on the bus

Tuesday night, on my way through Chicago, I had the “pleasure” of riding a bus on my way to my final destination.  The long wait for the bus to arrive and events of the subsequent ride reaffirmed my belief that it is (almost) always better to take a train for as much of the journey as possible (at least in Chicago).  Here are some reasons why, with a few anecdotes from the Tuesday night trip.

The main reason, which is kind of two in one, is that trains don’t have to fight traffic and thus (usually) have a more reliable schedule.  If there is some issue with a traffic jam or road closure, the bus has to deal with it, but a train has no issue with cars or other traffic.  Because of this, the train can keep on its schedule without any care of problems from other vehicles.

A train has specific stops that it always makes, so you can confidently estimate how long a certain trip will make.  Because a bus determines where to stop to pick people up and them off based on riders (unless you’re on an express route, which would act more like a train in this way), one can never know how time will be added to a trip.  There are certain times when it will be busy, to be sure, but one can never really know, especially if it is a route or time you are unfamiliar with riding.

A train won’t be slowed down by people boarding or paying slowly or riders looking for money to pay with.  This was perhaps the most eventful aspect of my evening bus ride.  As I boarded, there was a woman who had gotten on a few blocks prior but didn’t have enough money for the ride.  The driver had taken her a few blocks but wouldn’t go any further until she paid her fair.  So she started asking people for change to get her needed $2.  This was quite the fiasco, and probably added at least 5 minutes to our trip.  Even after one woman had paid for her fare using some money on a fare card the driver was “confused” (I’ll give him credit for not realizing his mistake instead of just being a total ass) as to what had happened, thinking it had been her unlimited pass, causing the delay to go on even longer before the woman finally got her money.

My experiences with buses in Milwaukee, however, have been a bit better.  The buses tend to be on time and on schedule, but I think that has to do with the fact that, since MKE only has buses, they better work correctly, otherwise people would get quite upset.  Maybe I haven’t ridden on routes or in places where there are issues (I did have an issue on 3 July after watching fireworks, but I suppose that can be expected), but, for whatever reason (maybe less traffic, fewer riders, or just having a better sense of traffic and rider patters), MKE’s buses seem to have their act together.  Soon it will be on to DC to deal with the Metro.  We’ll see what I think of their transit system!


One Response to on the bus

  1. laura says:

    As the other person on that bus with you, I’ll stick up a little bit for buses in Chicago. That was definitely a strange ride. However, trains have their own set of problems. You often have to take a bus to get to (and from) one, there are strange people on trains too, and when they have to slow down or stop because of track work or a scheduling snafu (a common problem for the last year or so), you have no recourse – no chance of grabbing another train or getting out and walking, you just have to wait. Also, at rush hour certain lines are crowded, hot, smelly and super-uncomfortable – at least as much as a crowded bus. I don’t know if the purple line up where you were got as bad as the red line, but you’ve been on enough public transportation in Chicago to know how that goes, probably.

    I do like trains myself. I’ve just gotten more enamoured with buses after several years of taking the train and then waiting and waiting and waiting for a bus to get me from the train station home, when I could have just hopped a bus downtown and been delivered close to my door.

    Two cents from another Chicagoan!

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