This blogger, kj at RajeKaje thinks that Seattlites don’t know how to ride the bus. His problem is on a crowded bus, standing passengers don’t always file to the back.

Apologies for the rant below: I’ve found this true, I think it’s mildly a protest about more people boarding the already-crowded-bus, but this is no where near worst problem. The worst problem for me is the people wasting time figuring out how to pay when they get on or off (whatever the pay time may be). I don’t have the problem on my commuter route very often but I do have the problem when riding around town.

A friend once put it this way: “When it my stop comes, I’m ready like I’m a parashooter over Normandy; I am ready to jump when the read light goes on. Pass out or correct change and standing near the door.” Oh, if only all bus riders were like that. Maybe we need a union!

This has happened more often recently, but we have more and more noobies riding the bus. I welcome them, and after a while, I’m sure they’ll share the same feelings I have. But in the mean time, I get just a little peeved.

What’s your most annoying trait of rush-hour transit riders?

24 Replies to “Do Seattlites Really Not Know How To Ride A Bus?”

  1. I have several, some of which are very personal to me. If I were a bus driver I’d have such a long list of rules for riders to follow some people might decide to wait for the next bus even if they would follow all of them if they didn’t know of them. One of them is the mere fact that people have to ask for the back door in any situation where it shouldn’t be opening anyway. Wouldn’t happen if I were bus driver.

    Payment should be ready as the bus approaches, and when getting off at the front stand right behind the yellow line as the bus pulls into the stop so that people will know right away that someone is getting off (of course old and disabled people will have a problem with that…). I personally think that if people are taking a long time getting to the front the driver should start letting people on if there’s space in front of the leaving passenger. What I’d really like is an equivalent of the “Stop Requested” light on the outside of the bus…

    How many other transit systems in the nation and world even have pay-as-you-leave? It causes confusion as you get on, especially for transit noobs and tourists, and it causes bottlenecks as people get off and can’t use the back door. (See my “let people get on first” suggestion above.) But it’s pretty much a direct consequence of the RFA.

  2. To Morgan’s point, the “pay-as-you-leave” system isn’t consistent either, and the rules change to ‘pay as you get on’ at night on the same line.

    This one catches me off guard from time to time, especially when I’m tired after a long day/evening.

  3. I honestly think that how prepared one is to pay their fare is related, in most cases, to intelligence. I know it’s not very compassionate of me, but when someone is waiting at a bus stop for ten minutes, but it only occurs to them to look for their change/transfer/card when the bus arrives and they climb the stairs, I tend to judge them as not being very bright. I also think it’s incredibly rude to be the first on the bus, but the least prepared to pay.

  4. Plus if you need a transfer and you paid as you got on, you need to ask for it then. That caught me once or twice.

    Here’s one of my pet peeves: the full-bus back-door mambo. Here are the steps:

    1. Bus stops, people cram on past capacity and four people are standing on the stairs by the back door.
    2. Doors close, bus driver announces that there’s no standing on the stairs. Nobody moves.
    3. Someone finally yells “back door!”, and the four people get off.
    4. By now there is a crowd of people outside the bus wanting to somehow get on. When these four get off, four new people get on.
    5. GoTo: 2

    I’ve been at stops for 5 minutes of this, and it repeats for every other stop downtown. To get the 2.5 miles from my work to my home can take 50 minutes when this happens. This is why I usually ride my bike or carpool.

  5. To be fair, Seattle’s system does have some “unique” features…

    – The pay when you enter / pay when you leave / don’t pay at all / pay both when you enter and when you leave (which varies depending on the route, stop, time of day, and occasionally the whim of the driver.)

    – The back door vs. front door issue, which also varies depending on the route, stop, time of day, and definitely the whim of the driver.

    I can admit to not wanting to move to the back at times, especially if I know I’ll have to body-surf over all of those people to get out the front door three stops later.

    Some cities also use a wider aisle, which helps with packed buses.

  6. Sort of a parallel issue, but yesterday I actually had a friend ask me to help her learn how to ride the bus.

    She has a daily Northgate to SoDo commute, and with gas prices, she wants to start riding the bus. But she has no real idea how.

