Classes started yesterday, so I’m sure I will have some battle stories to share about biking on campus soon. However, I wanted to share some quick and easy tips for people just starting out on public transit. Being a complete public transit “virgin” when I got started, I know I would have appreciated the following advice, so…please read if you’re starting to ride the bus, or pass on to people you know who may be starting a car-free (or car-lite) lifestyle.
(disclaimer: this list may include tips exclusive to Blacksburg Transit, but I’ve tried to be universal where possible.)
1.) Study the schedules and maps (and maybe print them off). This may seem like a no-brainer. However, public transit maps and schedules can be very confusing and overwhelming, and spending some time studying them can reveal easier commutes, shorter wait times, etc. Here, even though the bus system is very compact, it was still a little overwhelming to figure out at first – I can only imagine how overwhelming it would be a big city. Study the maps, and call the transit authority to ask questions. Ask the bus driver, too, if you’re unsure of your stop, etc.
2.) Always have change on hand. If you don’t have a bus pass, you will need to pay for each bus you ride, and often, they do not provide change. Here, the rides are 50 cents (25 cents for children) each, so it is advisable to buy a roll of quarters.
3.) After you’ve studied the maps, make a mental note of when to request your stop. As I mentioned in a previous post, the only way I knew how to request a stop was because I saw someone do it in a movie. (Yes, that is a true story. Please stop laughing.) I panicked when I got on the bus one day because I hadn’t checked to see how many stops there were before mine, so I wasn’t sure when to pull the cord. Which brings me to my next tip . . .
4.) Pull the yellow cord to request a stop. If you’re as naive as I am when it comes to public transit, you didn’t know this. If you did know this, then you are laughing uncontrollably right now. Either way, you’re welcome.
5.) Bring something with headphones to listen to. Buses are LOUD. And bumpy. And crowded. I have spent some rides reading; however, this is only possible if you have a somewhat empty bus. Your best bet – unless you were looking forward to some “thinking time” – is to bring something to listen to. I’ve started using my occasional bus rides to catch up on listening to podcasts of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” However, a caveat with that one: if you are on a bus full of students and you randomly burst out laughing, they may look at you strangely. However, the plus side of that is they give you more room.
6.) Thank the driver. Seriously, these guys and gals have thankless jobs. They run the same route day in and day out, responsible for the lives of not only the people on their bus, but also everyone they have to avoid hitting. This is particularly challenging on a college campus, where students just walk right across the road whenever/wherever they want, regardless if there’s actually a crosswalk there. This job takes concentration and patience. So say thank you when you get off at your stop!
Hope these tips were helpful. I really am enjoying riding my bike, so I hope to not be riding the bus too often. However, when I do, I will be sure to note any other really helpful tips and will update this post accordingly.
Stay tuned for more posts to come about biking on a crowded campus, the typical types of cyclists, product reviews…Plus, surely something tragic will happen, so I will have a story to share for those of my readers who are bloodthirsty jerks. ;-P