29 December 2008

Light rail - hooray!!!

Happy holidays and merry new year to all.

Today began light rail's first regular operation schedule. Many bus routes changed, including the 81. It no longer takes the loop through ASU, just runs north and south, staying on McClintock which becomes Hayden in Scottsdale. To use the 81 to go to work, I need to transfer to the light rail at Apache . . . which I did this morning, much to my own delight. Great fun, but not the quickest route. I think it adds about 10 minutes coming and will find out what it does going home in a bit. The 66 remains the most "convenient" but for the moment, I want to ride the train!

You can watch a little Ken Burns-style slideshow of my light rail pictures - it's 39MB, give or take.

10 December 2008

been awhile

Can't seem to find inspiration for bus blogging - guess creative flow can go on vacation.

Decided to check in, however, and comment about an ongoing bus announcement that makes no sense. Bugging me for months, I let it go until my son and I recently took a bus home from a basketball game and when he heard the announcement for the first time, his instant reaction mirrored mine - what the ...?

The announcement plays at least once or twice every bus ride. Recorded in a man voice, it says:

"Attention passengers - the farebox will issue passes only with a paid fare. The operator cannot override the farebox."

Huh??? To ride the bus, a passenger must produce either a pass or the money to buy a one-way trip or a day long pass. A simple procedure, it doesn't require a great deal of explanation. So what gives with the ongoing announcement, advising people, already on the bus, of what they need to gain access to the bus?

Hello???? We passed muster, we crossed the Rubicon, we are the choir - why the sermon? Riding the bus 10 times a week, I get to see a lot of driver/boarding passenger interaction. Occasionally, someone tries to work a free ride - asking the driver to take them to the next corner or claiming a lost pass. The drivers appear empowered to judge the ride-worthiness of potential passengers and doesn't that seem sufficient? What purpose does this announcement serve? Does it remind drivers of an obligation to demand payment or pass? Does it warn existing passengers not to attempt to ride without money or pass? If we're on the bus and can hear the announcement, haven't we figured it out?

Oh well, not earth-shattering, barely blog-worthy, but I feel better for mentioning it.

19 November 2008


Rode the 7:57am 81N today along with a minimum number of riders. Guess the new low gas prices encourage driving; however, ASU's parking space deficit remains the same so not sure where the cars end up.

Aromatics filled the bus today - whew! A woman got on and her smell preceded then followed her. I believe every bath and beauty product she used smelled of fruit or flowers and the cumulative effect almost knocked me over as she swept down the aisle. One must wonder if she suffers headaches and asks herself, why?

Just as my olfactory system began to recover, a young man boarded and I swear the air actually rippled from the waves of cologne/after-shave emanating from his person. Why does anyone need to use scent by the gallon? Alternative to bathing perhaps? He sat across from me, making escape from the intense aroma nearly impossible. Sanctuary does not exist on a bus. When we got off the bus at College, he walked down the street in front of me and the smell lingered, a half block away.

At least I think it came from him . . . might be infused in my hair and clothes - oh my.

14 November 2008


Took some vacay time - out-of-towners and memorable events - back to status quo. Caught the 7:57AM 81N at Guadalupe and McClintock. No energy for a morning walk, so will probably take the 72 home to get mileage.

At Southern, a woman stepped on the bus holding a large Starbucks coffee. Her grip indicated a full cup and since a Starbucks sits quite near the stop, logic dictates she probably just made the purchase. The driver told her she couldn't bring the coffee on the bus, only hard cups allowed. She just stood there, looking at him, then looking at the coffee, then looking around the bus, then back at him, etc. She did a couple of 360s and then stepped off the bus, walked over to the shelter and tossed the cup in the trash can. She got back on the bus and sat down - all without saying a word. She looked dazed and confused - perhaps not enough coffee yet consumed to help her evaluate what just happened. I completely understand why they discourage paper and light plastic cups of drink on the bus -- a sudden stop, an extra clench on the cup and the spillage scenario unfolds. It crossed my mind that maybe the driver could mention the next bus picks up in 15 minutes - give the drinker-rider an option?

Anyway, we travelled on and a couple of stops later the coffee-toting woman engaged in conversation with another passenger. From what I overheard, I could tell she rides the bus regularly - giving advice to the others about connections and routes. Certainly seems she would know about the bus cup rule. Of course, a lack of caffeine might result in early morning brain confusion and absentmindedness - like forgetting the no paper cup rule. You can't drink coffee from a paper cup on the bus, but you need to drink the coffee to help remember that you can't drink coffee from a paper cup on the bus ... a bit of a catch-22.

Saw my friend Devesh at Wildflower last night - he works in downtown Phoenix and I asked if he used public transport. He advised he didn't include the bus in his transportation plan; however, he does read the blog (hi Devesh!). He did show me his bus pass. Good intentions - perhaps we can win him over to a bus-light rail combo in the future.

31 October 2008


Caught the 7:57AM 81N today and what a great surprise when boarding. The driver wished me happy halloween and told me to grab some candy from a bag perched on the front window ledge. So unexpected -- totally appropriate for halloween.

The dean's office scheduled a halloween potluck for today, so I made my usual deviled eggs - not the easiest item to publicly transport to work. Because of the egg balancing act, I opted not to wear my costume (nose and glasses) so the driver didn't know how much I really appreciated his halloween commemorative.

Here's a link to a great Pumpkin Carving Simulator

A sincerely spirited halloween to all!

