Sunday, December 02, 2012

BUS STORY # 317 ("Is It A Cultural Thing?")

Crowded Busride by Simply Boaz
Crowded Busride, a photo by Simply Boaz on Flickr.

Recently, I read a post in the Portland bus blog, Sardines Are Only Packed Once, which made me realize I’d had a similar experience earlier in the week. This is the second time something I’ve seen or read made me realize something had happened on my bus that hadn’t registered as a bus story. (You can read the first time here.) You can read Nickareeno’s Portland bus story here. You can read my similar experience below.

When I boarded the 11 this particular morning, it already had more riders than I was used to seeing. By the time we got to Wyoming, the aisles were filled to the back door.

There were several people at the next stop, and the driver called out to please move back and make room in the front.

The guy at the end of the line looked back at the empty platform aisle, then looked forward, then stayed where he was. Others looked back, too, but no one tried to get around the guy.

The new riders were bunched up in the front past the yellow line where riders are not supposed to stand -- a precaution to prevent the driver from being distracted.

There were more folks waiting at the next stop. The driver again asked people to move back. Again, there was no movement.

He pulled into the stop, opened the front and back doors, then exited.

Next thing we knew, he’d entered the back door. He addressed the guy at the back of the line specifically, asking him to please move back.

The guy moved all the way to the back.

The driver asked the person in front of him to please move back, and that rider moved up on the platform as well.

By this time, the rest of the line didn’t need individual prompting. The line backed up, and I could see room had opened up in the front.

The driver waited until the line had completely moved, then said thank you.

He returned to the front of the bus, took the driver’s seat, and motioned to the waiting riders to come aboard.

Nickareeno wonders why his end-of-the-line guy didn’t move back when asked, and why no one else moved back around him or repeated the request to move back. And then he asks, “Why aren’t there more righteous passengers demanding civilized behavior from their fellow citizens?”

He concludes, “Is it a cultural thing?”

If Nickareeno is on to something, he’s talking about Portland culture -- in contrast to San Francisco and Los Angeles where he tells us he’s also been a rider and insists this incident would not have happened.

But apparently not in contrast with Albuquerque, whose culture is decidedly not-Portlandia, but where the incident very nearly replicated identically. The difference was our driver.

I would prefer to think ours was an early-in-the-morning not-enough-coffee thing. The driver didn’t get any pushback; people moved. But it took a special effort on the driver’s part to make it happen. Like our counterparts in Portland, the rest of us were silent even though we could see what was going on.

If we opened this up to “American culture,” I might hazard a theory of societal transition from respectful-of-others to self-absorbed, something like that. But I can’t quite pull off making two cities the size of San Francisco and Los Angeles the exception that proves the rule.

I am at a loss here.


You can read a bus story about the contrasts between Albuquerque and Portland here. Oh, and if you do, Poetry On The Bus is now history.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Crowded Busride,” and is posted with the permission of Simply Boaz. You can see all Simply Boaz’s photos on Flickr at:


Anonymous Anonymous said...

really an amazing slice of life.
People are so hard to understand sometime.
Do you think the guy at the back was so far removed from the front that he didn't realize the driver was speaking to him? I'd like to think that was the reason, were there earbuds or texting involved?

8:59 AM  
Blogger abqdave said...

I clicked the Portland link and your "first time it happened" link from two years ago, and came to the conclusion that we are better off than Portland. We have a transit system that has grown tremendously in the past couple of years. I think some people, and maybe the person in your story, don't think as many people are going to get on the bus as do get on...they are thinking of the old days when buses weren't very full...and that more people couldn't possibly get on. Therefore he doesn't need to move. Compare that to Portland, which has a much higher ridership for a long time and people should be used to this; incidents like this shouldn't happen there.

I also read your tribute to Mayor Chavez and Mr. Payne, and reflected on our current transit service. I am glad we have not lost service during this difficult period, but why when tax revenue dedicated to transit increased from 20% to 36%, haven't we had increased service? It has been two years now, I think, and no significant changes. I saw the December schedule changes on the bus yesterday, and still no improvements. Are they saving it all for the future bus rapid transit? Is the money being transferred to other areas of the city budget?

I think Berry hasn't been as bad as I feared, but he doesn't seem to be moving us forward, either. Time to bring Chavez back?

10:03 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Email from a friend:

If I was the driver I would have simply said ......

" there is free pie for everyone at the back of the bus. "  

11:49 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ Anonymous BBBH: No question in my mind the guy heard the driver. No earbuds or texting was going on, and right after the driver’s call to move back, he turned around and looked back up at the empty rear platform aisle.

@ abqdave: your point about the Albuquerque rider may be valid. But he was still able to see for himself that the aisle was full to the front. He actually looked back up at the empty rear platform after the driver called out, but for whatever reason, he did not think he needed to respond to the driver’s request.

Re: your second paragraph, here’s a brief history of what happened to the transportation tax increase in October, 2009:

In October, 2009, the city voted by almost 60% to add a one quarter of one percent (0.0025) to the local sales tax to go toward city transportation. 36% of that revenue was designated for public transportation. That represented a 16% increase over the previous allotment to public transportation. (

John, in Duke City Fix, reported in an April 6, 2010 post, that the FY 2011 budget would be decreasing funding by funding of public transportation by 4.5 million. Owing to the economy, the overall drop in revenue would have meant a 7.6 million cut had it not been for the quarter-percent tax. (

Nobhill Resident reported in July 12, 2010, that KOAT ran a news story about the City Council reallocating “some of the transportation tax for other uses.” Unfortunately, the KOAT link iin the post s no longer functional. (

But this one is:

@ friend Tocino: Your solution is not unlike Nickareeno’s co-rider in San Francisco who was known to call out “Lady with a baby! Make way!” when folks wouldn’t move back. But these days, free pie would probably generate a greater response.

11:53 AM  

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