26 June 2009

the bilingual bus

Last couple of days brings a new addition to the bus announcement system - a male voice providing information in Spanish. The lady voice that announces the next stop and route transfers still vocalizes. The new, bilingual announcements seem to include more topical items. For example, on July 1, rates increase on the buses and light rail and that seems to be the current announcement focus. Interestingly, the English and Spanish versions don't come back-to-back. I heard the Spanish version at least 3 times before ever hearing it in English. One time, I heard the words "Valley Metro" in the middle of the Spanish announcement and never heard those words in, what I presumed to be, the English counterpart. Since my Spanish vocabulary is almost non-existent, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to know why I didn't hear valley metro in both languages? What did I miss?

Informational signs posted on the buses have always been in both languages and it never made sense that the lady voice info came only in English. Oh well, something for me to ponder and, maybe, I can sharpen my ear and learn a bit more Spanish. Riding the bus really does offer a variety of educational opportunities.

10 June 2009

get off the bus!!!

Ever since I started regularly taking the 8:30am 66N, the driver has waged a war against loud mp3 players. In this iPod world, many riders get on the bus, player in hand and earbuds/phones/plugs planted in their ears. Occasionally, the ear appliance doesn't effectively block the sound and others can hear a little (or not so little in some cases) bit of music emanating from the device. Signs on the buses and light rail indicate Valley Metro's policy does not permit leakage loud enough to disturb others - fair enough, as long as we can agree about what level equals "disturb".

With a very few exceptions, I never hear the players about which the driver complains. Sitting in back, perhaps the usual bus noises override the leaking music. However, the driver seems to have the aural capacity of Superwoman - she hears everything - and today the **** hit the fan. A young woman and young man boarded at Southern, both with headphones in situ, players in hand. Once seated, the driver turned around and said she didn't know which, but one of their players was too loud and to turn it down. She drove on and around Alameda, once again told them to lower the volume. The girl said she didn't think it was her player, but she would turn it down some more. The young man never acknowledged the driver (maybe he couldn't hear her???). I never heard anything coming from either one, but, whatever.

At Broadway, the driver again turned and told them she could hear the music and to turn it down. At this point the girl removed the earphones and put the player away. Again, the young man didn't acknowledge the driver in any way. The bus moved on and stopped at the light at Mill and Apache - 60 yards from the next stop (mine!). The driver turned around and yelled at the young man to turn down the music, she could still hear it. He leaned forward and told her he didn't have to do anything, he had headphones on and wasn't bothering anyone. He proceeded to tell the driver that she had no right to speak to him or anyone that way, she was a public servant, paid to just drive the bus and he could do anything he wanted. While offering his comments, the light changed and she drove to the stop. She yelled at the young man to get off the bus and he said he would, it was his stop, and he was going to call and report her. She just kept yelling (more like screaming) for him to get off the bus. A girl in front got off, but the young man blocked my exit. He lunged forward as he yelled at the driver and I finally timed it to catch him mid-lunge, jump past him and out the open door. As I walked down the sidewalk I could still hear them screaming at each other.

The driver's campaign against loud music continually mystifies me, especially since I rarely hear the offending music. Her behavior about it almost always borders on the unnecessarily unpleasant and rude. The young man showed the narcissism of his generation - I appreciate he didn't like the driver's approach, but his arrogance in assuming a right to do anything he wants -- sounds like his future plans could include a job on Wall Street.

A very unpleasant start to the day for both of them.

01 June 2009


Two trips on the 66 today - going and coming to ASU. This morning, only four other riders joined me; the airport Super Shttle gets more passengers. First summer session classes started today (I think) and I expected more riders. Perhaps my timing doesn't mesh with summer students.

Riding home, I shared the top back of the bus with two large couples who occupied over half of the upper back area. They intertwined with one another, spreading legs, arms and butts all over the back and side bench seats. Their postures implied area ownership, but I braved their potential wrath and sat opposite, smiled and whipped out my knitting. They never moved, never said a word to me or each other, just sprawled widely and got off the bus around Alameda. What a controlled display of body/mouth non-movement. Wondered about a drug-induced haze, but they popped up and got off promptyly at their stop -- not easily accomplished while under the influence.

The Arizona summer arrived with the usual blast of outside heat and inside freeze. A direct mathematical situation occurs - the hotter the outside, the colder the air conditioning. It makes life difficult dressing for outside travel and sitting inside. I decided I need a lightweight, summer shawl; something to toss over my shoulders or legs when indoors, but easily carried while outdoors. Today's image is a picture of my shawl-in-progress, taken on the bus. I actually wanted to get a picture of the sprawlers but couldn't get the knitting and their oversized torsos in the same picture. Oh well.

