid chances, even swerving out into oncoming traffic just to get in front of a bus, rather than be stuck behind it.
The law is vague at best. A $90.00 fine is a joke, and pocket change to most drivers. No points are lost from their licences. The law doesn't do anything to address buses stopping on the travelled portion of the roadway where 95% of bus stops are anyway. And the police don't bother to enforce the law.
Instead of doing it right from the start, it looks as if this law was put into place just to keep the transit authorities off your backs. If you people were serious about it, the fine would be a minimum of $250.00, with a loss of two points, the signs on the backs of the buses would be twice the size with the fine displayed as well, and the police would be strongly encouraged to enforce it.
While this opinion is just my own, and not that of Kingston Transit, it strongly reflects the feeling we all have as front line drivers out there. It's a tough job to begin with, but it's that much harder when the people who make the laws to protect you aren't doing all they can to help.
This law needs to be reviewed and taken seriously. If the Province is so dedicated to getting people to take public transit, then maybe the Province should start being dedicated to public transit.
Dave Shepherd
Bus Operator,
Kingston Transit

The reply:

Mr. Shepherd,
First, I would like to thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. While we, at the government try our best to develop legislation that is effective and appropriate, I am sure there is always room for improvement. Therefore, your comments on the Yield to Bus law are appreciated.
I would like to respond to the issues you raised in your email and explain the reasons for some aspects of the law:
  • First, a little bit of background. The Yield to Bus (YTB) legislation was in direct response to municipal and municipal transit request. Municipalities specifically requested legislation to make it easier for buses to leave bus bays and better stick to schedule. This appears to be a problem in the bigger cities with congested streets and frequent service in rush hours. The law did not intent to give buses total priority on the road or to address bus stops on travelled lanes. As requested by municipalities, it was drafted specifically to make it easier for buses to leave bus bays.

  • The YTB law and the regulation that goes with it were developed by a working group made of MTO representatives, municipal transit representatives and a rep from the OPP. The municipal transit reps were asked to participate precisely because we realized that none of us has ever driven a bus. They contributed a great deal to our understanding of the issues and ensured the legislation is adequate, appropriate and workable.

  • This legislation in a way represents the beginning of a shift in view – it gives buses priority over cars. It is perhaps a small step in this direction, but a good and important one nevertheless.

  • As to the signs on the back of the bus: these signs were developed by the working group that included representatives from municipal transit. The size of the sign was determined after consultation with a large number of transit systems and review of similar signs from other provinces and states. The challenge here was to develop a sign that would be sufficiently visible and the same time would physically fit on the back of the many types of buses currently in use throughout the Province, each with its own space restrictions. It was felt that the size chosen was a good compromise.

  • The law does not change the responsibility of the bus driver to ensure it is safe to leave a bus bay. Bus drivers had this responsibility before the YTB law came into being and nothing has changed in this regard. This is no different from your responsibility to ensure safety when you turn or change lanes anywhere else on the road. You are always required to drive safely.

  • In order to advertise the new law and bring it to drivers’ attention, we spent roughly a year and the half developing and implementing a public awareness campaign including presentations to various conferences and shows, communication with various associations (CAA, bicycle & motorcycle associations, etc.), posters in public libraries and schools throughout the province, working with school boards and driving schools to ensure YTB is included in their driver education, reference to YTB in the drivers’ handbook, there were numerous articles in newspapers, and coverage on radio and television, and so on. In other words, real attempt was made to reach as many drivers as possible. As well, we made presentations and explained the legislation to many police forces across the province.

  • In term of “doing the job”, the law and the associated regulation are good and adequate. They clearly require drivers to give buses priority when they try to leave bus bays. It is not vague in any way. However, the YTB is no different than any other law. Most people obey it, but there is always a small minority that will not obey or will try to circumvent the law. There is not much any government can do short of enforcement and education. As the YTB legislation applies almost exclusively on municipal roads (not provincial) enforcement, as you suggested, is a municipal issue. Each municipality and each police force has their priorities and it is totally up to each municipality and each police force to determine the degree to which they will enforce the YTB law. The Province has no jurisdiction to enforce on municipal roads. As is the case with many other traffic offences, we provide municipalities with the tools, but it is up to them to enforce the law. If the Kingston bus drivers feel enforcement of the YTB is not adequate, perhaps you can discuss it with your management and this issue could then be discussed with your police force or be brought to your Council.

  • As to the $90 fine, it appears to be in line with other traffic offences of similar nature. Not every traffic offence results in points.
    Mr. Shepherd, I hope I have addressed your concerns and that you have a better understanding of the YTB legislation now.

  • Noam Saidenberg
    Transit Policy Office / MTO

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