Sunday, May 01, 2011

BUS STORY # 234 (Celebrating Five Years On ABQ RIDE)

Anniversary, originally uploaded by busboy4.

In some ways, it feels like I’ve been doing this forever. Riding the bus has become part of my daily routine. It feels strange when I don’t take the bus.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of my experiment with riding the bus instead of taking the car. It may have felt like a long, strange trip in the beginning, but not anymore.

As I wrote in my very first bus story, I was motivated by a combination of concern for the environment, the rising cost of gasoline, and the appearance of free bus passes courtesy of my employer who was experiencing a shortage of parking space.

OK, it’s true: it was the financial angle that finally got me off my cachangas.

But it’s been the experience that’s really kept me interested. This, of course, is where Bus Stories have come from. I started writing those a couple of months later, because I didn’t want to forget them.

In these five years, ABQ RIDE has come a long, long way. First and foremost to me is the schedule. Buses are more on time than ever. We may wish for more routes and for more frequent runs on our routes, but the reliability of the routes we have is more important.

The buses are more dependable. The purchase of new buses has greatly reduced those times the bus doesn’t show up because it broke down somewhere upstream. No bus is usually worse than a late bus -- especially when the weather isn’t its usual wonderful Albuquerque self.

The drivers are more professional than ever.

I am in awe of how they keep their cool. Just last night, waiting for the Rapid, I was watching the Green Line heading for the stop when a kid dropped a coin that bounced into the street. He ran right into the lane without looking to pick it up. Big screeching of brakes as the bus shuddered to a stop. The kid looked up, surprised, laughed, jumped back on the sidewalk. When I boarded, I said something like that kid was lucky he didn’t end up a bug splatter on the windshield. The driver just shook his head. Just another day in the life of. The kid has no idea how indebted he is to that driver.

Speaking of the Rapid, there’s another wonderful innovation. Three lines that span much of the city with stops only about a mile apart. We’d like to see more Rapid Ride routes, but we’re grateful for the three we have.

Bus passes and the elimination of transfer slips. I’m not sure why, but ever since this innovation, there’ve been no bus stories about boarders and drivers haggling over the fare. Less stress for everybody.

There is a slow but encouragingly incremental effort to integrate city service with regional transportation. ABQ RIDE has already done a good job integrating service with the Rail Runner. And we’re seeing efforts to provide more public transportation options to the folks in Rio Rancho.

The whole experience has me looking forward to two full-time retirements: the one from my job, and the other from my car.


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