Sunday, September 07, 2008


Good




Not So Good




Bad




Uh-oh



BUS STORY # 98 (We Take Care Of Our Riders, Don’t We?)


When I get to the Rapid Ride stop, the clock says “5:47.” This is a bad sign. The bus tracking system estimates via the LED display at the station how many minutes out the next bus is. On the Red Line, if everything is running smoothly, it should be 11 minutes or less. The longest I’ve seen display is 23 minutes. When just the time displays, it usually means the closest bus is out of range, or else isn’t moving. As it turns out, I wait almost 30 minutes for the next bus to arrive. During that period, I see three Rapid Rides arrive at the station across the street.

The driver honks when he pulls in. We board, and he says to me, “Caught you sleeping, didn’t I?” I laugh and say, “You sure did.” I’d gotten lost in my reading and the horn had made me jump. He’d noted that.

The bus is full, and I find a place to stand near the rear door. The driver’s voice booms over the speaker, “All right, folks, we’re running a little late today. Two Rapid Rides broke down. But we’re here now, and we’re on our way. Let’s everyone make room for folks to sit. We take care of our riders, don’t we?” The guy I’m standing by picks up his backpack from the seat beside him and motions me to sit down. I do, piling my own backpack on my lap to keep the aisle clear.

As we pass the intersection of Central and University, the voice booms out again. “Next stop: The Frontier. Do we have a winner?” There’s a pause, and then he announces, “OK, folks, we have a winner!”

There’s a large exchange of passengers, but we have a net gain. The aisles are full to the flex part of the bus.

Somewhere around the old Hiland Theatre, the driver again announces, “San Mateo coming up on our right. Do we have a winner?” Again a pause, and again, “We have a winner!”

There’s a guy in a motorized wheelchair among the throng waiting to get on. The bus “kneels” to let down the ramp at sidewalk level. It feels like all the tires on the right side have just gone flat. The two women and their small children sitting on the fold-up seats in the front have to move to make room for the wheelchair. They pick up their children and start moving down the aisle toward the back.

A few rows back, a young man gets out of his seat and motions to the first woman to take his seat. He’s wearing a black and white “LA” baseball cap with the bill turned southeast, a long-sleeved white T-shirt with a gray hooded sweatshirt thrown over his left shoulder, and faded jeans riding somewhere between his waist and his kneecaps.

When he sees the second woman behind the first, he motions to his seatmate to get up, get up, make room. His seatmate joins him in the aisle, and the two women take the seats. Then he sees an old woman boarding. He turns to a young male rider in the row of elevated seats facing the aisle and gestures for him to give his seat to the old woman. He helps the woman into the vacated seat. He looks over the rest of the boarders and, apparently satisfied his work is done, moves to the group standing in the aisle at the back of the bus.

“All right, folks, next stop is Louisiana. Thank you for making room for everyone on the bus. We take care of our riders, don’t we?”

In line at the red light west of Louisiana, he opens the doors. This is only the third time I’ve seen a Rapid Ride allow a boarding or disembarking at a location other than the station [#61, #63]. Maybe the driver sees the southbound Louisiana bus coming and is giving his riders a chance to catch it. For whatever reasons, a good half-dozen riders take the opportunity to leave.

At the Louisiana stop, the wheelchair exits and the bus empties out. This time, there are no announcements from the driver. We pull into the Wyoming stop where several more riders leave the bus. There are seven of us left.

As we pull into the turn lane for Lomas, I pull the cord. Nothing happens, and I suddenly understand the “Do we have a winner” business. I laugh out loud.

“Folks, if you’re heading into town on Lomas, there’s the bus.” Sure enough, the inbound No. 11 is waiting at the stoplight to our right. We get the arrow before it gets the green. That gives our riders the opportunity to catch the Lomas bus if they need to. Three of us get off, and I watch to see if any of us are transferring to that bus. Nope. We all need the one going east.

Here’s the story: everyone was trying to get home from work, the bus was 30 minutes late, was packed, and we had a good 8-minutes of time-consuming wheelchair boarding and exiting. Our driver managed to defuse all the grumpiness and irritation that might have found expression under these circumstances. He even got us to join him in taking care of our riders.

I regret not thinking about getting his name or the bus number so I could call in a compliment. After all, we need to take care of our drivers, too, don’t we?

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