After being kicked off an overcrowded Toronto bus, a “disgruntled” customer expressed her frustration by blocking the bus for several blocks along its route, in a move that has been met with mixed reaction online.
Nearly 100 commuters were waiting for a bus in below-freezing temperatures for 30 minutes during the evening rush hour on Friday, outside the Toronto Transit Commission’s Lansdowne Station, according to fellow passenger Andreas Wesley.
Eventually, two TTC buses arrived to pick up the waiting passengers. The first bus filled up immediately and a group of passengers standing at the front of the vehicle were asked to exit because the driver couldn’t see the door, Wesley told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Tuesday morning.
When the bus driver told the passengers to board the bus behind his, one woman replied that it was also full.
According to Wesley: “He said, ‘Well, I’ve got to drive the bus,’ and she said, ‘So I’m supposed to walk?’”
And that’s exactly what she did.
As the bus pulled away, the woman walked into the middle of the lane in front of it, Wesley said.
“I thought maybe she was jaywalking across the street or something, but then she just kept walking on the road.”
The bus driver attempted to pass her in the left lane, but the woman shifted lanes too, so it couldn’t go around, Wesley said. That’s when he pulled out his cellphone and began recording video from inside the bus.
Caught on camera
The video shows the woman allowing other vehicles to pass in the left lane, and waving to oncoming traffic too, as she keeps walking in front of the bus travelling slowly behind her with the second bus behind it.
After a couple of minutes, the bus driver can be heard on the phone, presumably describing the situation to his TTC supervisors.
“I’ve got a disgruntled customer who is walking down the middle of the road holding up traffic here, not letting me pass, as I try to change lanes she’s walking in front of me,” he says.
The bus driver appeared to be so focused on the woman blocking his path that he almost failed to open the door for a passenger who needed to get off at their bus stop, Wesley said.
“I’m getting off here, boss. I’m getting off here, boss!” the passenger is heard saying in the video.
One passenger standing near the front of the bus can be heard empathizing with the driver in the video, while others can be heard expressing disbelief at the woman’s actions.
“Are you kidding me?” one woman remarked.
Another passenger is heard asking, “Is this chick for real?”
“Some of them were laughing, some of them were mad at her and some of them were concerned for her safety,” Wesley recalled. “Some people were offering to get off to get her out of the way.”
Wesley said he could sympathize with the woman because of his past experience on that route.
“The bus stops are crowded every morning, buses go by,” he said. “I try to go to work either earlier than rush hour or later than rush hour because it’s just impossible to get the bus.”
The bus finally reached Wallace Avenue where it stopped so a new bus driver could take over, Wesley said. The woman continued walking north on Lansdowne Avenue, he said.
“By the time the drivers switched, she had either walked on or we didn’t see her,” he said. “We were looking for her.”
Hero or selfish?
Since Wesley uploaded the video to YouTube later that night, it has been viewed nearly 19,000 times, and attracted a mixed reaction.
“Half of the people said she was selfish and other people said they completely understand,” he said.
In one comment, a poster simply wrote “HERO” while another one argued that it was a “fairly relevant” way to protest TTC overcrowding.
“I have ridden dozens of TTC buses in many parts of the city and almost all routes have a problem with overcrowding. Yes, she inconvenienced a few people for a few minutes, but she has drawn attention to an important issue,” they wrote.
Other commenters suggested she take her protest to City Hall instead to call for increased funding for the TTC.
A number of viewers faulted the woman for holding up the other passengers on the bus and said she be fined for her actions.
“People interfering with the TTC like this should be confronted by the police… Selfish woman… Let's inconvenient [SIC] 60-80 people and the traffic because she couldn't get what she wants,” a commenter wrote.
The TTC has told local media that it is aware of the incident and currently investigating.
The woman’s protest comes as transit advocacy group TTCriders prepares to launch its new campaign “Woes on the Bus.”
On Wednesday, the group will begin collecting customers’ complaints about overcrowding, delays, infrequent service and fares in order to display then on a “giant TTC bus cutout,” which will be delivered to City Hall on Nov. 28, according to a press release.
TTCriders is calling for an increased city subsidy to the TTC before the transit agency’s budget is released this week. The budget is scheduled for debate at the TTC Budget Committee on Friday, the group said.
“If John Tory and City Council do not increase the city subsidy to the TTC, there will be more woes for transit riders in 2018,” TTCriders’ spokesperson Shelagh Pizey-Allen said.