29 October 2008


For reasons unknown, I stayed undercover too long this morning so I only walked as far as the 81N stop at Guadalupe and McClintock. It turned out well as we got one of the new, tube-like 6600 buses. I boarded and quickly realized I almost owned the bus - the third rider on, only two fellow passengers! Sat down and retrieved my camera for the rare opportunity to photograph a long row of empty seats. Turned out OK.

The seats didn't stay empty for long - two quick stops passed before other riders joined up. Morning riders on the 81N consist mostly of sleep-deprived students who nap or study while riding. Not too exciting, but then what do I bring to the party? Preferring the role of "l'observateur", I certainly don't initiate conversations. Oh well, who needs excitement in the morning?

23 October 2008


Well it took a ride home on the 66 to bring some fun back to bus riding. Caught the 4:50PM 66 southound at the corner of Stadium Drive and College Ave. The 4PM to 6PM 81 southbound buses all run very late (sometimes not at all), so if I leave work in that time window, the 66 provides a more reliable alternative.

I got on the bus and waited as the driver's switched out. The new driver announced he was new to this route and asked us to please be patient. For the most part, he did a great job -- only a couple of near misses when people wanted off at the more obscure stops.

By midway down Rural, I remained the only passenger. We neared the Guadalupe-Rural intersection and instead of getting into the left turn lane, he kept the bus in the right turn lane. Fortunately, the light turned red and we stopped. I moved to the very front of the bus, saw him looking left and right and he said, "I think I turn here . . ." I told him he did indeed need to turn, but left, not right. He looked down at a map and concurred. Once the light turned green, he moved forward and waited in the intersection until he could safely proceed south.

We discussed doing a cloverleaf in the shopping center parking lot, but he said it was too crowded for a safe detour. He continued south on Rural and took a left at the first residential street. He told me not to worry or panic, he was just getting us back to Guadalupe. I told him I wasn't worried at all - I enjoy a great adventure. Poor guy couldn't know my true delight at this unexpected "food" for the blog. We curled around in the neighborhood and finally found a cross street that joined Guadalupe. He asked me about the next right turn and I told him only left turns until he made it back to Guadalupe and then he could turn right.

I got off at my stop and wished him well on the rest of the route. What a fun ride home!

15 October 2008

72N - 6100 something

Trekked to Rural and Guadalupe today and caught the 72N, 8am version. I could see a crowd on the bus and thought about waiting 5-10 minutes for the 66 northbound. Unknown forces propelled me onto the 72 and I got a front row seat! Knitting currently occupies my busy-hands obsession, so I whipped out my bus project and, needles clacking, enjoyed the ride.

Nearly SRO when I boarded, the bus got more crowded as the ride continued. Just after crossing Baseline, a wheelchair added to the mix -- Sardine City! I like that the bus gets so full. Not sure if the crowded buses reflect ASU's ongoing parking space reduction efforts or higher fuel costs - whatever, nice to see all the could-be-drivers riding instead. Gasoline prices are down, probably so the elephants look good before the election.

Took a picture of the Guadalupe/Rural stop - note the shopping carts piled behind the shelter - I really do think some interesting research might be done on the migratory habits of the American shopping cart.

14 October 2008

Back on the bus blog

No posts since August - bad blogger. The semester started, work got crazy busy - no time for writing and once home, who wants to look at a computer screen some more?!? Just this week things seem more settled and bus blogging returns to my radar.

In a feeble attempt to add some daily exercise, I now try to walk and pick up either the 72 or 66 bus at Guadalupe and Rural. A mile from home, it takes about 20 minutes to get to the stop - time depends on shoes and weather. If I don't muster the energy in the morning, then I ride the 72 in the afternoon and walk home from the same intersection. I could take the 66 in the afternoon and accomplish the same thing; however, the route goes within 1 block of home and I find it difficult to get get off the bus before necessary. Possessing a serious OCD need for direct path travel, my brain just won't accept early disembarkation without cause - I know, I know, walking constitutes cause, but my brain won't go there yet. Stay tuned, the walk might overcome the obsession.

05 August 2008

#64 something

Once again on the 7:57am 81N and still quite benign. Memories of great rides on the 66N haunt me and I think I might try using that route for my "to work" leg to see if it harbors more interesting events than the 81N.

Today's route wasn't totally without interest. We had a driver-in-training with the regular driver in the role of trainer. The newbie handled the bus very smoothly, only questioning when and where to stop. As we moved west on University, I heard the trainer tell the trainee to pull over at the Chompie's sign, he needed a restroom break. Chompie's is a local deli, known for excessively large sandwiches, great soups and specialty deli breads. The menu reads like a Seinfeld script, including my favorite - the chocolate babka (both Seinfeld and bread).

Not previously aware that the drivers used Chompie's as a break stop, I wondered if perhaps passengers could get off, accompany the driver into the deli and make purchases while he took care of his business, What a lovely customer service idea! We could even phone our orders in as we approached the deli (a good use of cell phones on the bus) and thus avoid schedule delays. A champion plan and I think Valley Metro should give it full consideration.

Silly girl.

28 July 2008

"B" is for bus

Just checking in. See today's image for a list of 'b' words that describe bus rides lately. Heart-stopping, adrenaline-pushing events are not necessary, but the quiet and calm of recent trips provides nothing to observe and upon which to comment. As fuel prices leveled off, and even declined a bit, the rush of eager new riders subsided; I knew that eventually people would adjust their spending habits to accommodate the weekly trip to the gas station. No new shoes for the baby, hon - we gotta buy gas!