    So I’ve offered to ride a few times with her to get the hang of it.

    Someone should come up with a ‘transit buddy’ program to help people transition to transit. I think lots of people would use it.

    Also, I’d rather deal with transit novices and generally ignorant people, than have reduced ridership, lower frequency, eliminated routes, etc. It’s a good problem to have.

  7. Obviously disabled and elderly riders can take their time, and its very hard to be mad at them for taking longer. How what other choice do they have?

    But for young or healthy riders, there’s not much excuse.

  8. Wider aisles would help a lot on crowded buses — I get annoyed when people pay slowly, but it’s so much worse when the whole bus has to wait a minute for someone from the back to push to the front to pay.

    In a way, this comes back to the whole flexibility of buses issue. For a bus like the 594, which can spend 45 minutes between stops, it’s important to have a lot of seats. But for the 2 or the 70, where people are getting on and off all along the route, it’s much more important to have aisle space, low floors and wide doors. It’s nice that buses can substitute for each other if they have to, but they’re not a one-size-fits all solution — some bus types fit some routes better than others.

  9. Yeah, I would have to go with the not filing all the way to the back of the bus when its standing room only. Its especially funny when the back half of the aisle is completely empty and people are standing really close to where the driver is and no one will move back at stops, so everyone crowds in like sardines at the front.

  10. What about when you got old retired rich couples who walk on, ask the fare, start pulling out a $20 and are like, “you got change sir”. Of course he doesn’t have change! Does this look like a 7-11? So they end up riding for free. Just isn’t fare, er, fair.

  11. The problem is pay-as-you-leave, not the passengers (though some people really are missing a brain…if only they had a brain). Pay-as-you-leave is dumb, plain and simple. I think Downtown Bellevue wants it also. That ought to make things run real smooth!

    Solution: honor system with ticket dispensing transit cops rotating through the system. Give them a club and maybe that argument about transit not being safe will disappear.

  12. Inconsistant policies: when to pay, where to board/exit – more reasons I don’t use buses.

    I’f you can’t explain the policy on a TV commercial in a minute or less…change the policy!

  13. The problem is some bus drivers won’t open the back door even when the bus is packed. Therefore i have to have casual sex with every standing rider for a minute to get to the front.

    I also have a hard time screaming “BackDoor” anywhere where other people are….

  14. I don’t believe the problem is all that bad in Seattle. The same problem exists to a much greater degree in NYC, where I now live, except that the vast majority of the people don’t care to move at all. The culture of riders can make a difference…

    However, I believe a larger problem is the entire payment on the bus system. Whether upon entering or exiting, this method of payment is ridiculously slow and makes using a bus with frequent/busy stops more or less frustrating for myself.

    Considering the take from the fare box, perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider using a ticket system similar to that on the SLUT. I recently experienced this in Munich and it was much more efficient, but not as much as a train…

  15. Like others have said if we paid before boarding, or used a swipe only system things would go much faster.

    I guess Metro planners are as dumb as the riders…

  16. one bus driver i talked to suggested the solution to all of metro’s problems is to “rip the farebox out”

    put in an honor system and do the cost-benefit analysis on fare recovery vs lost service hours due to delays and congestion

    that way, you can use both doors freely

    the me-first, front-standers drive me up a wall. that being said, for those without good sea-legs (particularly new bus riders), shuffling around can be quite stressful. while trains aren’t perfect either, a smoother, flatter ride that isn’t punctuated with herky-jerky acceleration and fast braking due to being cut off is always preferred.

    in terms of fare-not-ready people – totally inexcusable. the honor system would help with this greatly.

    riders aren’t all to blame – nothing’s worse than a sweetly executed load/unload that gets stuck in the bus zone for 10 minutes with left-blinker on waiting for every me-first driver to pull around the bus to race up to the red light.

    people who tie up the bus by standing on the first step of an obvious downtown bus asking “does this bus go to my house in burien?” “no” “then which one do i take?”… etc. while it would be nice if every bus driver had an encyclopedic knowledge of the metro bus system (and an ability to translate idiotic questions), this idiot simply will not get off that bottom step until he or she gets idiot-proof directions or whatever else he/she wants. extra bad points if this person who has no clue as to what is going on blocks actual riders from getting on (and ultra-bonus if one of those blocked riders doesn’t have his or her fare ready!)

    all this being said i totally agree the influx of n00bs onto the system is actually a nice problem to have. i’m hoping the KC council and local municipalities start ponying up for more service hours – it’s *unbelievable* how full the system has been lately (and not just because the weather is nicer!)

    one final thing – there’s nothing worse than the bus rider with the “invisible friend” (you know, the one who sits next to that rider in the window seat while the “real” rider sits in the aisle seat). move the fuck over and let one of those standees sit down!

