Monday, July 27, 2009

Round and Round Back to the Station We Go

I'm sorry to say that my bus riding has been non-existent since I have started working out of the downtown. No bus route down Long Shoals Road even though it's an extremely busy area.

But Friday night I was going to make an effort to ride again. I wanted to go into town for Bele Chere after work. I got home around 6:30 and figured I'd catch a 7pm bus on Brevard Road or a 7:35 bus on Haywood Rd. Well I waited awhile on Brevard Road and then walked on up to Haywood. There were no buses to be seen. I finally realized that after 6:30pm they don't run on the hour anymore. I had forgotten this little detail. And the bus stop signs were not helpful. They indicated that the buses ran every hour until 6:30, but didn't say what the schedule was after that. I decided to walk the 3 + miles and it's a good thing I did, because no bus passed me in the 45 minutes that I walked. No big deal I guess. I got into town by 8pm like I needed to; it was a beautiful evening to walk; I needed the exercise.

After Bele Chere, we needed to catch the last bus out of town at 10:30pm. Yes, believe it or not, the last bus out of town is that early on a weekend night.

There was a swarm of people wanting on that last bus. The most people I've ever seen trying to get on a bus in Asheville. So we started cramming ourselves in. I was lucky enough to get a seat, although I would have gladly stood up. Unfortunately, two drunk rednecks had to stand very close by. (They had immediately plopped down in the seats at the front reserved for the elderly and physically challenged, but the driver asked them to move.) The bus started filling up and the driver yelled to folks to move to the back. People started yelling and grumbling about how tightly we were packed. It wasn't really tight by big city standards, or even by college bus standards! But the bus riders of Asheville were wound tight that night. Continued grumbling, yelling at each other and at the driver. The drunk rednecks and some of the black riders were getting testy with each other. It seemed very possible and likely that a fight could break out. Finally everyone was packed in and we started up.

We drove just a little ways and the Stop Request light came on and didn't go off. The driver asked who was pushing it. No one admitted they were. Before we knew it, the driver had turned around and taken us back to the bus station! We stayed parked there awhile until the light went off. Then we started again with double the grumbling. Again the light comes on and back we go to the bus station. This time when we get to the station, an Asheville police officer is there. Then an Asheville Transit worker yells "Everybody off the bus." More grumbling, but off we get. Lots of angry people

This time Asheville Transit orders an additional bus. The Transit guy says 30 people can get on the first bus. He counts them. We wait for the second bus and leave around 11pm.

It's a shame. Bad PR. Maybe a deal breaker for any middle class riders who happened to be trying out bus riding that night. I'll ride it again, for sure, but I'll bet I'm not typical of people who have a choice whether to ride or to drive. And lots of people with a choice want to stay in town later than 10:30pm on a weekend night. And not have near chaos when the bus gets a little crowded.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

the bus choice

It's hardly news when everything at Asheville Transit works as it should, but that's what happened this morning. I got on trusty bus #9 on Brevard Road, we rode into town together, and I got to work on time.

I haven't had much time for busriding lately. It does take more time than driving. (Example: this morning I intended to catch the #9 bus, because that requires less walking. I had to be ready at 8:05. Alternative: I could walk about half a mile up to Haywood Road with my heavy bag to catch bus #1; in that case, I would need to be ready at 8:20. If I drive my car, I need to get ready by 8:40). This is played out again and again. If I worked today and drove my car, I could be home by 5:15 or 5:20. Riding the next bus home would mean arriving at home closer to 6:00. It's frustrating. What is a five or ten minute trip by car becomes a half-hour or so trip by bus, and then you figure in the waiting. As Tom Petty sang, the waiting is the hardest part.

I avoided riding the bus all week for one reason or another, mostly because I wanted to go to the Y or I had some other activity planned, and it all made the bus choice (at least in Asheville) impractical. Getting the boy out to his camp location in North Asheville and then whisking myself to work? I haven't tried it yet. Car scenario: leave the house at 8:30, drive him to camp, drive to work. Bus scenario: leave the house at 7:15 (ouch!), walk half a mile, hop a bus to downtown, transfer to a bus going north, kick the boy out of the bus at camp, then ride the bus back to downtown to the job.

By contrast, today was easy. Easy like Saturday morning.