Oh well, it is summer in Arizona and as July moves into August, lots of people take out-of-state vacays, seeking relief from the pressing heat. No one's around to ride the bus and brighten my blog.

14 July 2008

Tap - The Conclusion

When last I wrote, I hoped to resolve the tap issue on the bus ride home. An epidemic of farebox flu must have swept the fleet as the farebox orifices were covered with duct tape. Leaving for Georgia the next day, my research went on hold until this morning.

Took the 7:57AM 81N today and when I got on the bus, I "tapped" the flat side of my pass against the orange reader and, as expected, nothing happened. I then put it flat against the reader and held it for a count of 3. The green light went yellow, 1, 2, 3, then went back to green and the all clear sounded. I feel vindicated - absolutely no tapping occurred. The reader required a full scale laying on of the card to assess and accept my pass.

Thus ends my whine about the instructions printed on the back of my bus pass. Oh well, with summer heat, a paucity of riders, even lighter traffic, I needed something, buswise, over which to grind my mind.

08 July 2008

Tap - Part II

this is the 81N . . .

The bus pass tapping experiment took a setback last night by a broken fare box. All geared up today to continue the tapping procedure, much to my surprise the 7:57AM 81N ride takes place on a Valley Metro disabled rider van! No fare box, no tapping, but what an interesting ride.

The van turned into the pullout, the door opened and I asked if this was the 81N - the driver confirmed and I boarded. There were 5 double seats toward the rear and a big open space in front for a wheelchair and the ramp. Three other people occupied seats and I took #4. While the seat felt much better than the usual bus seat, the shocks clearly needed replacement. Everywhere we stopped, the driver had to open the door, and yell out at the people - "this is the 81N!" He overshot one stop where an ASU student (regular rider) waited. He hit the horn several times, but ipod buds filled her ears and she probably couldn't really hear. The driver didn't want to continue, but seemed reluctant to put the van in park and go outside to fetch the girl. Finally, a rider in the left front seat got out and yelled back at the girl, "this is the 81N!" The trend continued and the van quickly became SRO. ASU was the destination of choice for almost everyone, so the van stayed full all the way to College and University.

Good humor prevailed and the driver received a "thank you" from each of us as we got off. The riding quirks like this make public transportation so interesting.

Will check out the bus pass tap tonight.

07 July 2008

Tap - Part I

Took a few vacation days while some of the fam visited. Nice to see them and bet they're happy to be out of our 110+ degree heat. I go to Georgia for a few days this week, so should enjoy lower temps but much higher humidity - valid arguments exist in favor of dry heat.

Got my new bus psss - no longer free, but at $260 a year, sure beats the cost of a parking permit (~$800 annually) plus the cost of fuel. They take $10 each pay and that makes it even better - the sum total of my involvement includes an annual trip to Parking & Transit services to renew the precious little piece of plastic.

The pass bears no magnetic strip and instructions on the back say to "tap" the card against the reader on the bus. When I boarded today, I tapped the side of the card on the top of the reader (orange rectangle in the image) and nothing happened. I re-tapped and the driver said, "No, you need to put it flat." I placed the card flat against the orange rectangle, the light turned green and the happy accept beep sounded. So, what about laying the card flat makes it a "tap"???

Admittedly, there exists an OCD part of me that possibly literally interprets operating instructions to excess; however, shouldn't instructions match the action to which they refer? Tap it means lay it flat? I don't get it.

To ease my tortured mind, tomorrow I will attempt a "flat tap" and see if it results in a successful boarding. Perhaps a slow deliberate laying of the card on the reader is unnecessary, that a quick, flat slap will produce the desired results.

Stay tuned.

19 June 2008


Met a friend for coffee today, so took the 6:57AM 81N.

An easy, uneventful, over-air conditioned ride with lots of new-to-bus-riding passengers.

In this new age of high fuel costs and increased emphasis on public transportation, the inquiring mind wants to know - do bus drivers take the bus to work?

18 June 2008


Yesterday afternoon I wanted to take the 3:45PM 81S. A wee bit late leaving the office, I hustled to the transit center at College and University and waited. And waited. And waited. Hustling in 112+ degrees leaves the body hot and sweaty. Standing about and waiting in 112+ degrees only makes things worse. After two bottles of water and watching dozens of 72s and a couple of 81Ns come and go, a bus finally turned the corner . . . and the sign read "81 ASU Research Park" - at last!

Stepping on the bus, I knew instantly, this bus had not been long on the road. That lovely new car/bus smell drifted through the air - the fixtures gleamed and the floor, pristinely clean. The newest of the new, no forward facing seats existed in the front lower section - only two long lines of seats facing each other - similar to an underground/subway car, only padded and comfy. The mezzanine level configured like all other buses. I sat right-front, next to the wheel cover, and marveled at the beauty. I decided they must have unpacked the bus just before sending it on our route as, I swear, I found bits of styrofoam dust on the wheel cover.

The trip began and it ran like a dream. No bumps, grinds, squeals, squalls or other ear-splitting, body bruising events. It rode as though on a cloud. Best of all, instead of cords along the window tops to pull and signal a stop, they put buttons on all the vertical support bars - even near the front door! Such a brilliant move and I could hardly wait for my chance to push for my stop. My dilemma - which button to push? With a pole on the wheel cover and a pole immediately to my left, I waited until the last minute and then reacted - left! I pushed the button on the left pole! The signal rang and the bus glided smoothly to a stop.