  17. I’ve posted about this on the buschick blog before, but..

    Lately I’ve become very annoyed with certain drivers who refuse to open the back door on overly crowded buses. Yes, I know they don’t have too. But The Book allows them to open the rear door (during pay as you leave) if there’s a bunch of people on board.

    Many drivers will do this on the first few stops out of downtown. (i.e. the campus parkway stop for the 7Xs after getting off of i-5). But there are a few drivers who refuse to open up the rear door even when 1) they are already 10 minutes behind schedule, and 2) there are a million people in the aisle, forcing people to shove by and thwacking sitting people in the head with backpacks and the like.

    Today the driver refused to open the rear door. Lots of people in the back groaned. And three kids (who were planning on getting off at the next stop) started joking about doing something to the driver (i.e. spitting on him, throwing $1.75 in pennies at him, etc.) for forcing them to shove through the aisle.

    Do drivers realize how pissed off people become when whole cattle through the crowd dance has to be done? Some couldn’t care less.

    And with the gases prices, I’ve noticed rush hour rides becoming more and more crowded. They need to be educated on the whole rear door issue.

    (And yes, there are problems with people in the aisle who don’t move all the way back, but they typically do not become repeat offenders. “Can everyone move back some more?” usually clues them into the whole people/space bottleneck and they act a bit better on future rides.)

  18. Another important Seattle bus-riding skill is to HOLD ON … the electric buses in particular can accelerate from 0 to 30 in about 2 seconds.

    If you look unsteady, the driver will give you a chance to sit down, but if you look capable then you better be holding on!

    An out of town friend got a big bruise this way recently… next time I will warn them.

  19. It’s a little late on this thread, but I have the hands-down winner for annoyances.

    While at the Eastgate PnR Saturday, I watched a Mariners shuttle pull in, standing-room full of Ms fans on the way home from the game.

    One of the first to exit were a family of 4, Mom, Dad and two little kids. The dad proceeded to hand dollar bills, one at a time to the youngest (who was shorter than the farebox). She fumbled and fed each bill in then turned to her dad and took the next. It took them at least 4 minutes to pay. It took the whole bus 12 mins (from when I started timing it) to unload.

    THAT would have given more than a few of you an aneurysm, I’m sure. It was painful just to watch.

    Also, I noticed on the Metro website, that the Mariners service is subject to change after June 30, as per an update posted April 30. Are they possibly canceling the service due to low-turnout for the games this year?

    1. the federal govt. ruled that metro transits could not do this service without private companies being allowed to bid on the work. so metro is not sure what is going to happen.

  20. The whole system of “pay when you get on sometimes/pay when you get off sometimes/don’t pay at all sometimes” sucks.

    In Hong Kong, there’s an awesome and effective trolley-like system where you can get on or off the front or back door anytime. You are on your honor to swipe your proximity card (which can be kept in the wallet) when you get on AND when you get off. The fare is calculated when you leave and deducted from an account you fill at a pay station. For Seattle this could eliminate the ride-free zone confusion. Swipe your card, ride free zone or not. If you got on and off in the free zone, nothing is deducted from your account. Otherwise, the fare is calculated based on how many zones you passed through. Very full buses can quickly load and unload because both doors are used.

    Is this how the Metro Transit’s ORCA program is supposed to work? When will that program ever begin? With the growing ridership, fuel prices, and traffic problems, a more efficient pay system is long overdue!

  21. Brad,

    The Bush administration has implemented some policies that may force Metro to stop providing event service if a private provider can.

    Look it up, we’ve posted on this before.

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