4 More Things Nobody Ever Tells You About Riding The Bus


I’ve already talked about street preachers, questionable business practices, and people who talk too much, so I’ll try and stay away from familiar territory. Here are some more of my personal pet peeves about the world of public transportation.

1. People smoking, spitting, and doing other unseemly things at bus stops

Folks, the benches, gazebos, and enclosed shelters located at many bus stops are supposed to be there for everyone to use, especially in cases of cold, rain, and other inclement weather. That’s why it strikes me as so incredibly inconsiderate for someone to go into a five-by-15-foot Plexiglas enclosure and smoke. Why should I have to choose between either standing out in the rain and snow, or taking shelter and having to inhale noxious carcinogenic vapors? Either one is likely to take a day or two off my life.

And, unfortunately, the smoking itself isn’t even the worst part. No, that’s the spitting. This seems to be a mostly male trait: a guy comes in, sits quietly for a second, takes a drag on his cigarette, and then splat! He hocks a giant loogie all over the pavement at his feet. I’ve literally seen guys sitting in the middle of a solid sheet of mucus spreading out for three or four feet in every direction. Granted, there are some non-smokers who do this also, but when I see a guy sitting at a bus stop and smoking, I know to keep my distance. I’d rather get my pant cuffs soaked by the rain, thank you very much. 

2. Make sure and get to the stop either five minutes early or 10 minutes late

It never fails; if you’re running right on time, the bus will pass your stop 30 seconds early and leave you choking in the dust thrown up in its wake. If you get there five minutes early, on the other hand, the bus will get there 10 minutes late, resulting in a 15-minute wait. If it’s cold, rainy, and some fine upstanding citizen is busy painting the walls of the nearest enclosure with detritus from his tobacco-stained mucous tract, make that 25 minutes.

The problem, I think, is that bus drivers, being county employees, must be nearly impossible to fire. I knew one woman who was habitually, constantly, more than half an hour late, and she drove one of the longest routes in the fleet (one that bisected the entire county from north to south). She ran late so frequently that they’d routinely have to send out vans and replacement buses to take up the slack and pick up folks who were waiting up the line. But did she ever get fired, or even demoted to one of the shorter routes? No, sir. Can’t have the buses actually running on time.

3. The weekend schedule

During the week, the buses in my city ran every hour or so, and often every half-hour during “peak” service times (between about two in the afternoon and seven in the evening). On Saturday and Sunday, though, the longer routes (what they call “county” lines) only run every hour and a half. This means, among other things, that unless you get lucky and your bus just happens to reach your workplace about five or ten minutes before you’re scheduled to clock in, instead of five or ten minutes after, you’re probably going to end up having to get to work at least an hour early, then wait around to clock in. It’s every bit as fun as it sounds.

This has always puzzled me. You could argue that bus schedules are designed with more 9 to 5-type folks in mind, I guess, but 9 to 5-ers also tend to be among the more affluent of the RTA’s clients: they’re not riding the bus because they have to; they’re doing it because they want to avoid the costly parking fees in the city. Besides, professional types don’t get off work ’til 5, so peak times clearly aren’t designed with them in mind, anyway.

4. Non-existent customer service 

The RTA call center in my city (including the hotline you can supposedly call to find out when the next bus is coming your way) closes at 5pm. So if you need to catch a bus sometime in the seven hours or so after that, you’re pretty much out of luck. Just sit around and wait… could be five minutes, could be an hour and a half.

And it gets worse. I once had to wait inside my bus — it was parked at the curb outside the main RTA hub, and they wouldn’t open the doors — for 10 minutes, during which time I watched the bus I’d been hoping to catch sit for several minutes 20 feet away from me and then pull away. This ridiculous practice has to do with the fact that there were no docks open inside the hub, and the RTA has a policy of not letting anyone get off the bus at an “unauthorized stop,” for liability reasons and whatnot. This seems at least vaguely reasonable… until you realize that, in many cities, it’s considered acceptable to simply “flag the bus down” anywhere along its route! If they can do it, why can’t we?

Worse yet, when I went inside to complain, the manager I spoke to decided I was being “belligerent,” and actually called the police (who routinely patrol the hubs) to escort me away. So much for that open-door policy they advertise in all the fliers.

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