What a ride.

09 June 2008

Iris Infiniti

Took the 6:57am 81N today, but need to write about Friday.

As previously discussed, gas prices continue to climb with $60+ tank fill-ups the new standard. As a loyal, almost 3-year bus rider, I rarely experience the pain of fuel costs and avoid the heart-stopping effect of large digits at the pump. Friday, I learned that, apparently, some of my co-workers, too, discovered the frugality of the bus.

With some errands to run, I decided to drive to work on Friday. Quite possibly only the 3rd or 4th time my car has been to ASU in the past 3 years, I just decided to drive. When exiting the building, two women who work in our college passed by as I came out the door. We exchanged greetings and the one woman noted my car keys in my hand.

"Driving?" she asked.

"Yes," I said, "decided to leave the bus at home and bring the car today."

"Well . . ." she said, through pursed lips, "WE'RE taking the bus home. See you later." and off they walked (or stalked!).

I was flummoxed. Loyal, persistent, bus-blogging, public transportation advocate and I had just been trumped by a couple of Green Queen Wannabes! Any passerby hearing the tone of her voice would take me as a spendthrift, panda-hunting, child-spanking, carbon monoxidng eviledoer. Of all the nerve! Bandwagon jumpers!

I hope they had a good trip on the bus and I also hope there might exist a great big ledger somewhere that contains the tally of all my bus riding days. I hope, I hope.

03 June 2008

#6441 then 6452

About last night's ride home . . . took the 3:45PM 81S, which arrived at ~3:57PM with the engine cover in a raised position - foreshadow? At 3:45PM on Monday in the summer, rush hour traffic generally doesn't exist, so it seemed the 81S delay probably originated in the engine. A new driver got on and we took off. Things seemed OK until we got to McClintock and the 60 - stopped at the light and could barely go forward after sitting. The driver nursed it along but it choked and died in front of Fry's, just before Baseline. The driver got out, fiddled in the engine area, came back, re-started the bus but lights and warnings told him problems still existed. Fortunately, the 4:00PM 81S appeared in the distance and our driver had us all get off so we could catch the next bus - a totally painless delay. Before I knew the next bus approached, I tossed around the idea of walking home - about 1.25 miles - but the temperature hovered around 101 degrees and my shoes left something to be desired for distance use. So glad I didn't take off down the street.

An interesting/positive note about that ride. A man with a bicycle sat in front of me and I heard him tell the lady sharing the seat that he lived in Chandler, but worked in Scottsdale. He said with gas prices on the rise ($4.01/gal today), he now bikes to and from the bus and loves it. Said it adds about 20 minutes to each commute, but he has no stress from driving and gets much needed exercise! Hope more people follow his lead.

30 May 2008


What a nice bus ride, today. Took the 7:57am 81N and claimed title to first passenger. I got the right front seat, propped my feet on the tire well and began knitting. At Baseline and McClintock, a young man got on - rookie rider. He only had a $5 bill and, of course, the fare boxes don't give change. He wanted an all day pass, so the driver told him to get change and buy the pass on the next bus - nice driver! Some won't let people on without the correct change, but the 7:57 guy always finds empathy. A half block later, a regular guy got on and took the left front seat, propped his feet on the tire well and began reading a book. At Southern and McClintock, a man and young woman got on the bus, sat down and the rookie rider started talking. He asked about bagel shops along the route, looking for an Einstein's. We all chipped in with information and returned to our relaxation. At Apache and McClintock a regular lady rider got on and that was the full complement for the rest of the ride. It was so congenial and pleasant - no loud cell phone conversations, no questionable aromas - just a nice, comfortable ride. What's not to like about public transportation?

As a side note: I walked to the stop and the gas price sign showed 3.87/gal. I walked past the sign, got to the bus shelter and when I turned around and looked, the girl from the gas station just finished changing the price to 3.91/gal -- a 4-cent increase in 30 seconds! Sure glad I have my bus pass.

27 May 2008


Back to work after a lovely, weatherwise, Memorial Day weekend. I think 3-day weekends should become the standard and let holidays create 4-day weekends - very recuperative.

Took the 6:57AM 81N this morning. As I stood at the bus stop, working on posture improvement, up walks the OCD bus time guy! Last I saw him on Guadalupe at the 66/92 stop when he talked me into riding the 92 to Rural and catching the 72N. If you recall, he talked non-stop about bus times while constantly opening his cell phone to check the hour. Today he kept stepping into the street to peer south, looking for the bus. He came over to me and asked if I took this bus regularly. I advised him I flexed my bus riding times and he asked if we'd ridden together before. I said we had indeed ridden a 92/72 combo together.

He wanted to catch the 521 express bus that goes across Southshore and ends up on *-10 into downtown Phoenix. He explained he usually catches it on Rural but only had a pass for local, not express and needed change and got a paper and etc., etc., etc. He then launched into a discussion of times related to the 521 coinciding with the 81N and he had a few minutes of play, IF the 6:57 arrived on time. He showered me with a blizzard of bus times and route information; however, today he only checked his cell phone one time. He saw the bus coming and seemed quite pleased that the public transportation gods smiled on him today. We got on the bus, he sat in the seat behind me and, as he departed, he leaned forward and commented on the lovely weather! No mention of time, bus connections - just the weather.

