If bus drivers can stay patient, so can we
Sketched Sept. 20 and Oct. 9, 2012
Driving isn't my cup of tea, much less driving other people around, be it my kids to their school-bus stop every morning or anyone else. That's why I have special appreciation for the job that bus drivers do. I can't imagine dealing with the hundreds of passengers they transport day in and day out.
Take Reginald Millender, one of Metro's 2,700 bus drivers. In 23 years on the job he has dealt with all kinds of situations: a woman who spilled 20 pounds of rice and started to cry; a deranged passenger who grabbed the steering while Millender drove Route 5 over Aurora Bridge; and a happier day when someone wanted to bring a Christmas tree in the bus -- "I tied it to the bike rack, and the whole bus clapped," he said.
So I understand when Millender asks Metro riders to be patient about the service changes that started two weeks ago. For those who are finding the new RapidRide service not rapid enough, the friendly driver has this piece of advice: "Give it a minute, it'll catch on."
Millender said people may think the new red and yellow buses actually move faster, but that's not the case. Here's the way it works, in his words: "Pay outside, hop on the bus, the bus takes off ... It's not that the bus is going to be faster, it's just that the buses are going to come more frequently."
Have you taken RapidRide yet? Here's what some commuters I met riding the D line from downtown to Ballard had to say:
Keith Kentop, the fellow reading the news on his iPhone, said he doesn't take the bus every day but it is a good option when he has to go see family in Ballard. He said he liked that he only had to wait four minutes before a bus came. David Love, the man sitting next to Kentop in the back of the bus, said RapidRide buses come much faster to the stops. "You don't have to wait more than 10 minutes."
Kara Foster commutes daily from West Seattle to Ballard for work. She said the new C line out of West Seattle has been really crowded since the service changes started -- as Times' transportation writer Mike Lindblom has reported here and here --, but she's "hopeful that it'll all work out." Foster likes that the new RapidRide buses are sleek, have wi-fi and are finally "to the level of Sound Transit."
The first words out of John Shearer's mouth after stepping on the bus: "Who do I complain to?" The 75-year-old Ballard resident was really upset that Metro has eliminated the bus he used to take to Fremont. He now has to walk four blocks to reach the stop, and this bus wasn't even going to take him where he wanted to go, he said. After a few stops, he got off the bus and turned around. "I give up," he said. "I'm going back home."
To catch the RapidRide C line bus in West Seattle, Teddy Jacke also had to walk more blocks than he did when he took Route 54, one of the routes that has been discontinued. Jacke, who was taking his son to Seattle Center for the day, said the changes are not convenient for him.
RapidRide stops are easy to spot with their red signs and Orca card readers. While not all Orca card readers are active yet, I found the electronic signs displaying wait times really useful. This stop is next to the Safeway supermarket at NW Market Street and 15th Avenue NW in Ballard.
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