Sunday, March 30, 2008

BUS STORY # 77 (Picking Up Strangers)

Picking Up Strangers is the wonderfully perfect title of the blog of a Minneapolis bus driver. Her name is Jeanne Ree, and her stories are straightforward and from the heart. It only takes a few postings to see she’s one of those legendary “Middle Americans” – an individual with an admirable conscience and an equally admirable heart of gold. “Salt of the earth” is what comes to mind after reading only a few of her posts. It also takes reading only a few posts to see that being a bus driver is a good deal more than driving a bus around town for several hours a day.

This is exactly what makes this blog remarkable. We’ve got a lot of venues for the riders’ experiences. This blog tells the stories from the driver’s perspective. Makes me think whatever they’re being paid, it ain’t enough! It also makes me grateful for drivers – well, shoot – for folks like Jeanne Ree.

Here’s one of the sweeter sides of her job:

“I won a stuffed tiger the other day on one of my layovers. I gave it to this adorable little boy. He was about 3 years old. He had the biggest brown eyes I've ever seen.”

Next week: The Subway Chronicles


Photo by Mike Hicks. Posted from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository:

This is one of the Minneapolis Metro Transit’s articulated buses in standard livery.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

BUS STORY # 76 (Bus

This is the first site that let me know I wasn’t out there all by myself. Somebody else (Rhett Martin, actually) was fascinated by what he saw and heard on the city bus and decided to put it out there.

Actually, Rhett lets the other riders of Minneapolis’ Metro Transit tell the stories. These are brief, and often include editorial comment. A wonderful design is the story’s featured route number displayed on the left margin of the story itself.

One recent post begins like this:

“His teeth were biting my . . .

In the early nineties I was a student at the U of MN, living off campus and without a car. As a result I became a bus expert. I specialized in the teens – the 17, the 19, the 16 - and sometimes even graduated to the 21. I have a million stories, but my favorite comes from the 16.

One spring afternoon following class I was riding the 16 from the U of MN to downtown Minneapolis. It was a busy time of day and the bus was standing room only. I stood there hanging on, shifting my weight as the bus lurched along, crowded in amongst other commuters.

A few blocks into the trip I felt pressure on my right hip. Looking down I was stunned to see a wild-eyed, bearded man biting me. Seriously.”

Be sure and read the comments afterwards. I laughed out loud.

Next week: Picking Up Strangers.


"Thanksgiving 2007 Minneapolis Minnesota," the fine photo at the top of this story, is posted with the kind permission of Randy Stern. It features one of the Minneapolis Metro Transit’s Gillag Low-Floor Hybrid Diesel buses. You can see the photo and a link to all of Randy's work on Flickr at:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

BUS STORY # 75 (Bus Chick)

The third link on this blog is “Bus Chick (Seattle).” This blog is interesting in that it is a reader blog sponsored by one of the Seattle dailies, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. This link opens to a provocative “about the author” blurb:

“Carla Saulter is one of a growing number of Seattleites who have chosen to live without a car. Because Seattle still does not have in-city rapid transit, she takes the bus everywhere – really, everywhere – she goes. On any given Saturday night, you can find her running for the number 27 in heels and a backless dress.”

Carla really does take the bus everywhere. In November’s postings, we learn she and her husband (Bus Nerd) took the bus to the hospital for the delivery of their first child. And, yes, all three took the bus home.

Carla’s focus ranges far beyond the bus, however. As she puts it in one of her posts:

“If you ride the bus in this region, want to ride the bus in this region, or just want to know what it’s like to ride the bus in this region, this blog is for you . . . If you are interested in the future of public transportation or the future of this (beautiful but rapidly changing) city, this blog is for you . . . if you are interested in your fellow citizens, this blog is definitely for you. You will find regular stories about all of the brilliant, insane, angry, kind, confused, beautiful people I encounter and observe every day.”

I did a story a while ago about bus advertising in the form of bus wraps. Bus wraps registered about a 0.00007 on Albuquerque’s Richter scale. But I learned from Bus Chick that they rocked Seattle.

Seems the major complaints are that the riders can’t see clearly out the windows covered by the wraps, and the wraps make the inside of the bus gloomy. There are other issues, too – Bus Chick has an active and vocal (and often entertaining) comments section.

