Some tips for rid­ing VanGO

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Based upon my own ex­pe­ri­ences with VanGO, I feel com­pelled to tell rid­ers what they should know about rid­ing VanGO that is not in­cluded on the sched­ules or on the county web­site, www.charlescoun­tymd.gov/ pgm/vango/vango-sched­ules.

Also, please note that VanGO pas­sen­gers may be walk­ing around, be­cause not ev­ery­one has a stop nearby their home. So, please be care­ful, when you see a pedes­trian, they may be walk­ing to or away from a VanGO stop.

Let’s get an ob­vi­ous thing cleared up: There are two signs at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land La Plata cam­pus, which is fine, but they are for two dif­fer­ent buses. One sign/stop is for the 301 Con­nec­tor, the other is for the New­burg/Bryans Road bus. My ad­vice is to be wait­ing at the New­burg stop, and, if it’s the Con­nec­tor, and it doesn’t make any dif­fer­ence, start walk­ing to the other stop. There might be enough time if wait­ing at the New­burg stop, there might not be enough time if wait­ing at the Con­nec­tor stop.

The sched­ules, ab­so­lutely, should have an ex­pi­ra­tion date on them. The routes are sub­ject to change and if a rider doesn’t know that and picks up an old sched­ule they may be wait­ing and wait­ing for a bus that isn’t go­ing to come, or that comes only upon re­quest.

VanGO should fur­ther­more im­ple­ment a text sys­tem, whereby rid­ers who want to know the sta­tus of things, such as, are the buses run­ning to­day since the county is ex­pect­ing a snow­storm, can just text, rather than call, to find out.

Here are some sug­ges­tions I have to make VanGO rid­ing eas­ier. I have heard sto­ries about early buses and missed pas­sen­gers, which dis­patch has lit­tle or no rem­edy for. Typ­i­cally, if dis­patch is called and no­ti­fied of an early bus/missed pas­sen­ger, they will sim­ply ad­vise them to wait for the next bus. Ab­so­lutely, buses have been as much as five min­utes early be­fore. Ab­so­lutely, pas­sen­gers have been missed wait­ing right at the stop.

One stop in par­tic­u­lar is of con­cern, and VanGO should con­sider mov­ing the sign. It is the stop in front of Faith Bap­tist Church Road, which is the 301 Con­nec­tor, head­ing to­ward La Plata. It is very easy wait­ing at that stop, and maybe oth­ers, just as the bus is com­ing, for the pas­sen­ger to be missed, be­cause a ve­hi­cle turn­ing out of the road onto 301 cov­ers up the pas­sen­ger, pre­vent­ing the bus from see­ing them.

Please be ad­vised, some of these stops are not marked, be­cause the sign isn’t there, but they are on the sched­ule. There are also flag stops, or stops that will be made, which are not on the sched­ule, be­cause they were estab­lished after the sched­ule was made. There is no men­tion of flag stops on the web­site, but one of them is in front of New Life Church in La Plata. A flag stop is where you in­di­cate to the on­com­ing bus that you would like for them to stop. VanGO can give a de­scrip­tion of what a flag stop is, it has to be some­where safe to stop. Pas­sen­gers can re­quest flag stops, and man­age­ment will no­tify them when they are ap­proved. When a flag stop has been cre­ated, man­age­ment should give it to the driver in writ­ing; a ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion is not ad­e­quate.

No, pas­sen­gers shouldn’t have to, but it doesn’t hurt to give a heads-up phone call that a pas­sen­ger will be at a flag stop, and, at night, it is sug­gested, al­though not on the sched­ule, to use a flash light/cell phone, so that the driver can see some­one on the side of the road. Again, these things are not on the sched­ule, but the goal is to avoid not being picked up.

If you have an­other bus to get on, a trans­fer, and you are watch­ing the clock and it doesn’t look like you’re go­ing to get there be­fore the other bus de­parts, there is the op­tion of ask­ing the driver to hold the bus for five min­utes.

To those who are con­sid­er­ing tak­ing VanGO, please keep in mind: These dis­claimers are not on the VanGO web­site, nonethe­less, you should be aware of them be­fore you de­cide to take VanGO reg­u­larly.

So, avoid wait­ing at a sign where you can be cov­ered by an­other ve­hi­cle if the bus comes by. Move to where you are close by to the stop, yet won’t be cov­ered by a ve­hi­cle and the bus should stop. Yes, con­sider being at the stop a much as five min­utes early, to pro­tect your­self from early buses, which may be as of­ten as once ev­ery 20 times. You never know when you’re deal­ing with a new driver or one who hasn’t had the route be­fore. The buses, also, don’t all uni­ver­sally look the same, so when you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all.

The VanGO phone num­ber is right on the sign, 301-609-7917.

Melissa Davis, La Plata

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