Some tips for riding VanGO
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