Sunday, June 28, 2009

BUS STORY # 139 (Who Moved My Bus Stop?)

Back on April 12, Phil posted an observation on DukeCityFix’s ABQ Bus Riders Discussion board that began:

“Starting today there were signs up at about every third Route 5 bus stop along Montgomery announcing that service at that location was being discontinued and moved to the next stop."

The Albuquerque Journal picked up the story on April 27:

“WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BUS STOP? That's what Dwight L. Crabtree wants to know.

He writes that "Montgomery — Route 5 — has numerous stops with red tags marking closures" and "there was not any information on the Transit Web site or on the bus about this. Does city management know about this?"

It does — and those aren't closures. The city is in the process of determining if they will be.”

On April 30, posted its story on the evaluation.

While the DCF forum has drawn few responses, they have been articulate and thoughtful. Concerns include the impacts on the elderly and disabled – longer distances to and between stops, and intersection crosswalk signals timed for the hale and hearty. There is also the increased risk to all riders limited to catching the bus on the far side of a busy intersection: having to walk through one or both busy streets of the intersection (“Albuquerque Roulette”) to get there.

On the other hand, the KOB story has drawn a whopping 88 responses. Unfortunately a large number of them seem to have been written under the influence of testosterone.

While Greg Payne certainly explained the city’s rationale for evaluating bus stops in the Journal and KOB stories, it wasn’t until May 5 that ABQ RIDE put up a page explaining its “Bus Stop Evaluation Program” and listing its goals:

1. Provide better service and make ABQ RIDE a more attractive alternative mode of transportation. By reducing the number of underutilized stops in high bus stop density zones, as well as stops preceding a controlled traffic intersection, we can reduce the time it takes our buses to go from point "A" to point "B," resulting in faster service.
2. Better utilize existing bus stop infrastructure. Infrastructure such as shelters, benches, signs and garbage cans that are currently in use at underutilized stops will instead be relocated to stops where these amenities are lacking. This will also result in fewer stops that need to be maintained.
3. Increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. Each time a bus accelerates after making a stop, it uses fuel and causes additional particulate and carbon emissions to be released. To the extent that we can pick up the same number of passengers at fewer stops, we can minimize unnecessary stops and idling time, reduce our fuel use, and achieve an offset in our overall carbon footprint.

Despite the seeming logic, some critics want to see the data supporting these claims. It's a reasonable request. In the meantime, the city promises “ABQ RIDE would appreciate your input regarding the stops being evaluated. Your input will be used to make our decisions!”

I’m going to predict this will end up being a tempest in a bus shelter. It would have been smarter had the city been the first to break the news on the ABQ RIDE website, and included some data supporting its goals as reasonably achievable.

Based on past experience (Bus Story # 17, parts 1, 2, and 3, and Bus Story # 29, parts 1 and 2), the city has been responsive to the ridership. It has also been committed to expanding public transportation. I don't think the bus stop evaluation signals a change. I do think we all understand the need to preserve fuel consumption from both an economic and environmental perspective.

I just hope the first morning I go down to my regular stop and discover it’s missing, I’ll have had enough coffee to remember it’s just down the street.

The photo above features last year’s Poetry On The Bus fourth place winner in the youth category. The poem is Where Is My Train, by Aleyna Donaldson. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

BUS STORY # 138 (Apology)

A dad and his little girl board the bus and take the aisle-facing seats in front. They share a three-seater with an old guy. He’s been nodding on and off the whole ride.

Dad’s wearing a white Dallas Cowboys jersey and a faded blue baseball cap with the bill curved. His daughter is wearing a purplish-gray sweatshirt and pinkish-gray sweatpants. The old guy is wearing a red jacket and blue jeans.

Dad directs his daughter to the middle seat. They’ve just settled in when the daughter begins rubbing her hands up and down the old guy’s jacket sleeve. He looks over at her. She’s looking up at him with a big smile. He grins back. Dad sees the whole thing and quickly jumps in.

“What are you doing? Keep your hands to yourself. Apologize to the man.”

The little girl, still smiling, pulls hers hands back and says, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok,” the old guy tells her. And then he adds, “Thank you.”

Dad says, “I don’t know where that came from.” He shakes his head. “Just curious, I guess. She’s three years old.”

“It’s a good age,” replies the old guy.

“She’s got a one-year-old brother at home. They’re a handful.” He shakes his head again.

The old guy laughs and says something I can’t make out.

They ride in silence until they reach the old guy’s stop. He sits forward on his seat as if to stand, then turns toward dad and daughter.

“You two have a good weekend.” And then looking at the dad, he adds, “I know they’re a handful, but don’t forget to enjoy them.”

Dad says, “I do – every single minute.”

The old guy gets up and moves toward the door.

“Tell the man goodbye,” says dad.

“Goodbye,” she says to him, and waves.

He turns and waves back. “Goodbye.”

And he’s out the door.

The photo above features last year’s Poetry On The Bus first place winner in the youth category. The poem is Lavender Blue, by Sophie Kelly. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

BUS STORY # 137 (Poetry On The Bus II)

Well, it’s Poetry On The Bus time again.

Last year, ABQ RIDE sponsored it’s first-ever Poetry On The Bus contest, and featured the poetry of the winners and many other entrants on the overhead advertising space on all the city buses.

I thought the graphic matches with the poetry were exceptionally well done, and I plan to feature some of last year’s panels on my postings for the next several weeks.

The current promotion notes that the first year contest drew 465 submissions, so it is undoubtedly back by popular demand.

The theme does not have to be the bus: “Poems must reflect a theme chosen by the writer (you!)” Still, I kind of like having a bus theme. Something like:

One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock rock
Taking the Rapid Ride comes as a shock
Cuz you get around town so much faster
Sure hope it puts the cars out to pasture

Just sign it “W.S.”

The photo above features last year’s first place winner in the adult category. The poem is Morphestra, by Charleen Madill. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

BUS STORY # 136 (Portrait # 3: Brit)

He sits in the back, on the driver side, usually on the bench facing the rear doors. Sometimes he reads. Sometimes he just looks at the rear door.

Late 60s, tall, spare, impeccable posture – never crosses his legs. Always wears a driver’s cap. Today’s looks like dark leather or moleskin. He has several – tweeds, corduroys, solid wools.

An unlikely purple muffler hangs down either side of a dark green car coat. When the weather is warmer, he wears a suit jacket or sports coat. For all I know, he’s got one on under the car coat.

White shirt, solid burgundy tie this morning. I can’t tell from here, but I’d guess wool rather than silk. Dark blue pants, dark socks, thick-soled black shoes.

His skin doesn’t look like it’s seen a lot of sunshine.

The first time I checked my recollection against the real rider, I was surprised he doesn’t have a moustache. I’d given him a William Powell, in white.

His expression is fixed, but hard to read. I can’t tell if he is enduring having to take public transportation, or if he can’t believe who they’re letting ride the bus these days. Maybe it’s just that he still has to go to work. I run through a gamut of stock phrases and come up with “stiff upper lip.”

He gets off at the University, and he carries a dark blue cloth briefcase with him onto the campus. I’ve made him an English professor –British literature, of course. But I’m gonna have to contrive a greeting one morning to find out what I really want to know. And I’ll be amused if, as I suspect, he turns out to be from this side of the pond after all.

Thanks to KG in Albuquerque for this week's feature story: This Week In the USA.