While, as a fellow bus rider, I completely understand the time obsession, I thought his particular brand of time watching could be the tip of a freaky iceberg. However, since he shared a normal, non-bus related remark, perhaps he just likes to talk bus?

23 May 2008


Hard to believe I completely missed posting in the month of April and came close to missing May. Work continues to press, leaving thoughts of blogs behind. Riding a regular bus at a regular time with regular riders made writing easier - rhythm - regular writing requires regular rhythms.

Oh well, once again I proceed. Today's ride (7:12am 81N) lacked interest, but the bus stop had a moment. The bus stops seem to serve as collection points for shopping carts/trolleys. I don't understand the procedure - if I purchased so many items I needed assistance to transport them to the bus stop, what happens when I get off the bus at my destination? What guarantees a cart waits at the other end to help me continue my journey with my plethora of purchases? Since I have never removed a cart from the property to which it belongs, a full understanding of the cart moving mindset escapes me.

Today's cart situation spawned an interesting mental dialogue. Three carts rested next to the stop, one from Walgreen's, one from Fry's and one from Basha's. The Fry's and Walgreen's carts made sense. The stop sits on the northeast corner of the Guadalupe/McClintock intersection. Walgreen's sits on the southwest corner and Fry's occupies the southeast. The nearest Basha's, however, lives two miles south on the southwest corner of Warner and McClintock -- not exactly across the street or just down the block. Did the cart arrive in small trips over time or did someone push it, non-stop, the full two miles? It made me ponder the migratory habits of these carts and I thought about a tagging system - preferably GPS enabled - that would permit tracking of the carts as they move from place to place. Imagine learning the journey of a rogue shopping cart . . .

Amazing the mental processes that spring from a trip on the bus.

24 March 2008

incredibly invisible blogger

Yes, she is still alive and taking the bus in Tempe. We unexpectedly went "live" with our new site and it has been unbelievably busy - I thought the worst was over, but the decision to launch was a wee bit premature - not fatal, just traumatic. Sounds like the diagnosis room at hospital. Anyway, the site is down right now and I decided to enjoy the moment and check in with the blog.

Been pretty steadily taking the 7:57AM 81N - an occasional stray away, but probably 3 out of 5 days for sure. This morning, a bit slow out of the house, the bus passed me while crossing Guadalupe. I effected a semi-jog and waved, hoping to be seen in the mirror. A semi-regular rider stood outside the bus, told the driver of my approach and it ended up no large deal.

As we sat at the intersection of Apache and McClintock, a young man risked life and limb to cut through traffic, cross McClintock and get on the bus. He wore his pants in the fashion that uses a belt to hold the pants under the stomach and below the buttocks - looks hideously uncomfortable and gawd-knows-how he could run in them. Like a gazelle, he leapt and bounded around and between cars, as he come across 7 lanes of traffic. Made my semi-jog look pathetic. Anyway, he got on and then asked the driver where the bus was going! He faced near-death to board a bus whose destination was unknown to him! Hello????? The driver gave him stop and riding advice and the young man took a seat near the back of the bus. He whipped out his cell phone, made a call and proceeded to use f---ing this and f---ing that as every other word in the conversation. Suddenly, the lady voice came on the bus and said, "Please be courteous to other passengers and refrain from using [foul][vulgar][profane] language and from placing your feet on the seats." The other semi-regular guy and I started laughing and the driver said he has a bad ear, but thought he heard something - we assured him his ear was in tune and thanked him for the interlude. It waa an interesting ride.

04 March 2008


A couple of weeks since a new post came this way. Lots of rides and some interesting events, but work remains ugly and once in my office, seated at the computer, blogging time eludes me. Once home, I really don't want to stare at a computer any more - a vicious circle.

During my recent hiatus, enjoyed a couple of seriously eventful bus rides. A young man, previously detained by the police, got on the bus and proceeded to collapse/pass out, apparently overdosed on some drug of abuse. The driver freaked out, calling the gendarmes, and the young man got off the bus and staggered on down the street - almost too many details to ever recant the tale properly.

On another ride, an angry young woman got off as I got on and I later learned from a fellow passenger that the angry young woman was, in fact, a bus stalker. She attempted to "over befriend" this other woman and became irrationally angry when rebuffed. It made a great ride with much discussion - while I don't advocate stalking, bus or otherwise, sure added interest.

This morning's driver (6:57AM 81N) guided the bus like a NASCAR wannabe. We flew down the streets and I must give him credit for smooth stops despite the speed - obviously a master behind the wheel. It felt like a speeding bullet - hence today's image.

13 February 2008

#4123 & #6KSomething

Thought today I would try the 92N/72N combo route again, only going one hour later. Didn't look at any schedules, just went to the stop at 7:45am. Crossing Guadalupe presented the first challenge. Traffic was fierce and I felt like a character in the old video game, Frogger. I made it to the center lane and then waited for a couple of minutes while the westbound traffic cleared. Generally, drivers in the greater Phoenix area treat pedestrians with disregard and disdain, which makes standing in the middle of a busy street a daunting experience.

