Friday, July 30, 2010

BUSNINJA SIGHTING

Also yesterday on the 831, about two-thirds, that is four minutes, of the way through my long six-minute journey home from work, I was seen riding the 831 by my roommates and my neighbor, who happened to be driving down University Avenue in a car while the 831 was stopped at a light waiting to turn onto said University Avenue. They said they texted me, but of course my phone was dead (this later proved to be true, as when I turned my phone on there were two texts patiently waiting for me from my roommate). When I got off the bus, they were stopped at a light waiting to turn, and I saw what I thought was my roommate's face leaning out of a car window staring at me. I wasn't sure if it was my roommate, though, because I was pretty sure my roommate would have shouted my name in a loud, high-pitched voice, and possibly in a South American accent. So I continued placidly walking without acknowledging his existence, either.

I soon found out that the face did, in fact, belong to my roommate, because they knew I was coming and when I got to my apartment they had a . . . surprise . . . waiting for me.

REGULAR

Also yesterday on the 831, as I prepared to disembark after my long six-minute journey home from work, I was impressed that the bus driver had pulled up so that the back door of the bus exactly lined up with the little strip of sidewalk that protrudes from the regular sidewalk next to the bus stop in front of University Avenue Condos. What led to this precision? I like to think it was the fact that, since I was on the bus, and I always get off at 500 North, and I always sit near the back, it would be best to line the sidewalk up with the back door of the bus. Maybe that's just me. But it's nice to be a regular.

PRIORITIES

Yesterday on the 831 I had just sat down, hunkered down for the long six-minute bus ride home from work, when I looked over at the person across from me. He was getting out his iPad, which he had lovingly encased in a nice cover, and began opening one of those civilization-type games which are so popular nowadays. I looked on with approval until he got out his sound system, which consisted of those nasty little earbuds you get when you buy Apple (r) stuff. You know, the kind that hurt your ears.

I thought, so this guy cares enough about technology to buy an iPad right off the bat, but not enough to get headphones with halfway decent sound quality that don't intrude into his delicate auricular areas? Maybe I'm just being a musician here, or maybe he just didn't have any money left over after lovingly purchasing his iPad, but I think he needs to work on his priorities. Also, he should wipe the finger marks off his screen.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

TRIP TO SPAIN #1: THE EPIC JOURNEY OUT

Last week I went on my first ever trip to Europe. It was not for the purpose of studying public transportation. But you don't need to know that . . .

Our trip to Spain involved no less than six modes of transportation. Here they are . . .
1. Car, from Provo to Salt Lake International Airport. I was going to take the bus, but I would have had to catch it at 6:45 for a flight that left at 12:00. I was actually okay with doing this, but the other members of my party were not. Sigh.

2. Plane, from Salt Lake to Atlanta to Madrid. Someday, when I am a rich and famous Busninja, I will fly business class. Then my knees won't hurt when I get off the plane. Also, I may be able at some point to sleep on a flight. I even took a sleeping pill on the flight from Atlanta to Madrid, since we were going to arrive in Madrid at 10:00 a.m. local time. No effect. Instead, I watched Alice and Wonderland and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Barajas Airport, Madrid
3. Madrid Metro, from Barajas Airport to Nuevos Ministerios. We walked all the way across the airport to catch the Metro, only to find out that it stops at all the terminals. Boo. Oh well, it helped burn off some of the paella I ate later that week. The Madrid Metro was nice and clean, and it moved quickly. It was also pretty full, which warmed my heart. It cost €1 to ride. Yay.

4. Cercanía Renfe, from Nuevos Ministerios to Méndez Alvaro/Estación del Sur. The Cercanía is a mid-size train, larger than the Metro but smaller than the high-speed Ave. We started out underground but went up to the sunny side to transfer to the bus station (the only part of Madrid I saw by day outside of the airport). The train station we waited at, though a ways underground, was clean and well-ventilated. Which is good, because we were all very tired. It cost us €1,3 to ride three stations on the cercanía.

