Friday, September 19, 2008

Bus Encounters

As reported on AOA, CDTA has a new jingle targeting the growing green market.

I sometimes find myself singing it while waiting for the bus.

Here are the lyrics:

I ride the bus
As all my friends do
'Cause it's easy and it's green
And it saves us money too
I ride CDTA
Get on board!

I dig the tune, but the truth is, all of my friends do NOT ride the bus. In actuality, very few friends ride the bus. I can count them on one hand.

I have hopes that the tide is turning.

This summer, I met three people rather randomly who recently moved to Albany for work. Included in the standard new-to-town inquiries of "What brought you here?", "How do you like it so far?", I of course managed to throw in the question, "Do you have a car?"

To which they each answered, "No."

My heart smiled.

I followed up with, "Do you plan on purchasing a car?"

To which they each answered, "No."

The smile grew wider.

I praised their decisions, told them I don't have a car, and let them know it can be tricky, but getting around Albany without every day use of a car can indeed be done.

One of those folks arrived in Albany fresh from Jersey to start teaching an English class at UAlbany. I met him at this bus stop in the middle of August.

It's the Crossgates Mall stop. I tend to get into bus talk here, simply because it's a transfer point for me.

In fact, I must look like the living, breathing FAQ of the stop. Here are some common questions I find myself fielding:

"Do you know when the next bus is coming?"

"How do I get to Crossgates Commons?"

"How do I get back to campus?"

"How do I get to Colonie Center?"

"Do you have to pay for the shuttle?"

"Where does the shuttle go?"

I don't have all the answers, but sometimes I know more than the bus drivers. Anytime I don't have an answer, I give them the 411, which for all things CDTA is: 482-8822.

I tell people about Google Transit and CDTA's Trip Planner, and tell them it's a good idea to use both, and to get to some locations along the Shuttlebug line, use neither.

I give away schedules.

I try to explain how the Shuttle works.

I suggest purchasing a $3 day pass for those who will be taking more than three buses in one day. That one's always tough because by the time they've arrived at Crossgates, they've already paid at least one bus fare.

One classic of Summer 2008 occurred in the late morning a few weeks ago.

There was a new
SUNY student sitting on the bench when I arrived. She was carrying her art portfolio on her back, and looked almost desperate, yet very determined.

She asked, "Do you know when the next shuttle to Crossgates Commons will be here? I'm trying to get to Michaels. I've been waiting forever."

My schedule was already in-hand since I wanted to know the answer to that question as well. I told her a bus was scheduled to get there in five minutes, but sometimes they run a little late because this time of day there are fewer shuttles on the road, and they only come about once every forty/ forty-five minutes.

The bus driver taking a cigarette break overheard me. "Really? Wow, I thought they came every 15 minutes. That's what I usually tell people." I explained to him that in early morning and later in the day, he was correct, but the shuttles don't always run that frequently.

There was an older woman who chimed in. Complaining about having to take so many buses.

I put in my two cents about transferring. I have no problem taking more than one bus. To me, that's transit. I do have a problem waiting more than 5 minutes for a connection because it eats away at my time. And I never have enough time.

The older woman was trying to get to Time Warner on Washington Avenue Extension from Troy. She didn't realize the address on Washington Avenue Extension was not Washington Avenue in downtown Albany. She went downtown first to try to find it. She was totally new to the bus thing herself, and frustrated.

The Shuttle pulled in.

We got on. I saw the art student take out a dollar to pay. Before she put her cash in the fare box I asked, "You're a SUNY student aren't you?"

"Yeah," of course, I knew that already.

"You don't have to pay on this bus or on a few other buses either. Just show your ID."

"Wow, thanks."

There was another passenger who was going to Party City, and hoping to be gainfully employed along Washington Avenue Extension, so she asked the driver for a schedule. She wanted to know where to get off the bus. I told her to stay on board until Wal-Mart and explained how to find Party City.

I showed her how to read the schedule because it's confusing. She thanked me.

The SUNY student watched out the window as the bus was arriving at Crossgates Commons. "Oh my god, it's so close. I could have walked!"she said.

The mom in me responded, "It's better to take the bus, there are no sidewalks and it can be really dangerous."

She asked me how to get to Michaels once she got off the bus. We talked about how she'd get back to campus. She had a class at noon, and she was hoping she'd make it.

When she got off the bus, she thanked me.

Immediately after her departure, Julie, the bus driver asked me, "How did you know she was a SUNY student?"

I explained that we'd been talking before Julie pulled up in the shuttle and I could tell by her questions.

When we were approaching Time Warner, the older woman asked, "So the bus will pick me up here?"

Oops, I had forgotten to mention that aspect of the Shuttle!

Julie and I answered together, "You have to call."

See, if you aren't taking the Shuttle to one of the destinations marked on the schedule, you need to call and request a pick-up.

I showed her the phone number printed on the schedule, wished her luck and we said goodbye. And yes, she thanked us.

When I arrived at my office, I had that feeling of inner satisfaction, the feeling that I'd put in a good day's work even though I hadn't yet sat at my desk, turned on my pc, or checked my phone for messages!

1 comment:

tixie said...

that's a good story! ever helpful! CDTA should pay you... ;-) or at least give you free rides...