Once across, I didn't wait more than a couple of minutes and a 92N bus arrived. I got on, rode to the stop on the NW corner of Guadalupe and Rural, crossed Rural and waited on the NE corner for the 72N. Yesterday, it arrived very quickly, but today did not repeat. Time passed, no 72N and I realized the 66N might come around the corner before the 72N arrived. The dilemma - which bus to take? Board the first to arrive or hold out for the 72? With a reasonably flexible work schedule, time doesn't really factor into these decisions. The 72N appeared on the horizon and stopped for the light. As predicted, the 66N turned onto Rural arriving at the stop prior to the 72N. A young man got on the 66 and I hesitated, then let the 66 continue on without me -- I wanted to experience another ride on the 72.

Not sure I made a good choice as the 72 was crowded and got more so as the ride continued. I got a seat, but in 2 or 3 stops, it became SRO. It took a lot longer for the 72 to reach College and University - I didn't get to work until 8:45am - easily 15-20 minutes later than a usual run on the 66 or 81. What a difference an hour made.

Despite the tardy travel, today's image honors my lucky location and the number of bus combos available for my use.

12 February 2008

#4119 AND #6483

Been a few - out of town (Miami, FL - hoo hah!) for business and blogging didn't figure into the equation. Back on track and boy, do I have a story for today.

First planned to catch the 6:57am81N. Going out the door, unseen forces pushed at my gray matter and I decided to use the 6am66N instead. Crossed Guadalupe and as I approached the stop, noticed a man waiting for the bus. When I neared the bench, he asked me what bus? and I told him, 66. He then launched into an interesting explanation about bus times and transferring and that I would improve my arrival time by catching the 92N, taking it to Rural and Guadalupe, changing to the 72N and heading on to ASU. Apparently, the current driver on the 66 makes no attempt to follow a timely schedule. This man uses multiple transfers to get to 24th and Thomas and really knows what bus goes where and when. Since I knew the 72N would get me where I needed to go and he seemed so pleased to enlighten me about all my bus catching and transferring alternatives, I told him I would be happy to give it a run-through. He kept opening and closing his cell phone while referring to the time. A bit of an OCD aura lingered in the air, but not to the point of scary. I had seen this man on the 66 a couple of times and felt confident that his motives in engaging me in the bus transfer scheme stemmed from his sheer delight in discovering the alternative arrangement. Let's at least say that if he kills, serially or otherwise, he does so in a very timely fashion.

The 92N arrived as he predicted and we boarded. At Rural we got off, crossed the street and waited for the 72N. As it pulled up, the man flipped open his cell phone again, showed it to me and said, "See, 7:01, just like I told you." We got on the bus and finished the ride to ASU. Ironically, we ended up right behind the 6:57am81N as we turned from Rural onto University. Had I gone with my first plan, I would have beaten myself to work by about 1 minute.

Today's image honors the new knowledge gained in the world of bus and transfer.

30 January 2008

#6000 something

election signs Failed to note the bus number today - it was one of the older 6000 class. Took the 7:42am 81N and what a quiet, uneventful ride. No crowding, no noise, everyone sitting quietly, comfortably - as neutral a ride as one could expect to experience. I actually sat there and practiced meditative breathing - not out of stress, just something to pass the time. Quite a relaxing way to start the day.

DId notice when I arrived at the stop that two more political signs took residence beside the bus stop. I really dislike election time and the visual pollution of the ubiquitous campaign signage. With the exception of name recognition, these signs convey nothing meaningful about the candidates and they blight the landscape. Wish we could find a better way. Today's image shows the beginning of the great election sign scourge.

Using the blog editor on Flock to upload this post today. The image adding process seems a bit dodgy, so let's hope for the best.

Blogged with Flock

28 January 2008


Planned to catch the 7:57am 81N today. Gave myself a couple of extra minutes to get coffee and when a bus showed up at 7:50am, figured we had a late 7:42am or early 7:57am. Instead of the usual 6000 class bus, a 4100 craft appeared at the stop. Near to overflowing when I got on, I luckily secured the upper level, rear-of-the-bus seat I always took on the 66. A woman reading a book occupied the wider bench seat to my right and, as other riders boarded later in the trip, she eased closer to me, sighing quite loudly as each new body entered the area. Not sure what she expects on public transportation, but if she wants a solo seat with plenty of elbow room, she needs to consider private transportation - especially between the hours of 6 and 9am in the Phoenix metro area.

To add to the congestion, a young woman across from me sat slumped crosswise, sleeping, with her backpack occupying 50+% of the wider bench seat to her left. Eventually a man came up and sat in the remaining -50% and slid her bag slightly over to make a bit more room. The young woman adjusted herself, but made no move to remove her bag from the seat. At least four people stood in the aisle and I know she saw them - apparently in this millenial "age of entitlement", her bag needed a seat more than any of the people. Finally, her mental fog lifted and she pulled the backpack onto her lap - duh! While she eventually recovered her fumble, I don't understand why people will look at the situation and not ask her to move her bag so they can sit down? It need not occur in an aggressive manner; a gentle request can obtain the desired result.

Today's picture is actually a 6000 class bus, but I couldn't find a good, wide angle photo of the smaller 4100s.

24 January 2008


Once again with the 7:57am 81N. Although I tend toward the early bird, this work departure time feels right for now. The bus arrived about three minutes late - Roy driving as usual. I boarded, carrying my cup of coffee, and he said, "I need some coffee, too!" I thought his words meant to tease, but the next thing I knew, he stood up, announced to the gathered riders that he'd be right back, then bounded off the bus and entered the gas station/convenience store next to the bus stop. I looked at the overhead scrollbar and the clock said 8:00AM - hard to believe Roy, whose driving centers around timeliness, actually arrived a bit late then took more time to go get coffee. I certainly don't begrudge him the drink, just found it so unlike the Roy we know and love. Definitely a refreshing change of behavior. He arrived back at the bus a few minutes later, steaming cup in hand, and we returned to business-as-usual.