Cercanía Train StatonInside the Cercanía
5. Intercity Bus (ALSA), from Estación del Sur to Granada. This bus was clean and air-conditioned (for which we were effusively grateful), but somewhat cramped, and included no bathroom. The picture should amply indicate how excited we were to still be traveling. It cost us €16,4 to ride this bus. It took us about five hours to get to Granada, including the bathroom break.
Estación del Sur

Somebody remind me again why I'm doing this

6. City Bus (Transportes Rober), from Estación de Autobuses de Granada to Hotel Carmen. I liked the city bus in Granada (more on that later). The level of patronization once again warmed my heart. The downside of that was that we had to stand, and we were so fetching tired. But then we got to the hotel and we were able to rest in peace (double-meaning intentional).
Interior of the T. Rober Route 3 bus
All in all, it was an epic journey. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

GOOGLABILITY

For those of you anxiously waiting for a post about public transportation in Spain, don't worry, it's coming. But this isn't it.

Instead, I feel the need to proudly announce that, nowadays, when you google "Busninja", guess what's at the top of the list?

Who's your daddy?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

MAIS J'EXAGÈRE

This morning, while waiting for the 831, I was discussing via cellular telephone the situation of public transportation in this country. After pontificating for a few moments about what it could be, I said "Oh, well, I guess I'll just get on this empty bus now and be one of three people going to BYU at 11:30."

So, apparently I was exaggerating. There weren't three people going to BYU at 11:30 on the 831. There was one. Yours truly,

BUSNINJA

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

DEAR STUPID PROVO DRIVER (12)

Dear stupid Provo driver:

I gather from your wild gesticulations while talking on the phone that you are an avid conversationalist. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, unless you are talking to me when I am very tired, in which case it is rather a grievous sin.

Nevertheless, even when I'm not very tired, and even when you're in the middle of a very crazy conversation,
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE YOUR HAND OFF THE WHEEL TO GESTURE? I MEAN, YOUR OTHER HAND IS HOLDING YOUR PHONE!!! WHAT ARE YOU DRIVING WITH, YOUR KNEES? YOUR KNEES HAVE NO PHALANGES!!!

Regards,
BUSNINJA

THE ONE WHERE I BROKE THE PATTERN

So, today on the 831 (I know, I know, they all start that way) I was the only one sitting on the right side of the bus. On the left side were four people, none of whom I know personally. In fact, my only reason for mentioning them is that they were each sitting in their own seat, one right behind the other. This, in and of itself, is nothing remarkable either, but then the lady in the first seat got off. Then the man behind her got off.

I was intrigued. I thought "will the next two people get off in order?" I also thought "Since I'm going to be the last person off the bus (trust me, I know these things), should I sit behind them and keep the pattern going?"

Lo and behold, the pattern continued! The lady in the next seat got off next, followed by the man sitting behind her (I'm just now realizing that they were going boy, girl, boy, girl, and that I couldn't have continued that pattern without becoming a girl . . .). But then, I broke the pattern. Even though I got off last, I did not move to the left side of the bus. Oh well. The bus driver didn't seem too torn up about it.

OGDEN TRIP #3: THINGS TO SEE AT OGDEN STATION

Once we actually got to Ogden, there were lots of things to see and do right at the train station:

- The Ogden Transit Center (which is way bigger than the Timpanogos Transit Center. Boo.)
- The Train Museum, which includes the Wattis Dumke model railroad (note: if your grandpa, like mine, is really into model railroads, it may or may not be a bad idea to show him this)

- The firearms museum, which actually starts with the history of firearms in general but mostly covers the lives and firearms of the Browning family

- The antique car museum, which oozes awesomeness right down to the vintage neon sign at the entrance

- The Gallery at Union Station, which is, as its name implies, an art gallery

- The Union Grill Restaurant, which serves a wide variety of food at a reasonable price

- Historic Union Station itself, often used for community events nowadays, since it doesn't have to accommodate large numbers of impatient train passengers

- The gift shop

- We didn't even go to 25th Street in Ogden, which seems relatively calm these days, though my grandpa said it was a hive of iniquity back in WWII

So, if you're looking for something new to do, you like trains, you like history, you've never been to Ogden before, you don't care that the Ogden Transit Center is bigger than the Timpanogos one, take a train ride up to Ogden and see the sights. Good, cheap, culturally enriching day.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

WHO WOULD THROW THAT AWAY?

People leave interesting things at bus stops sometimes. A Shakespeare anthology; empty, used, tupperware (you know, you can wash it and use it all over again; you don't have to get rid of it so fast); an Armani Exchange pull-string bag (I didn't know they sold those . . . could be the only thing they sell under $100); etc.

