Using Bus Stops to Coordinate Reinforcement Traffic

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Bus stops along the route play an important role in public transport. These are

spatial arrangements (Crabtree, 2000), i.e., the poles or booths are visible and

constructed for their visibility, but also that they are commonly known for

passengers and bus drivers and signalize a location where passengers can

board or disembark from public transport. As pickup and drop off locations for

passengers, bus stops are an important part of the drivers’ workplace.

Observation 2. Reinforced public transport, dividing bus stops and route

between two bus drivers

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Joseph: [Passing a bus stop] there is a passenger standing there but I

won’t pick him up, a bus behind me will. I will start picking up passengers

at “ICA Länghem.” By the way, this is called reinforcement traffic. I’ll

drive into the village of Limmared while the other bus drives straight pass

that village. I’ll pick up the passengers on road 27 as well.

[Shortly thereafter, as he stops at the bus stop by “ICA Länghem” he says]

Joseph: See, here comes the other bus behind us.

[He continues the route in front of the other bus without stopping at any

bus stops even though there are many passengers waiting there. After the

third bus stop from “ICA Länghem” he says]

Joseph: I’ll pick the passengers going to Limmared that stands on this bus

stop. [The bus driver looks at the waiting passengers while he slows down

the bus. Then he suddenly speeds up again and drives of without stopping.]

Joseph: Well, they didn’t stand there. There are usually two guys standing

there that go to Limmared. But they weren’t here. Of course if someone

doesn’t know how we drive then he has to go into Limmared as well or he

might call me up on the com-radio. We have tested our way through in order

to be able to get into Tranemo in time, and I think the way we drive now

works fairly well.

Researcher: How have you realized that this way of managing is good?

Joseph: We have tried driving in different ways. Once we took every second

bus stop but then we got so delayed with the ordinary bus route and it

didn’t work with those that were going to Limmared.

Bus stops are important in the coordination between passengers and bus

drivers, but they are also a resource when drivers actively coordinate their

movements in relation to each other. As in the following excerpt when the bus

drivers are involved in reinforcement traffic. Sometimes one bus is not enough

when there are too many passengers waiting along the route. By reinforcing a

route with an extra bus, public transport can temporarily increase the local

passenger capacity. (See Observation 2.)

This is an example of how bus drivers handle reinforcement traffic where two

busses collaborate on the same route. Joseph’s first comment (line 1-2) can be

understood as a reflection on a formal task plan associated to bus stops, i.e.,

when a passenger stands at a bus stop the bus should stop.2 Joseph continues

by providing an explanation to why he is not stopping to pick up the passenger

since he is participating in reinforcement traffic. Reinforcement traffic is defined

(line 2-5) as an exception from the rule where two busses share the same route

simultaneously. To conduct reinforcement traffic within the times of the

timetable the drivers divided the bus stops between each other. Joseph says

that this division of bus stops was agreed upon after a period of trial and error

(line 21-23); the bus drivers tested different ways of reinforcement traffic (e.g.,

stopping at every other bus stop). Testing different ways of reinforcement

traffic shows (line 14-19 & 21-23) that the division of bus stops is not only

dependent on picking up passengers, equally important is that bus stops are

used for passengers to disembark from public transport. The drivers therefore

have to coordinate their division of bus stops to the expected travel plans of

their passengers and this is rarely available for the bus drivers in advance.

However, in this example Joseph knew the expected travel plans of some of the

passengers (line 11-15). The expected travel plan of “the two guys” is part of

the division of bus stops that the two bus drivers agreed upon. When the driver

can see that the two guys “didn’t stand there” (line 14) he decides to continue

driving without stopping at that particular bus stop. The view of the bus stop is

thus equally part of how the driver maneuvers his bus, and the absence of the

two guys makes him alter the agreement of how reinforcement traffic is

performed.

The coordination between the two drivers was smoothly performed without

any communication. This could be due to their agreement of how to divide the

bus stops between each other, but equally important was what they both could

see beyond their windshield. They could follow or alter their division of work

depending on what they saw in relation to what they knew about the passengers

standing (or not standing) at the bus stop. The bus stops, as places, were an

important part of their workplace particularly when collaborating with

each other.