Roy advised that after tomorrow, all drivers' schedules will change. While still driving the 81 route, his new time will begin at 11AM and end at 4PM. Suppose I might see him on an early ride home. Sure hope his replacement employs the same level of customer service as Roy or the driver from the bicycle post - really gives a good start to the day.

23 January 2008


Took a brief break - caught rides to work with my daughter last week. I ride the bus home, but for reasons unknown, the ride home usually doesn't inspire like the morning.

This post recounts yesterday morning's ride - quite an interesting event. Grabbed the 7:57am 81N - Roy in absentia - probably his day off. The driver greeted me nicely and I sat in my favorite spot, the right front seat. Every stop had passengers waiting and both spots on the bus rack filled quickly. At the 60 and McClintock a young man waited with a bicycle. He saw the filled rack and backed away as if to wait for the next bus. The driver asked the young man's destination and then told him to get on and stand in the aisle with his bike. A nice gesture by the driver and obviously appreciated by the young man. We continued north on McClintock, and at Southern, a young woman stood with her bike. The bus rack still full, the young woman backed away from the bus, but, as before, the driver asked her destination and told her to bring the bike onto the bus, stand in the aisle and hold it. Since the other bike already occupied center aisle, this put the young woman and her velocipede more toward the front, blocking me into my seat. The driver, watching the young woman get settled, looked at me and asked when I needed to get off the bus. I told him, ASU, same as the young woman, so her bike caused no hindrance for me. We continued on and I wondered what the driver would say if another bike rider hoped to catch the route. Such thoughtful consideration seems a rare commodity these days - we could all use the civility lesson this driver provided.

The image contains, of course, the bicycles. The "Hello?" refers to a man on the bus, talking loudly on a cell phone and constantly asking, "Hello?" He kept telling the person on the other end to move around, the connection seemed bad - apparently it didn't occur to him that using his phone on a moving bus might create problems with the call? Wish people would leave their cell phones in their pockets while riding.

14 January 2008


Monday morning and I took the 6:42am 81N today. Got the left front seat and promptly employed the foot elevation capability of the wheel well cover. Only about five people occupied the bus and it seemed odd when the door closed, the bell rang and the STOP REQUESTED sign lit up. While many people get on in the morning hours, very few get off so early in the route. The driver passed a couple of stops, halting at the next place where passengers waited to board. No one complained when he didn't stop earlier and no one got off when he did stop. As the door opened, the STOP REQUESTED light sign went dark and once all the new people joined us, the doors closed, the bell rang and the STOP REQUESTED light came back on. Again the driver passed several bus stands, stopping only at the next stand with waiting passengers. The sign light went out as the door opened and once again the bell rang and the light came on when the door closed. While my early morning brain activity seems sluggish some days, I recognized the pattern - a broken stop request system!

Throughout the ride, the driver never commented about the broken system and no one ever felt the need to announce an upcoming stop. I never pull the cord to signal my stop since College Ave serves as a "transit station" and the buses always stop there, regardless of passenger desires or needs. While it seemed most riders got off at College, usually someone always needs to leave the bus prior to ASU's campus. What are the odds that no one wanted off early the day the stop request system broke? Such weighty thoughts to ponder on a Monday morning.

09 January 2008


Whew - what a ride! Arranged to meet a friend for coffee at 7:30am today at Einstein's on the corner of University and Rural - right on the bus path. Both the 5:57am and 6:42am 81N, take about 15 minutes to go from my stop to this location - taking the 7:12am to arrive by 7:30am seemed like simple math, eh? Well, not today.

For openers, the bus arrived 7 minutes late, reducing my on-time margin to 11 minutes - not a good sign. When I got on the bus, I literally took the last available seat - right front, next to a young woman with one of those bookbags-on-wheels (alarming objects, but that's for another time). We then proceeded north and stopped at virtually every stop between hither and yon. McClintock High School, re-opened after the holiday break, accounted for some of the passenger density; however, even after those school kids unloaded, passengers continued to join us as we crawled - and I seriously mean crawled - along McClintock toward University. Road repair currently allows only two open lanes on McClintock, woefully insufficient for morning traffic volume. The bad planning award goes to the bus stop pullout at Apache and McClintock. Located right next to the intersection, if the bus stops there, pulling out becomes a huge challenge. Rush hour drivers feel no need to let the bus enter the traffic flow and we waited two full light changes before the driver could nudge the bus into the go ahead lane.

My friend doesn't play the cell phone game so I couldn't advise him of my delay. I sat there, amazed at the naivety that led me to think taking the 7:12 allowed plenty of time. I arrived for coffee at 7:52am. My friend knew I would arrive by bus and assumed, correctly, that traffic created my delay. I guess, though, the bad planning award really belongs to me.

07 January 2008

# 6???

Raining today, luckily just a drizzle while getting to the bus stop. I decided to sleep in a bit so caught the 7:57AM 81N. As expected, Roy commanded the craft and when I got on, he questioned me riding on a non-Thursday. I explained my sleep-in, he understood and we proceeded north, all being right in the 81N universe.