But today, when I got to the bus stop, I saw what appeared to be a music stand in the trash can. I thought "Who would throw that away? And why here? Did someone have a freak music stand accident at the bus stop?"

Curious, I peered into the garbage can to ascertain if possible the nature of said music-stand-related altercation. Then I saw that it was actually a broken umbrella. Now, someone may have had a freak umbrella accident, but it probably just broke on them. Not nearly so exciting.

Monday, July 12, 2010

OGDEN TRIP #2: TRAINS ARE SO COOL

Part of the reason we were on this Ogden trip was so that my grandpa could wax nostalgic about when he worked driving an ambulance from the Ogden station to the hospital in Brigham City. So, of course, we had to ride the train.

While we were on FrontRunner, we talked about various things, including:

- The fact that trains run so much smoother now than they did back in the day (with the exception of Amtrak, may it rest in peace); no more clickety-clack, clickety-clack, just a soft whirring sound.

- The fact that FrontRunner, even on a good freeway day, runs just as fast, or slightly faster, than the traffic on I-15. Now imagine it's a snowy day, or there's a lot of traffic on the freeway, and as you laboriously make your way home from Downtown to whatever cute little Davis County community you call home, you see the train whizzing by on your left, completely immune to traffic and almost immune to weather. I'd ride the train instead, but maybe that's just me . . .

- The fact that when FrontRunner opened, the only "connection" to buses at the Woods Cross station was the fact that the 461 stopped on the corner sort of by the opposite end of the parking lot. There are now bus bays for the 460, the 461, and the 463 there. I hope this improves the inhabitants of southern Davis County's ability to take the train, but I don't have any primary data to support this.

- The fact that even I can stand up in the bathroom on FrontRunner.

- The fact that the view is better from the upper level of the train car; you can see the tops of buildings instead of the sides.

- The fact that FrontRunner trains have free wireless internet.

- The fact that FrontRunner trains board at ground level, which makes them easier for our less mobile neighbors to board than say, a TRAX train with steps going up to it (the new TRAX trains will also board at ground level. I'd say it's progress . . .)

- The fact that if FrontRunner ran down to Provo at the time of this writing (which it would but for Rocky Anderson and his ilk) our journey would have taken half the time.

- The fact that trains in general are really, really cool.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

OGDEN TRIP #1: WHEN THE SYSTEM FAILS

This past Thursday I had the great opportunity to go with my paternal grandparents, my dad, and my sister to the train station in Ogden, along with its associated museums. My grandfather had a lot of memories of the Ogden station from WWII, and we were hoping he would wax nostalgic about it, which he did. We went on public transportation, of course.

This first post is not about our experience in Ogden, but I'll get there.

We were driving to TRAX at the 9000 South Station (Historic Sandy). When we were about to pull into the parking lot, we started hearing and seeing police cars. Heading into the station. Uh-oh. When we got to the station platform, we found out that someone had been hit by the train as it was pulling into the station.

UTA was able to handle the situation and the problems it created very quickly. The next train (15 minutes later) was directed to the other side of the platform, and everyone got on. For the next ten minutes or so, we could hear the driver of the train we were on in constant communication with the dispatchers. Since the northbound track was blocked, we were heading north on the southbound track, and it was very important that everything be well-coordinated to avoid further collisions. Everything was handled quickly and professionally, and we got back on the northbound track just as soon as we could.

The other problem occasioned by this situation was that the train we were on was now doing double duty. Say what you want about the state of public transportation in Utah, TRAX carries a lot of people. When it has to carry two trains' worth on one train, it gets pretty crowded. Fortunately, everyone around us seemed to be pretty good-natured about it. People consistently offered their seats to those less mobile or spinally-resistant than themselves, and when the aisles got crowded, people that had to exit the train would just smile at the people in the aisle and say, "Well, here we go!" The people in the aisle were also pretty calm about just moving over and making room. It's always nice to see people in general being courteous in inconvenient circumstances.

In short, public transportation, like its private counterpart, sometimes has problems. It is good when they are handled well. BUSNINJA, the blog, as well as the person, extends wholehearted condolences to the family and loved ones of Michael Kody Wright.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

9TH EAST IS WEIRD

This morning I went to the gym on 9th East. I am not the only person I know who does this, but I am quite possibly the only person I know who does it on the bus . . .