27 May 2009


Very quiet morning ride on the 8:36am 66N. Another rider and I claimed first passenger rights at McClintock and Guadalupe and only four others got on or off before I left the bus at ASU.

At Southern, a man boarded with a motorized, oversized Razr-like scooter. Reading, I didn't notice him until he sat near me and the aroma of cigarette smoke rose from around him and filled the back area of the bus - whew! He and another rider exchanged conversation and, from what I heard, the man with the scooter suffers from emphysema and needs the scooter to help him get about. He reeked of cigarette smoke yet spoke of being "on disability" because of breathing problems.

He got off at Broadway and I watched as he unbent his scooter and motored off down the street. It seemed a good thing that he didn't need a wheelchair and oxygen; however, I don't understand an emphysema diagnosis, disability and continued smoking.

19 May 2009


A recent comment serves as a well-needed reminder that my blogging stalled. I take the 8:30am 66N in the mornings, and although "regular" riders fill the bus, it lacks the panache of those early days when Mark and Bill and Dave and I owned the back and chatted non-stop all the way to ASU. I need to re-focus and look elsewhere for inspiration. When I first started riding - pre bus gang - anything and everything about the bus fascinated me. Noises, drivers, maneuvers, passengers, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps a return to the early observational innocence might pull me out of the bus blogging doldrums.

Another problem also exists. Today's image reflects the newest love of my life - my iPhone. I use a neat little app called "Stanza" to read books on the bus. Work and disease render my vision less than perfect, making traditional book reading an absolute chore. With Stanza, the book is online, travels with me and I can reduce or enlarge the text to match the current state of my vision. It automatically bookmarks my spot and re-opens to that page when I re-start. The downside - I get so lost in my reading, I forget to observe bus events. I can't tell you how many times I nearly miss getting off the bus. The other night I made it only because someone else got off at the same stop and I looked up when the doors opened. Recognizing my stop, I hollered at the driver to "wait a minute, please" as I gathered myself together to get off the bus.

My pleasure at reading on the bus can't be measured, but it certainly causes problems for writing about the bus.

01 April 2009

4114, I think

Fun ride home yesterday on the 66S. We boarded with a young man wearing a chef's coat and Jim asked where he worked. The man told us he served as sous chef for the caterers at the Phoenix Civic Center. I asked if he applied to appear on “Top Chef” and he said no, but he came from New York and worked at 'kraft, Tom Colicchio's flagship restaurant. For the curious, Colicchio serves as head judge on “Top Chef”, a reality competition show on Bravo where 15 chefs compete for a large cash prize and all the publicity a fledgling celebrity could ever desire.

This young man and I chatted until he got off the bus. He graduates in May from ASU with a BA in nutrition, school paid for by his employer, Marriott. His next step includes the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He seemed quite passionate about his chosen career and, if enthusiasm counts, will enjoy success. How nice to spend time talking with someone so positive - how nice to enjoy a chat on the usually quiet bus.

Bus trivia note – At the Tempe Transportation Center, routes 62 and 66 share a shelter. While waiting for the 66 yesterday, the 62 pulled in, the driver got out, went around to the front of the bus, did something and the door closed. He sprinted for the restroom and Jim, an even more curious person than me, went to the front of the bus to see how the driver closed the door. He reported back about a little door which opened to reveal a button inside. I asked Jim to open it again and took today's photo. When the driver returned, he again went to the front of the bus and opened the bus door using the hidden bus door button. I think I have seen drivers close/open the doors manually - must work like DVD drives - the preferred method uses the button, but pushing gets the job done, too.

26 March 2009

unusual ride

Night before last we enjoyed an unusual ride home. My co-worker, Jim, and I arrived at the Tempe Transportation Center, 66S shelter, about 5 minutes prior to the scheduled bus arrival. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. We watched as 2nd, 3rd and even 4th versions of other buses came and went, but no 66S. Noticing a transportation supervisor, we approached him to ask the status of our bus. At 15 minutes late and counting, we wondered if we missed the 4:44 or if traffic had things backed up. As we walked over, the supervisor asked if anyone was waiting for the 66. We acknowledged that we wanted it and he apologized, pointing behind us to Stadium Drive and a bus - the 66S (star #1 on map). Apparently, the driver got confused and didn't enter the transportation center drive, so we didn't know or see the bus sitting there. We boarded and things went from odd to unusual. The usual route (purple on the map) takes the 66 out of the trans center, east on Stadium, then south on College, then west on University, then south on Mill. Stops occur on University and Mill that usually generate quite a few riders.