Nothing unusual occurred on the ride, but the young man occupying the seat across the aisle from me caught my attention. Rather, his shoes became the focus of my ride today. He wore a ball cap at a slight angle, covering his eyes. He sat, slightly slumped, arms folded across his book bag - standard bus-sleep posture. His impeccable color coordination included black and white cap, dark red shirt, gray-black pants and delightfully sparkly red shoes. I couldn't stop looking at the shoes. Immediately I thought of Dorothy on the way to Oz, but with a hip-hop/gangsta kind of twist. He probably wouldn't like the analogy, but the shoes mandate it.

I decided I must photograph the shoes for the blog. A dicey prospect since I needed to accomplish this while not raising suspicion about my photographic purposes. My camera includes an "Available Lighting" setting which does a fair job without using the flash. I began a series of surreptitious shots under "available lighting" conditions; however, they kept coming out grainy and blurry. I even waited until the bus stopped completely and those shots, too, contained flaws. Getting frustrated, I began playing with different settings and, suddenly, the flash went off and I had a great picture. He never moved so I assume he didn't see the flash or chose to ignore it. Whatever, I got the picture I wanted and now you can enjoy the shoes, too.

Such a drizzly, grizzly Sweeney Todd-like day, a compare/contrast photo of the grim outside and the bright, shiny shoes inside seemed good for today's picture.

04 January 2008


Rode the 5:57AM 81N today. Got my cup 'o winter blend at Einstein's and happily discovered the bus stop all fresh and sparkly wet, apparently the recent recipient of a drive-by cleaning. Amazing, the effect of power washing on concrete.

I got on the bus with only one other rider present. He sat in the right front, so I took the left front, behind the driver. I like the front seats -- the wheel well covers provide a great place to prop up the feet and securely wedge in against a bumpy, rocky ride. We motored on, adding no new passengers until Southern and McClintock. A young woman boarded and promptly sat down next to me. Unlike many riders, I sit all the way over, making the seat next to me available for other passengers. I don't mind at all if someone sits by me; however, I can't imagine why, with a completely empty bus, this young woman chose to ignore all the vacant seats and join me at the hip? She never said a word, just sat down and remained, even after I got off at ASU.

No seating rules exist on the buses, no "fill-from-the-front" design or plan, so I remain confused at her choice of seat. I doubt it involved my charming personality and gracious demeanor since no opportunity presented itself for me to display my best behavior. She made no attempt to engage in conversation and I couldn't bring myself to ask how she made her seating decision. I watch people as they get on the bus and try and guess where they will sit. You can usually tell who will go to the back of the bus, who will walk through slowly, looking for optimal conditions and who will refuse to make eye contact and take the closest seat possible to the front door. Regardless, almost everyone opts for a seat to themselves when available. Today's mystery seating situation might never resolve itself; however, it did give me something to chew about in this post.

03 January 2008


Another cheery Thursday start on the 7:57am 81N - Roy at the helm. He possesses incredible good spirit for someone who deals with the public on a regular basis. Wonder if we'd find him so chipper at the end of the shift...? I started taking this bus when I took a late class on Thursday in the fall - I continue to use it due to my addiction to Project Runway. For some totally unknown and undoubtedly silly reason, Bravo chooses to show each new episode of PR on Wednesday at 11PM in the Mountain time zone! That means no sleep until midnight and that means no 6AM bus. Adaptation - paramount for TV viewing and bus time management.

Speaking of bus time management, this morning, 4 minutes early, Roy held the bus at McClintock and Apache. Two women got off the westbound Red Line on Apache and hurried to get to our bus. They couldn't know we were in a holding pattern so felt a need to add speed as they approached. Slightly breathless and smiling large, one could sense their relief and pleasure at making a successful connection. It made me think about the adrenaline rush of catching the bus when you think you might miss it. Angst mounts as we see the bus, not sure if it might pull away before we get to it. A blanket of satisfaction when we successfully board - disappointment, helplessness and frustration if it leaves the curb without us. Peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys.

02 January 2008


Let 2008 begin! Cash-paying riders on the 6:12am 81N received a free ride this AM. Apparently, the cash slot could not take bills - nice bonus to start the new year. In October, all Valley Metro buses got new fare boxes. Much hoopla and fanfare preceded the new units; however, as time and use march on, glitches and bugs plague the boxes. At least a couple of times a week I ride a bus with a fare box issue. Cash slots don't work, card readers don't read - something always seems amiss.

I remain thoroughly convinced that the inventor of these boxes has never actually ridden on a bus. One payment option includes a full day pass - for $2.50 you receive a card good to ride all day, any number of times on any number of buses. In theory, one can insert $2.50 into the cash slot and up pops the pass. A lovely idea, but in reality, all cash must enter the fare box within 3 to 5 seconds or the transaction cancels and any money already inserted stays in the box. Whoever designed the system holds the misguided belief that all riders board the bus with crisp, freshly minted bills or coin, ready to pay their fare. Veteran riders will verify that such behavior occurs, at best, 50% of the time. Unlike the OCD among us, many riders wait until the face-to-face moment with the box to locate and invest their money. Crumpled, wadded-up bills appear from deep within pant pockets or purses, much too wrinkled to pass easily into the cash slot. These high-end, digital fare-box wonders have little patience for the time it takes to straighten cash and the drivers end up exhorting passengers to "hurry up or it will eat your money and you won't get a pass". Talk about adding a whole other stress level to the driver's job - who needs these aggravations? Certainly makes me appreciate my permanent plastic bus pass.