Sunday, November 08, 2015

BUS STORY # 470 (Part Five: More Buses)

A citibus in Narbonne. Photo by Busboy.

Previous posts in this series:
Part One (Paris 2015)
Part Two (The Arrival)
Part Three (The Metro)
Part Four (Le Bus!)

Albuquerque is engaged in a debate over whether or not a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system along our most heavily used route is a wise investment or not. One of BRT’s features is a dedicated bus lane, and Paris has a lot of them.

Photo by Busboy

As far as I could tell, dedicated lanes mean auto traffic does’t stop when the bus does, and the bus doesn’t stop when auto traffic does, especially during rush hour.

Later, in the south of France, we saw dedicated bus stop lanes in Narbonne, a city of around 50,000. The buses share the streets until they approach a stop, when they divert themselves into a dedicated lane that brings them into the stop. The principal is not unlike the recessed pull-ins at a few of the stops here in Albuquerque. (The bus stop at the southeast corner of the Lomas-Wyoming intersection is an example.)

Narbonne’s bus transportation system is called “citibus.”  It has six routes plus a “navette gratuite” which is the equivalent of our ride-for-free D-Ride.

Photo by Busboy

The free shuttle takes an oval-shaped route covering both sides of the Canal du Midi that comprise the “centre-ville.” We made the complete loop. Later, we went back to two of the stops: the impressive Cathedral of Saint Just and Saint Pasteur, and the following morning, the wonderful market at Les Halles.

The cathedral of St. Just and St. Pasteur in Narbonne. Photo by Busboy.

A couple of days later, we were some 20 miles south in Port la Nouvelle, on the Mediterranean. While walking along the main street, I saw a citibus with the same livery as the Narbonne buses make a stop. As near as I can tell from Google, citibus belongs to a regional group called the Grand Narbonne which links together “39 towns of [605 miles] between land and sea.”

The surprising appearance of a Narbonne citibus in Port la Nouvelle. Photo by Busboy.

About 40 miles west of Narbonne lies the almost same-sized city of Carsassone. It has a bus system with at least four routes that run every hour or so during the day. One of those routes includes the stop at Le Cité, the medieval “old town” enclosed within a remarkable set of double walls and castle-like towers.

Photo by Busboy

Here at the end of summer, we found the bus full of tourists, many of them English-speaking. But the locals ride, too, to the other stops. The morning we boarded, the driver was exchanging euros for tickets (and giving change if he had it). After everyone had boarded, the driver left his seat for a backward-facing passenger seat across from an old couple who had boarded earlier and began a jovial conversation in French. They obviously knew one another, and this happy crossing of paths called for the good manners and great pleasure of a short visit before resuming work.

Photo by Busboy

(If you look carefully, you can see the top of the driver's face over the old man's gray hair just in front of the door. Behind him, a passenger waits with arm akimbo for the driver to return to work.)


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