Since the bus faced the wrong direction on Stadium, we didn't expect her to whip a u-turn; however, it seemed she could go up and through the trans center to get herself back on track. Instead, she went west on Stadium/5th St, then left on Mill (red route on the map). By ignoring University, she abandoned riders at 2 stops. While traveling south on Mill, she did stop at 6th St and, amazingly, a woman got on the bus. The woman came to the back, sat down, and Jim asked if she wanted the 66. We all knew she didn't since the 66 never stops there. She said, “no, isn't this the 65? I want the 65.” Jim told her it was the 66, then yelled up at the bus driver that we had a wrong passenger. The driver made another unscheduled stop at 7th St, discharged the disgruntled woman, then proceeded south on Mill, driving past the bus stop in front of the CVS pharmacy at the corner of Mill and University, where the 66 usually picks up numerous passengers.

The driver yelled at us for telling her about the incorrect passenger and each time she approached a stop (legal or otherwise) she hit the horn. In 3 years of bus riding, I never experienced a driver blowing the horn when approaching a stop. Once she blew past the CVS stop, things settled down a bit and I think she only had one more stop near-miss. While not quite as fun as the time the substitute driver and I took the residential detour, this ride presented a variety of experiences for a 26 minute ride.

24 March 2009


Rode the 8:36am 66N again. SRO occurred, mostly due to an electric wheelchair that boarded the bus at Rural and Baseline. The big event of the day involves my big mouth. About halfway through the trip, a young woman got on the bus with a very unusual hairstyle. At first I thought she wore feathers, then it seemed more like bad bed hair, gathered on top of her head. She reminded me of a character, Honey, in the movie, Notting Hill. A bit later in the ride, I looked over and noted her reading allure magazine - quite a disconnect considering the hairstyle. Rolling Stone or Mother Jones, perhaps — definitely not allure.

The driver missed the stop and much hustle and bustle ensued when she finally did bring the bus to a halt. I got off along with Jim, my neighbor and co-worker, and as we walked toward our building, I asked if he saw the girl on the bus with the unusual hair. That didn't clue him in, so I described a bit and he remembered. I proceeded to comment about her reading allure magazine when, she suddenly walked past us, turned, smiled and said, "that's me!" How desperately I wanted an invisibility cloak at that moment. All my preaching about good manners and civility! How could I display such impolite and discourteous behavior! Jim nicely tried to help cover with a comment about the unusually early trash pickup, but too late - the words lingered in the air and my feet filled my mouth.

Lessons learned — need to keep my observations to myself or at least look behind me before I speak. Bad karma start to the day.

17 March 2009


Took the 8:38 AM 66N again today. Yesterday's passenger count bordered on the slim-to-none; but today we enjoyed a full house (bus). Guess lots of folks added Monday to their spring break days. Today belongs to St Patrick but few passengers sported green garments. One woman wearing a green sweater did, however, leave a not-so-Happy-St-Patrick's-Day impression.

She boarded the bus, cellphone mashed against her ear. To her credit, she realized she couldn't put money in the farebox and talk at the same time, so she told the person on the other end of the line (cell?) that she needed to hang up and would call back “in a minute”. Fare paid, she plopped down on the front seat, placing a large purse on her right and a softside lunch bag on her left. An older gentleman already occupied part of the seat and she managed to fill the remains. While not huge seats, 3 people can fit and she, and her paraphernalia, took up space for 2. Once ensconced, she flipped open the cell phone and resumed the conversation. Holding a big coffee mug, she crossed one leg over the other (blocking the aisle), sat back and settled in for a fine chat.

The bus kept stopping, more passengers boarded and the aisle filled. This woman remained oblivious to her surroundings and, even after ending her phone conversation, did nothing to make more room on the seat for anyone currently standing. I understand some people have personal space issues and don't like getting 'too close', but for a short bus ride - give me a break! This age of rude, narcissistic, self-absorbed people gets more and more tiresome. We need Miss Manners!

16 March 2009

Feet are made for walking

MFebber here, still using public transport, just not writing recently. Between work angst, family moves and spring allergies, blogging took a back seat. Most of all, the route/schedule changes from the light rail opening had me trying different transport combos to see what fit best. The irregular schedule and change kept me off-balance and messed with the writing rhythm. Settled down to regular 66 riding, so hopefully regular writing returns, too.

