Starting on February 6th, you’ll be able to load your bike in the Ride-Free Zone at any time of day. I’m not much of a ‘bike+bus’er, but I did learn about the “no loading downtown during rush hour” rule the hard way several years back. The second time I ever tried to put my bike on a bus, I tried it at 7 AM at the stop in front of Benaroya Hall and, to my dismay, got publicly corrected by the driver. (Of course, I learned later that it could have been much worse.)
Driver, over the PA: “Sixth and James–last stop in the Ride Free Zone. Again, this is the last stop in the Ride-Free Zone. All of you who ‘lost your transfers’: This would be a good place to get off.”
Yesterday, I rode the 48 with a young woman who was very new to Seattle. When she boarded the bus, she first asked the driver if we were traveling south (having been told by the northbound driver that she was headed the wrong direction) and then asked if and at what time we would get to 24th Avenue South. Oddly, the driver of our bus didn’t know if he passed 24th Avenue South, despite the fact that it’s one block east of 23rd Avenue South, a street the 48 travels on for some distance. When he suggested she get off and retry the northbound 48, I decided to intervene. I told her that the bus we were on would get her where she was going.
“Can you call the people you’re supposed to meet and find out the cross street, so you’ll know where to get off?” I asked.
“I could if this bus had a pay phone.”
Perhaps trying to make up for his lack of route knowledge, the driver handed the woman his cell phone. “You have to dial the area code first.”
She looked at him blankly. “What’s the area code here?”
(Did I mention she was new to Seattle?)
She eventually completed the call and found out the cross street, which the driver knew. He told her she’d make it there before 6:30 PM, her scheduled meeting time. She thanked us both for our help and, after a pause, asked the driver one final question:
“Hey–how come some buses are pay as you leave and some are pay as you enter?”
“Oh,” he said, “we just do that to confuse people.”
If you catch a northbound 43 at 23rd & John, you pay as you leave; however, if you catch a northbound 48 at 23rd & John, you pay as you enter. Similarly, if you catch an eastbound 545 at the Montlake Freeway Station, you pay as you leave, but if you catch the (much slower) 242 from the same location, and headed in the same direction, you’ll have to pay as you enter.
If you catch a southbound 48 at Montlake (the street-level stop) at 6:39 PM, it will take you all the way to Rainier Beach. If you catch a southbound 48 at Montlake at 6:53 PM, it will take you only as far as Columbia City.
The eastbound 3 from downtown goes all the way to 34th and Union…except when it terminates at 21st and Cherry.
Metro’s Trip Planner includes Sound Transit routes in its itineraries. Metro’s Tracker can tell you where any Sound Transit route is at any given moment. But, if you search for a Sound Transit schedule on Metro’s site, you will get a message telling you it doesn’t have that information; check Sound Transit’s website.
Of course, those of us who take pride in our transit geekdom know which routes originate downtown (and are therefore “pay as you leave”), or, at least, to check the sign by the fare box when we get on (better have the fare ready, just in case). We also know where to go to find the route and schedule information we need, and that the destination on the front of the bus is far more important than the number, even though we can’t explain why there aren’t different numbers for routes that go to different places.
But can we really expect newcomers and bus virgins to try this hard?
Bus Nerd recently took a short trip to Chicago and got around just fine (by using the system maps and information at stops and stations), without ever making a call, checking a website, or asking a driver. As I’ve mentioned before, much as I love taking the bus around here, we could use a little help in the “discoverability” department.
On my way home the other day, a woman (who apparently needed to get off at 23rd & Union) waited until all the other passengers getting off at that stop had disembarked before moseying toward the back door and mumbling something inaudible in the general direction of the driver. The oblivious driver proceeded to pull away from the stop. “I want to get off,” she called out, louder this time. The bus kept moving. Before the driver had made it halfway down the block, she was screaming, “I want off! I want to get off!” at the top of her lungs. Thankfully, the driver pulled over and let her off. (My ears wouldn’t have survived the ride to Marion.)
Then, today, on my way to work, a man who got off at my stop asked for the back door so quietly (and for some reason, listlessly–it wasn’t that early), I’m surprised he heard himself. Like I said to Bus Nerd, who witnessed it with me, it was the weakest “back door” I have ever heard.
There’s something thrilling (and, for us shy types, at least, a little bit terrifying) about getting off at the back door. Will the driver notice you and open it automatically, or will you have to (gasp!) draw attention to yourself and your need to disembark? And will you be able to get the driver’s attention (along with everyone else’s), or will you find yourself stuck on board, embarrassed and forced to hoof it back to your original destination?
I’ve made something of a hobby of observing “back door” requests.
There is the casual, confident, open-sesame-style command of the experienced rider (Back door!), who never questions whether the request will be granted.
There is the red-faced, whispered entreaty (Back door?), the one that begs, “Please don’t look at me!” and apologizes for the inconvenience.
There is the polite request. (Back door, please.)
There is the shouted, indignant demand of the entitled. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Do as I say, public servant!”)
There is the shouted, indignant, demand of the panicked. (Back door!)
(Subtext: “Didn’t you hear me? Please don’t drive away yet!”)
My favorite “back door” of all time, though, was by young man (who was actually trying to get on the bus) at Montlake several months ago. He stood in front of the closed doors, resigned, and muttered (more to those of us lined up behind him than to the driver), “Back door, dude.”