Adventures in Mass Transit

15 Jun

When two idiots decide they’re going to fistfight on a city bus, you know that something is terribly wrong with mass transit. I’ve had the joy of riding the rails for a year now and I’ve realized that it’s just like working in the emergency department. You see ALL of humanity.

About a month and change ago, some high schooler decided to try and beat me through the intersection. He failed. Mind you, no one was hurt, but it did wreck my twenty year old “salt car,” and left my family with only one ride. But hey, I got in the habit of taking the light rail to my work anyway, what was one more step?

Apparently everything. My home is about five miles from the train stop, and it’s a straight shot down a busy road. However, because it’s on the main run next to the library, it’s the main homeless route through Tempe, a college town that’s rich, liberal, and tolerant. They do a lot of good programs, including free bus passes for kids, and a few neighborhood bus system within the town

The difference between free and cheap can be measured in miles. The free bus service means the homeless can ride it without paying a damn thing, which is important when summer hits here (as it does now), with high temperatures ranging between 100 and 120. “But it’s a dry heat!” We joke, but the lack of humidity makes a huge difference. I can walk around town in triple digits here; forget trying to do that back home in Illinois with 90% humidity.

Now if I’m lucky, I can make a connection between my light rail stop and the main bus line. If not, it’s supposed to be a twenty minute wait. Except frequently, they cancel the bus I need at that moment, or it’s horribly, horribly late. So this simple connection makes an hour commute into an hour and a half… which makes all the difference in the world.

I know, poor baby… but then there’s a bus experience. People ride the bus because they have no other choice. That means they’re either too poor, too cheap (that’s me), or can’t drive. To quote Fiddler on the Roof, “It’s no shame being poor, but it’s no great honor either.” The poor are not the problem, it’s the can’t drive… because usually the reason is because they’re crazy.

The guy who thinks it’s funny to yell into my bus on the way home. The woman who gets into a yelling match because you close a window (in said 100 degree heat). The guys who get into a fist fight because he spilled a beer onto the floor. Think about that for a second. One man was so upset that another made a mess that he went from a shouting match to a fist fight within a minute. Same guy decided to not get off the bus, until he realized the driver was willing to wait for the cops to show up.

So if you want to encourage more public transit, you need to address security above all, and following that, convenience. You need to make them safe and easier than driving. But that would cost too much, so really, who are we fooling?

Now I’m a believer in public transit and I’m complaining. But maybe I’m missing something. Is it the inevitable “tragedy of the commons,” where when it belongs to everyone, no one cares about it? Or is there something deeper at play? Let me know in the comments below!

One Response to “Adventures in Mass Transit”

  1. Silk Cords June 17, 2022 at 7:51 am #

    Public transportation is a zoo. You think it’s bad there, go to Sacramento sometime. The city council there voted to ban any sort of hygiene standards for people on the buses or light rail. It was discriminatory against the homeless. Gangbangers and drug dealers abound too. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it’s mild though. I’ve heard multiple stories from Chicago natives that if you get on the wrong light rail line after dark there, you’re probably not coming back home… ever.

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