Last Friday, I watched a woman on 10th Street in St. Paul start running for a bus at the corner of 10th and Cedar, a block and a half away. "She'll never make it," I thought. My light turned green. I stayed to watch. She made it. The driver waited. "Nobody's ever going to hear about the good bus driver," I thought.
Some 90 percent of bus riders in the Twin Cities say they're happy with the service they get from the bus drivers here.
But you can't do a news story about that.
You can, however, write a blog post. Bus riders: What's your daily experience? Are you one of the 90 percent? Or one of the 10?
I ride the bus or train about once every couple weeks. Unfortunately, my regular commute would take four times as long if I took mass transit.
I've always had great experience from the drivers. They're generally very helpful and clear. They get a lot of people they have to deal with and they generally seem to hold up well.
Somewhat related reading: http://bustales.com/
I'd say I am in the 90%. What more would you ask for than an opportunity to catch up with your videocasts while to ride to and from work? Try to do that in your car...
I've been that woman more times than I care to admit. The driver's almost always waited, unless it would have been ridiculous to do so.
I've been riding the buses for about 8 months, and I can't think of a single instance to complain about with regard to drivers. My biggest gripe is with the system-- I wish there were more routes and more frequent buses.
Between gas prices, the economy, and environmental issues, we've got a perfect opportunity right now to get a lot more riders using the bus. Only problem is, who wants to stand around at a bus stop for 20 minutes in February in Minnesota?
I often run errands around Midway, and 90% of the bus drivers are complete professionals. The 10% who aren't are the kind who hit their left turn signal only after they let out the clutch and begin merging into traffic.
Because of the size of buses, there really should be zero tolerance for the 10% who put other drivers at risk, and bigger paychecks for the 90% who drive professionally and responsibly.
Almost every time I ride the bus, the driver is the most courteous person there. They definitely have a tough job and almost always handle it with professionalism and kindness.
The last time I rode the bus to and from work (last week), despite great drivers, I decided bussing is not for me. Maybe it had to do with the route and the odd times of day (not rush hour either way), but both ways I had incredibly unpleasant experiences because of other riders. On the first bus, I saw a woman with four young kids yelling at the oldest (about 6) that she was going to beat her "f#&*ing a$$" when they got home. And why? Because the little girl was giving candy to her younger sister. Meanwhile, the baby had a bottle of what looked like KoolAid. On the way back, another mother, who sat away from her small children, was yelling at one barely old enough to know better for not sitting correctly in her seat (out of the mother's reach) and then said that this small child "needs a pop in the a$$."
I know that I bear some responsibility for not saying anything, along with the others on these full buses. I wonder if people who ride more often get desensitized to witnessing these situations. Or is this where people learn to view this is socially acceptable. Whatever the sociological implications, I find it very hard to subject myself to that twice a day for the sake of greater social and environmental responsibility. I feel like a quitter, but I need my commute to not contribute that much to my stress level.
Regarding Amanda's comments: Riding the bus usually means encountering lower income individuals whom you might not normally interact with when commuting. Equally, there are plenty of professionals that ride the bus that can be just as "rude" but in different ways. If you ride the bus regularly, you'll see plenty of incidents with passengers from parents yelling at their kids, people yelling at each other, drunk people, mentally ill people, and many others who use the bus as their primary form of transportation.
It's just part of life; it's no different than going to the mall or a shop and seeing the same interactions, it's just that now they're in a confined space. It's not your place to tell people how to raise their children, nor is it your place to judge those who deal with things in a way you find objectionable. Many people that ride the bus are in much more financial and social difficulties than many of the professionals that also ride it. There are plenty of people who are generally rude, and you can feel free to speak up, but you need to be understanding and get over an aversion to seeing the lives of others. I don't think people are desensitized, but rather know their place and know that everyone handles things differently. I think it's perfectly normal to have various disruptions on the bus. You'll notice that some routes are more prone to this than others.
As much as people can be offensive and rude, there are also amazing people on the bus with whom you can share a laugh and enjoy great conversation. There's no reason to let a few interactions spoil your bus riding habit. A huge number of cultures and social groups collide on the bus, it's a very interesting study in human behavior and social interaction. I personally think it's the only place where so many groups come together to share one space. The bus is not segregated by culture, class, or race, it's truly a melting pot for better or for worse. Isolating yourself by driving instead of busing only shelters you more from the realities of our world.
In general, my bus experience is good. The drivers are courteous, and though passengers sometimes are not, it's not a big deal. It's just like the rest of life. Certainly if there's something hugely wrong going on, passengers should intervene, but most of us are used to the quirks of those that come together to ride the bus. I'm always pleasantly surprise how bus members come together to help the elderly or people with children who need it. Last year, an elderly person fell backwards off the steps trying to get in the bus. Several passengers jumped out the door to get to her to help. Everyone was very concerned and not annoyed when we had to wait for another bus to get us to continue the route. Even those you might be suspicious of can turn out to be the only person who will give up their seat for the 80 year old lady who just got on the bus.
As you (may) know, Bob, I am from NYC, and grew up in a heavy public transit universe. Here, in Minneapolis, my contact with public transit is limited, thanks to location, to the express bus ride to and from downtown every day.
The 250N has been good to me, and I resent the times that circumstances force me to drive in instead. I get along with my fellow riders, I usually have good drivers, and I get some reading done.
The only time I was in the 10% was 30 years ago in San Francisco. I ran for the bus and caught it. My arms went up to the gripper bars to pull myself in. Bus driver closed the door leaving my handbag in and me out. I ran along side dodging parking meters for several yards before the driver opened the door--and took off without me. With that single exception, public transit riding for me has been a good experience.
I've been riding frequently for the last 8 months or so, and I've only had two minor incidents with Metro Transit; one was a driver blowing past me at a stop, and the other was a bus that was 15 minutes late. With those exceptions, my experience has been pretty great. I agree that the bus drivers are often the nicest, most courteous folks on the bus. With some of the fights that kids try to pick with them, I'm amazed at the drivers' patience.
Now watch, my bus-riding experience this afternoon will probably be terrible! Here's hoping my gushing didn't jinx me.
For the past five years, I've used public transit for about 1/3 to 1/2 of my travel, and I am all for the canonization of bus drivers. There will always be a few bad seeds, as in any profession, but by and large, they are wonderful, patient, cheerful people. So count me in the 90%.