As I got off the bus this morning and was waiting to cross the street (stupid crosswalk stuffed me even though I totally pushed the button right before the light turned yellow. In order to stick to my principles about crosswalks, I was forced to wait for the next green light), a man came riding up the hill on his bike making really loud donkey noises:

EEEEE-HAW! EEEEEHAW!

I'm not sure if he was expressing his non-Republican status, making a commentary on the way I was dressed, or simply practicing for a community theater production, but I was much diverted.

Then, once I finally got across the street and was about to enter the gym, I saw an old man in a big floppy hat standing outside the window doing what would have looked like an aerobics routine, claps and all, had he not been lifting his feet only an inch off the ground. Maybe he didn't want to pay the gym fee? I don't know.

I admit it's been a while since I lived by 9th East, but still, I didn't expect it to have gotten that weird in the last three years.

Monday, July 5, 2010

IMPORTANT DEBIT-CARD-RELATED DISCOVERY

So, last Friday, I found out that my girlfriend's debit card has the cute little "contactless" symbol in the upper-right-hand corner. As some of you, but not all of you, probably know, if you have that symbol on your card, you can ride the bus with your card. All you have to do is wave it in front of the card reader at the front of the bus, and bingo! it bills your account the $2 required to ride the bus.

I was, naturally, quite excited about this discovery. But, interestingly enough, so was she. In celebration of the fact that we no longer have to scrounge up loose change to ride the bus together, we rode the bus four times on Saturday. Yay!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

NEW RECORD

Yesterday on the 862 there were not four, but seven people at one time on the bus. I know it was the afternoon rush, but still, that's saying a lot for the 862. Maybe someday there will be double-digit ridership, in which case there will be a very celebratory post on this blog.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

DOCTRINAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE 831

I must admit, I've been saving this post for the new month so that it will appear in my archive for longer. Sorry to hold out on you.

Someone once dared me to use the bus as an object lesson in church. I may yet.

Until then, take a look at the 831. It's good for you anyway.



Probably the first thing you will notice about the 831 is how little sense it seems to make. Like most routes in Provo, the 831 goes in anything but a straight line to get where it's going. Sometimes the Northbound bus goes north, sometimes it goes west, and sometimes it heads due south! (see University Avenue) This can be very confusing for those who are not experienced in the ins and outs of bus service in Provo. In addition, at UVU, the 831 Northbound stops on the same side of the street as the 801, 802, 803, 811, 817, and 830 SOUTHbound, and the 831 Southbound stops on the same side of the street as the 801, 802, 803, 811, 817, and 830 NORTHbound. This has not, to my knowledge, ever confused anyone, but there is a big sign on the south side of the street informing those not lucky enough to have ridden the 831 before that they are on the wrong side of the street if they are trying to go to Provo. Perhaps a similar sign should be erected on University Avenue.

Anyway, weird.

You, the casual observer, may wonder: "Why does the 831 exist at all?" I'll tell you.

No one is arguing that the 831 takes a circuitous route. However, by doing so, it provides service to a lot of people who live off the beaten path. Also, if the 831 didn't head backwards down University Avenue, it would not come close to where I live, meaning I might have to walk to BYU (horrors!), or the gym (no sense getting any exercise before you're there). And there are plenty of people who live further off the beaten path than I do.

And even though it is circuitous, the 831 is about as fast as the other buses. Because it doesn't have to deal with traffic, it gets from UVU to BYU about as fast as the 830, which takes a somewhat more direct route. And it gets from UVU to my house about as fast as the 811, which takes a much more direct route. So by being circuitous, it's actually quite efficient.

So now for the doctrinal implications. I made this sentence colorful and large so you can skip to it if what appears above bores you.

Sometimes, when we look at the course of our life, like the course of our commute, it makes little sense. But when we look closer, we realize that there are reasons for the inefficiencies and eccentricities; sometimes we benefit others, sometimes we ourselves are benefited.

Sometimes, when life doesn't make much sense, we find out that what we thought was less effective is a blessing in disguise; we may find ourselves figuratively arriving at UVU before the majority. Life is frustrating at times, but while some people may criticize UTA for not doing a perfect job of planning their bus routes, the Person in charge of planning the routes we take in life is perfect. There's a reason for every deviation, some of which don't become clear until you've ridden the bus for several years.

Stay tuned; this may come up in your local Sunday School class.