Tips for the New Bus Rider

With gas prices being ridiculous for the last few years, more people are riding the busses than ever before.  Unfortunately, more people means more headaches.

Take, for example my day yesterday.  Bad enough I had to go to the doctors in the rain, but the bus rain a little late as well.  We get to North Towne – where I was supposed to transfer to the North Main Bus -only to have the bus drive off without me.  (This is in spite of the driver radioing it in.)  Luckily, another bus that got downtown faster was there, and I was able to get down to the terminal before three.  This should have been enough time to hit the rest room, but as luck would have it, some guy hogged the toilet the whole time I needed it.  So, I got on the bus I needed (the East State Street Bus) and sat down.  Unfortunately for me there, they had to remove me from my seat so a wheel chair could get on.  As soon as the wheelchair got off a few blocks from Swedish American, a few of the other travelers who had gotten on after me – as well as a lady who hopped the seats – grabbed the seat I needed.  So, I stood the whole trip from Down Town to Swedish American.

I’d also add more about missing the bus after the appointment to head back downtown, as well as walking home from North Towne mall later that night, but those are typical days for me, and far from the points I want to address.  Had I not known my way around, I would not have had those opportunities taken away from me, and had I not been patient, I might have had to walk from Loves Park.  Compared to most new and experienced riders, my day was not totally bad.

It does, however, bring in a lot of headaches that are very unnecessary.  Hence, why my bored-filled mind decided to write this:  To help you, either the new-by looking to save money on gas, or the experienced-yet-unsure person, to get to where you want to go.  Follow what helps me, and you might be a better rider.

FIRST AND FOREMOST:  PAY ATTENTION!!! – It amazes me how such a simple thing such as observing what is going on around you can affect what happens to you.  I’ve seen it happen too often:  I’ll be on the bus with someone who’s asking about a placed passed back near the beginning of the run, or watch as the bus driver has to take an extra two or three minutes because someone who’s either a distraction or an idiot wastes the bus drivers time, usually with a stop involving someone in a wheelchair.  That time that you waste often affects the other passengers, who are trying to make it to appointments and jobs, as well as other riders who probably DON’T want to wait in bad weather and the driver who has a schedule to keep.

LEARN THE SYSTEM – It amazes me the number of people asking about times on a route WHEN THEY HAVE THE ROUTE BOOK IN THEIR HANDS.  While it certainly brings up a debate about how effective that book is, it’s not nearly as bad as the people who have ridden a specific route enough times to know it yet still ask.  (To be fair, there are plenty of bus riders with mental and physical disorders who make me look dumb in this area – and I have most of the routes I normally ride memorized.)  If you’re new, look it up online before you start riding.  If you can’t do that, ask for a booklet from the bus driver.

(An extra Hint:  Rockford’s system works usually around the half-hour/45 minutes/hour scheduling, with Nights and Sunday runs being the easiest to memorize.  There is usually a bus leaving every 15 minutes from the terminal during the day runs.  The routes usually take an hour to run, with a few exceptions – East State Street takes 2 hours during the day due to the number of places it stops on the way (and as a result uses 4 busses a day to run, due to it leaving every half-hour); Big Loop North and South, which run the same 90 minute path in the direction they leave the terminal from; the Huffman and Rural street routes, each of which run 45 minute loops but are alternated so that the next bus to a given area on those routs is an hour and a half; the North second street and the alpine/Perryville night and Sunday bus which run hour loops but never go downtown; and the Alpine day run, which is two busses sharing a two-hour loop that never hits downtown until it is done for the day.)

DON’T HOG THE SEATS!!! Unless I am traveling without my backpack, I usually either hold my backpack or find an available two-seater, if space is available, to sit at.  Some people, however, half to take up half of the aisle, including all of the seats on their bench, while others stand.  If you have that many items, bring along a cart – trust me, it saves space, can be stored in a few spots, and is much safer, faster and easier to deal with.  Let the person standing sit before you spread out.

DON’T BE A SLOB – It is bad enough when a route is standing-room only for part of a trip, but when you’re eating or drinking (or changing your babies diaper or breast-feeding it), The last thing anyone wants to sit on is something you leave behind.  PLEASE take care of your kids off the bus, if at all possible; and PLEASE pick up after yourself, as the janitors who clean the stuff up can’t get to it during the normal daytime.

CONTROL YOUR KIDS – I often agree with the kids that bus rides tend to be boring.  While I can certainly understand kids yelling, screaming and crying, that is annoying.  That doesn’t trouble me nearly as much, however, as the kids who are running around, climbing on seats and jumping up and down on a moving bus. Such actions could cause a bus accident, and certainly if the bus did get into an accident those kids who are alive will be dealing with a lot of pain.  If you don’t want your kids to suffer, don’t let them run around on a moving bus.  (As for the yelling and screaming – I’m not going to care so much – after all, it’ll be you who gets kicked off for them, not me.)

LEARN WHO TO AND NOT TO TALK TO – Because of the number of people who do ride the bus every day, you can’t be sure who you’re dealing with.  It’s ok to talk with someone with an open mouth, but if you see someone reading or listening to their headset, PLEASE don’t disturb them – for some people it’s just best to leave them alone.

DON’T TALK TO THE BUS DRIVER UNLESS YOU HAVE TO – Bus drivers aren’t much different from other drivers:  Some are good at holding a conversation while driving a bus, some aren’t.  Some are very social, and some aren’t social at all.  It’s cool if the bus driver makes conversation with you and you know them, but there are a few drivers who should  not be distracted from their job.

*IF THERE IS NO SIGN FOR A STOP, FIND A CORNER TO STAND AT – The drivers are instructed not to pick people up who are not at a corner or a bus stop, and while there are a few who will do so if they know you, most follow the rules.  Don’t get them into trouble.

Finally, remember that a Bus is like any other public service:  How you cat and carry on your business will determine how fast and how safe you will get there.  There have been more than a few people who can’t ride the bus now because of the problems they cause.  Think about that before you get on.


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