Traveling Through: Coordinating an

Organization

The physical environment is part of the mobile workplace, seeing that road

inspectors and bus drivers relate to their colleagues by referring to locations

along the road. As in the following observation where the researcher is traveling

with a bus driver that is supposed to meet another driver at a pre-defined

meeting-place:

Observation 3. The driver informs about his present location

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James [Driver in loudspeaker]: John over?

John [Driver whom researcher travels with]: Yes John speaking. You were the

one who tried to reach me just a moment ago? Over.

James: Yes. I am turning into Lockryd a bit late; we are just passing the

railway in Aplared. Over.

John: Good, then I don’t need to call and tell that I’m late.

[After the conversation the driver turns to the researcher.]

John: In these cases, when informing the connection bus, the communication

radio works well.

Researcher: He told you where he was, why?

John: It’s better to say so, that he is passing the railway and then I know

exactly where he is, and then I know how he drives and so forth. It’s also

easier for me to know when he is coming.

First, this illustrates that the bus drivers communicate with each other. James

contacts John since he is late to their rendezvous at a designated bus stop. This

exemplifies the collaboration and how they communicate to provide a predictable

public transport; they repair the delay by informing each other. Second, the

conversation shows how the bus drivers talk about time. They refer to the delay

by relating to the physical location of the bus that is running late instead of

estimating a time when James will be at the meeting bus stop. John describes

this way of talking about time as the preferred way (line 11-13). John explains

that, when knowing where James is, he can know how James drive and thus,

in his mind follow the movement of James (line 11-13), i.e., John visualizes the

movement of James bus through the physical environment towards the chosen

bus stop. Third, the observation show that there are locations, apart from the

bus and the bus stops that the bus drivers incorporate into their collaborative

work activities and hence incorporate into their workplace. The conversation

illustrates how drivers use locations along the route to relate the work that they

conduct themselves with the work of the colleagues.

Another example of collaboration with colleagues illustrates the importance of

the availability of visual details. This becomes apparent by the differences in

recalling distant locations and locations in the proximity.

Observation 4. Photos of the object in question

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Robert calls Kevin who is sitting in the other road inspectors’ truck. He

recalled that he forgot to tell Kevin about the red Ford Orion which is

located along road 76. Robert reported it the last week, so Kevin does not

need to do it once again. Unfortunately Kevin has already done his report

and he has to erase his input in the system. During the conversation Robert

passes Krukan (a pottery and a café). The amount of signs along the road is

increasing, and placed in the borderland of what is allowed. Kevin and

Robert agree that the people back at the office have to take a look at

this. Robert takes the chance to tell Kevin about another car along his

section, but he cannot recall the specific location.

Later the same day, Robert fetched newly developed photos. There were

pictures on the Ford Orion, which he called Kevin about earlier today.

Additionally there are some pictures on the other car. He calls Kevin

immediately and tells him where it was.

The observation is initiated with Robert calling his colleague (line 1) to inform

about upcoming local contingencies on the inspection route, i.e., an abandoned

car. Robert drove the route last week, and took care of reporting the defect.

He calls with the purpose of facilitating the work Kevin currently is doing. This

illustrates the collaborative aspects of being a road inspector. Despite the fact

that they are traveling alone in each truck there are certain tasks that are shared,

in this case a road section. During the conversation, the topic changes from the

abandoned car to illegal road signs at a nearby café (line 5-9). The change in

topic is presumably influenced by the fact that Robert is passing the café. The

environment that passes by is brought into collaborative tasks. The discussion

illustrates another aspect of collaboration, i.e., how they share a common

understanding on the rules, and whose responsibility it is. However, the excerpt

also exemplifies the complexity in recalling remote locations when discussing

the abandoned cars (line 9-10). It is apparent that the locations are weak

despite details about circumstances and the understanding of the location is

obvious. Robert remembers the car, but he cannot define its location. However,

Robert can recall the location of the other car with the visual aid of the

photography and the temporal proximity to the discussion on the location as he

fetches the newly developed photos (line 11-14).