- Christopher LeRue believes in sustainable transportation but worries if he ever owns a car he'll never set foot on a bus again
A concrete isthmus juts out at Mumford Terminal offering a convenient jaywalking point. Its well worn footpath proves what the city has long suspected: transit riders are criminals.
There's a terminal building at one end, which is a great place to get out of the rain or the snow unless you want to catch your bus. The view of the south is blocked by the back wall (where once there was a vendor and a public washroom) and the north by an out-of-service bus, obscuring the view of other out-of-service buses which could at any moment evolve into something useful.
In real cities with functional transit, riders queue, knowing which bus is coming next and where it will stop. Haligonians cluster.
The 4 Downtown arrives. Since the 2 Downtown runs the same route, you'll never see them here at the same time. Here ends the list of well scheduled buses.
The 52 Burnside arrives seconds behind the 4 and will follow it a few clicks down a busy corridor. The 19 and the 20 arrive from Herring Cove and today managed to not blow past anyone while leap-frogging each other. The 14, the other 4, the other 52 and the other 20 are all here.
Transit riders shove through their stereotypically Haligonian docility and sometimes each other, since who hasn't experienced that sinking sensation of watching a bus pull away on them and knowing they'll have to burn another half hour.
Working this system is not for the casual rider. It's not for the tourist. It's for people like me with 25 years experience, who know how to interpret the sometimes esoteric names of buses, who know all six passwords and gestures for exiting the automated back doors and when to run for a stationary bus by listening to its internal machinery.
After the chaos settles, the world's most useless bus—the once-hourly 6 Stonehaven—arrives as empty as (I assume) that Dwarven cemetery it's named after, having travelled the Quinpool corridor just minutes after the number 20 cleared it. It pulls into the furthest part of the terminal and “stops,” but in truth you have to hook it like one of those sandworms from Dune.
An irate man yells at the bus which pulled away on him. The driver pulls around the other side and lets him on but you didn't hear it from me since this corrective act of charity could net the driver a hefty fine.
One day, some time ago, I was riding a bus which stopped for a woman: a young mother who'd lost her shoes, child in arms and soaked by the rain. If there was anyone having a bad day it was her, and then (remember the shoes?) the driver closed the door before she could get on. She was shocked. I was shocked. What kind of monster would do that?
But that's just it, those kinds of monsters don't exist. He was just following the rules, and in so doing, avoiding fines. This is the ideal.
The scene only lasted a moment. He opened the doors again, his better angels or a rebellious streak having taken hold. He got an earful.
I realized then that as irritated as I may get with this system (hey, remember that time we finally got a bus to the the airport and we weren't allowed to bring our luggage on?), drivers have to live with this absurdity everyday—and enforce it—because that's their job. What kind of effect is this having on them? This is why I greet every driver when I get on and thank them as I leave, hoping they can keep up the strength to resist—
Aw frig, I'm on the wrong side.