Two young high school aged girls preceded my arrival at the stop this morning. They danced around, talking and laughing in that inimitable loud, screaming teen fashion - an amazing display of energy so early in the morning. The bus arrived, everyone boarded and I wondered at the two girls' destination - Marcos de Niza High School, one-half mile west on Guadalupe; or, Tempe Union High School, about 5 miles distant at Mill and Broadway. After we passed the next stop, they rang the bell and departed at Marcos de Niza.

Not to complain, but why didn't they walk the rest of the way to school? They made it to the bus stop from somewhere and only needed to perambulate one more half-mile - 2,640 feet, 880 yards, twice around the track! Laughing and talking, they would have been oblivious to the passage of time and distance. Sadly, kids today don't seem to consider foot travel as transportation. They did take the bus, which beats door-to-door in a car, but such a beautiful morning, 60 degrees, sunshine - and they waited and rode the bus for a half mile. Saving their feet for dancing, I suppose.

26 January 2009

Bus 6140/Car 137A

No mood for blogging recently as the university "disestablished" our college. We received notice of an "important meeting" a week in advance and then last Tuesday (yes, they scheduled this during the inauguration . . . ) the meeting provided some details of the disestablishment and people learned who lost their jobs. Uncertain how things might shake out, I felt quite stressed waiting for the news and, although spared for the moment, so awful to share the heart-breaking experience with colleagues told to turn in their keys, take their stuff and leave. Bleak days indeed.

Today I met a friend for coffee at the Einstein's at the corner of Rural and University. In pre-light rail days I just got off the 81N at the corner and walked over for coffee. Now, I take the 81N to the Apache train station, transfer to the train and then get off at the Apache/Rural station and walk over to Einstein's. A bit more maneuvering, but completely manageable. Lots of passengers on the train - too bad for the people who claimed it would never be used.

Today's image comes from an article in the New York Post about Citigroup's purchase of a $50 million corporate jet. Citigroup received some $45 billion in taxpayer bailout money, so I'm thinking that makes this jet a part of our public transportation system. Hoping to go to the UK and Germany this summer, wonder if Citigroup might fly me across the pond?

15 January 2009

video time

Last week I finally rode the light rail home for the first time. The hallmark event included an on-train delay due to an accident that occurred on the track. Well . . . just learned the wreck involved a westbound light rail train and a pickup truck.

Found this article from the East Valley Tribune's website, complete with video of the accident as seen from the camera on the train. Interesting view.

Apparently a malfunction caused the gates to rise prematurely and the bozo driving the truck ignored the flashing lights and large silver train to his left and dashed across the track. I never understand why people sit in front of those crossing gates and accelerate like a dragster as soon as the arms begin to raise. With a suspended operator's license, Mr. Truck Driver obviously gives little attention to driving rules so expecting him to look before crossing a rail track? Probably a bit of a stretch.

Finally, if you don't care for accident videos, check out the left hand column of the article - Most Viewed - there's a link to a video titled "Mesa leases 80 goats to eat weeds" - good stuff.

06 January 2009


Whew! It took until yesterday for me to ride home using the light rail. Free rides and football bowls through Dec. 31 kept the trains packed and virtually un-rideable. I put a trip together yesterday afternoon and probably won't do it again.

I boarded at the Tempe Transportation Center, the train took off, cleared the station, got to University and stopped. The track curves a bit and, being in the last car, we could see police lights on University. After a couple of minutes, the train driver announced that an accident on University blocked the tracks and we must wait until it cleared before continuing. What kind of odds put an accident smack over the light rail tracks? Phoenix/Tempe/Mesa/Scottsdale/Glendale/etc., etc., etc., contain thousands of really bad drivers, so what a surprise - not. Anyway, it happened and we spent 15 minutes in situ, waiting for the accident to clear. Uneventful for the rest of the rail ride, I got off at Apache and walked over to the bus stop to catch the 81S. About 10 other people did the same thing - pretty good numbers for ASU's winter break time. We waited and we waited and 20 minutes later, the bus showed up. In all, it took me one hour to get home - a good 30 minutes longer than usual. While I wouldn't expect accident delays every day, the bus wait seems pretty typical and pretty pointless. Guess the 66S gets my homeward bound business.

This morning I used the 81N/light rail combo and took some photos of more Apache/McClintock station art.