A mid-summer survey of Santa Fe Trails bus riders found a common request from folks utilizing the city's public transportation: Add more routes.
The survey was conducted July 21 to 24. While it indicates most customers are satisfied with service, one of the surveyors says he noticed some concerns about safety.
Peter Ogden, one of four people hired by Kelly Services, through a $1,400 city contract, to ride buses and hand out comment cards, says that while "approximately 98 percent of passengers are
satisfied," he personally observed that "by far the most outstanding complaint was from women who have been harassed by intoxicated men both aboard the bus and at bus stops."
Victoria Duran, the Santa Fe Trails transit training administrator responsible for tallying the surveys, acknowledges the intoxication issue. "That does come up, but [intoxicated passengers] have every right to ride the bus just like anyone else, as long as they're not disruptive and they're paying their fare."
Santa Fe Trails incident reports from January through August also reflect concerns over harassment, but a number of other issues as well.
Of 33 incidents noted, there were six rider injuries, three drunken passenger complaints, six complaints of mechanical errors, three reports of driver pain, one report of a sleeping passenger and one incident in which a rider found a knife on the bus wrapped in paper.
Six complaints stemmed from drivers arguing with each other, a phenomenon Santa Fe Trails Director Jon Bulthuis says is unavoidable when there is such a large staff.
"We have about 100 people and not all of them are going to get along," he says.
Seven incident reports were related to threats and intimidation between drivers and riders, ranging from thrown rocks to punched-out bus windows to drivers wanting free rides. No incident reports dealt directly with female passengers and intoxicated men.
Bulthuis says, "I was a little puzzled by what Peter said [about women being harassed by intoxicated men]." He adds, "That does happen, but not with the regularity and frequency that Peter suggested."
Bulthuis says riders' pleas for more service also took him by surprise.
"We've heard [that demand] incrementally in the past, but not on this level," Bulthuis says. "It's in response to the $4-a-gallon gas."
The city received 475 total responses to the multiple-choice surveys. There were 72 passengers who opted to leave comments about bus ridership. Of those, 52 responses pertain to routes, such as: "It would be nice if the #4 ran every half-hour," and "Could you get a bus to Cerrillos, Madrid and Lone Butte?" Although they were fewer in number, there were also some comments about operators. For example: "Grateful that drivers are bilingual," "Ninety-nine percent of drivers are friendly," and "Todo esta bien."
Other survey respondents were less congenial. "Why is the Rte. 2 driver so mean?" one respondent asked. Another suggested, "Please check hygiene on his vehicles."
And the specific: "Hire more nice bus drivers who don't constantly stare at you 'cause of your age."
And a few less-than-reasonable requests: "Need a TV on bus;" "Fix roads."
While the comments ran the gamut, Bulthuis and Duran say they hope the feedback keeps coming. "If we can show that our service is meaningful to people, hopefully we can move the Legislature to [help with funding]," Bulthuis says of the $8.4 million bus system, which is funded through city, county and federal funds.
Duran adds that she will use the surveys to help train drivers. "I'm going to take these to our new trainees and to our refresher training, too."
And in the end, "There's no such thing as anything bad," Duran says. "All the information we get is good because we can grow on it."