Here in Albuquerque, the only difficulty I have seeing out a wrapped window is if I’m sitting in the window seat and trying to look out ahead. Otherwise, I think Lamar (the same Lamar who has the frog-green Rapid Ride pictured above and has it's own link on the ABQ RIDE website) has got the visibility problem pretty well figured out.

As for complaints about dimness inside the bus, I gotta believe this is because Seattle has about 47 minutes of sunshine a year. We, on the other hand, are grateful for any sun screening properties the wrapped windows might provide . . .

Next week: Bus


First photo is a Seattle DE60LK – like our Rapid Ride buses – from the New Flyer website:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

BUS STORY # 74 (Big Albuquerque-like Things: The Blog)

In my ongoing promotion of the links on this blog, this week we’ll look at Big Albuquerque-like Things (BAT). The blogger, John, “reports his thoughts on growth, urban renewal and mass transit in the city of Albuquerque.”

John’s kept me well informed on mass transit happenings and issues, and even prevented me from passing along some misinformation. His posting on the new bus and accompanying photo alerted me to the fact that these are the 700 series and not the 500 series I’d gotten straight from the keyboard of the lamentably departed Jay Faught, former marketing manager for ABQ RIDE.

Here’s a posting from John’s site which is a bus story in itself. This story comes from Scot Key, another local writer and blogger, and from the Albuquerque Tribune in which it was published as a column. Scot’s take on ABQ RIDE is followed by John’s thoughtful analysis. Here are the first two paragraphs and a link to the rest of the story as featured on John’s site.

This one goes out to the two guys desperately waving at the bus stop at Lomas and Edith boulevards Northeast, as the No. 11 inexplicably passed them by last Friday afternoon.

I was in that bus, pointing along with other passengers at the frantic gentlemen left behind, and it reminded me, again, of the mass transit caste system in place here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Next week: Bus Chick.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

BUS STORY # 73 (What You Gonna Do When The Well Runs Dry?)

It was bound to happen sooner or later: A bus story just wouldn’t present itself in a timely manner, and I’d have nothing for the blog. Bus stories are a lot like rain: One week it rains cats and dogs; another week comes a drought. When it rains, I store up the stories; when it doesn’t, I draw from the reservoir. But this week, the reservoir is tapped out.

The truth is, most bus rides are as ordinary and uneventful as a car trip. The reason there are more stories is because there are a lot more people riding in the vehicle, and because many of those riders come from places other than our personal version of the universe.

I thought this dry spell would be a good time to call attention to the links which appear to the right of each bus story. Look! There are some now. These are previous posts. Now: scroll up and you’ll see “LINKS.” There are seven of them.

The first link is to the ABQ RIDE page on the official city of Albuquerque website. The second link (Big Albuquerque-like Things) is a local blog, and includes, among other things, all manner of public transportation in our fair city. The next three blogs (Bus Chick, Bus, and Picking Up Strangers) are bus-related stories, but from other places. The Subway Chronicles does not involve buses, but does revolve around the primary mode of public transportation in New York City. The last link is to no specific blog, but rather to some story out there in the wide world that is about buses or some other closely related form of public transportation. These change weekly.

Now, trying to drum up interest in the city’s site is challenging. Don’t get me wrong: I like the site a lot and find it a valuable resource. But why might it interest you, dear reader, especially if you don’t take the bus or are from somewhere else? Well, until quite recently, the site unintentionally offered a bonus video featuring a Rapid Ride bus and an automobile whose driver was obviously showcasing his Albuquerque driving skills. When you click on the ABQ RIDE link and scroll down to ABQ RIDE Features, you come to a link titled “See why passengers love the service.” This link takes you to a nifty little Google video showing the director of ABQ RIDE, Greg Payne, talking to riders and pitching ABQ RIDE to the viewers. As the page is loading, your eye wanders to links to other videos. For many months, one of those links had the eye-catching title, “Rapid Ride CRASH!” Poor Greg just made it on the screen when, click, you switched to:

Rapid Ride CRASH!

When you think about it, better to be on that bus than in your car with that driver behind you, ¿que no?

Next week: Big Albuquerque-like Things (BAT).