The Slow Bus Driver
I’d like to know how the bus system is run in Baku, or in Azerbaijan in general. The system is fairly straightforward wherever you are, in terms of city buses/marshrutkas. You get on, find your place, tell the bus driver when to stop, and hand over 20 qəpik, about 25 cents. Boom, done. But what I’m interested in is the incentive system. When I was in Bangkok, the bus “system” was fairly extensive, and you could actually call that rapid transit. The heart of the system was that each bus was run as a private little enterprise. A family would sign up for a bus route, say, the 27, and then they would run the 27 around town all day, giving up a percentage of their take to the bus authority. This sounds fairly straightforward, too. But now throw in that other folks can sign up to run a 27, and that means competition. So you end up with a bunch of separate little number 27 companies trucking around Bangkok. And sometimes they get close to each other and, since they are competing, they start racing each other to get the upcoming bus riders. That’s an exciting experience, a large 30-year old rickety bus barreling down through the traffic of Bangkok. All the buses are trying to complete as many loops around their route as they can. At this point, bus travel in Bangkok becomes rapid transit.
The attitude of bus drivers here is to go as slow as possible, thinking that if they wait and wait and wait, they will start to fill up their bus. When it is patently obvious that they aren’t getting any more riders, this becomes ridiculously frustrating. And it’s even less fun when the drivers just wait to even get started on the route. I can’t really imagine how the incentives here versus the incentives in Thailand are so different as to create a group of slow, plodding drivers versus a bunch of overeagerly fast drivers. And I also would like to know what system works better.
(That picture is from Lənkəran, running the Şilavar-Digah route, Digah being the village I lived in with the host family)