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.