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Bus Selfie

Bus Selfie

A few days ago, I decided to take the bus downtown for jury duty. There’s a bus stop on Bay Street that’s only a block from my house. I figured spending $2 a day for round-trip bus fare beats $8 in parking. The RTS website indicated the trip would only take a half hour, door to door.

First, I had to find $2 in cash. I rarely have cash. For this trip, I not only needed cash, but I needed exact change. Fortunately, a friend gave me a couple singles the night before to save me the hassle of going to an ATM. It would be great if RTS allowed people to buy rides on their smartphones or swipe a credit card.

The RTS Bus App told me when the bus would arrive in real time. I was concerned about news of canceled morning trips, but my bus was on schedule. It arrived on time, to the minute. The ride downtown was quick, even with multiple stops.

The “Plan My Trip” feature on the RTS website indicated I could stay on the Route 39 bus for a few more stops to get off at State and Main, the closest stop to the Hall of Justice. At the transit center, the bus driver told me I had to come to the front and pay another $1. The additional half mile is considered a transfer. That struck me as ridiculous. The implication is that people coming from the eastern part of the city to the west side of downtown have to pay extra to get closer to their destinations and vice versa. It’s also not technically a transfer if you’re staying on the same bus. The bus driver was kind enough to let the extra buck slide, but for this trip only. The policy of using the transit center as THE central stop flies in the face of how people actually travel downtown. If this is how RTS wants to play it, there should be some kind of free downtown shuttle for people in this situation.

In the afternoon for my trip home, I chose to walk to the transit center to save the extra dollar. While I don’t mind walking, that extra half mile could be a deterrent for those who have mobility issues. It would also be a pain in bad weather. I’ve since learned there is an all-day pass available for $3, which makes that transfer 50 cents. This is probably the best option.

When I got to the transit center around 4 p.m., I was astonished at the number of teenagers. I was aware hundreds of kids use the transit center in the afternoon, but I was still shocked. Teens appeared to outnumber adults 30 to 1. The media has reported on the occasional violent incident and unruly behavior at the transit center, but I felt 100 percent safe. There were visible police officers and security guards. The teens were very well-behaved. My trip home was fast and uneventful.

Despite the fact the transit center was orderly, I can’t say it’s pleasant to be in an environment that resembles a high school cafeteria on steroids. The volume of teens at that hour was a big turnoff. I’m not sure why they were all there at once. I’m not sure why there were not a lot of adult passengers at this hour to provide more balance. It’s also very easy to see how a small incident could create a big problem. The city, school district and bus company are working on this issue. I think it’s great young people are using public transit and I would hate to see them restricted. This situation, however, seems untenable.

In summary, I’ll be using the bus for the remainder of my jury duty. It’s quick and doesn’t require navigating traffic and garages or paying for parking. Even though the transfer situation caught me off-guard, the bus fare is pretty darn cheap, especially compared to other cities. I would definitely recommend trying out RTS if you live on a bus line.

Related: Check out this ode to the Buffalo bus system. 


Links of the Day:


– Lessons from Baltimore: If the Bills want a downtown stadium, mass transit is key.

– Why would the company that profits from red light camera tickets develop an app to tell you where the cameras are located? Money and data.

– This is how Chattanooga is remaking itself with fast broadband. (Come on, Rochester!)

– The NCAA wanted Jim Boeheim to be a policeman, but that’s never been his style.

– NBC would be insane to let Brian Williams return.

– ‘Snowiest place in America’ title brings international fame to tiny Upstate village.

– Baby Dorothy? Vintage baby names are making a comeback.

17 Responses to My Day on the Bus

  1. March 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm Rich Calabrese responds:

    My car battery died a couple of months ago at work during a brutally cold night. I realized it at 6:30pm when I left the office, luckily I got a ride home from a friend. The next morning, I didn’t want to bother my neighbor so I decided to take the bus into downtown. I haven’t done that in 25 years, and after waiting for a while in zero degree temps, I got on board. I enjoyed it, I got to talk to a nice elderly woman and saw the houses along East Avenue that I never get to see as I drive to work. For $1, I look at it as cheap entertainment. I’d do it again., for sure.

  2. March 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm Don Mikel responds:

    I use the bus if I’m going downtown to save on parking and wear and tear on my car as well. I get the senior all day for $1.50 which is a good deal but if you get on the bus during peak hours you have to pay and additional 50 cents. I always text the bus stop number to 585-351-2878 and get a text back in a minute giving the times the next few buses go by there. When the Transit Center went into use all the routes start and/or end at the Center. Once your off you have to pay full price to get back on or use the $3.00 pass. It’s easier to walk the from the Center to most of downtown.

  3. March 15, 2015 at 9:28 pm Digatelier responds:

    This is the first and only article I’ve seen written from the perspective of using the new bus terminal. Excellent job!

  4. March 15, 2015 at 10:51 pm RaChaCha responds:

    I’m surprised to hear RTS made the transit station the final stop for all trips, and wonder what the justification is. When I lived in Rochester I could always stay on a bus right through DT, if necessary. That used to come in especially handy for marathon training runs, where I would run the river trails up to Charlotte, buy a newspaper & a chocolate milk, hop on the 1 Lake Ave bus, take it through DT where it turned into the 1 Park Ave bus, and get off at RMSC, a block from home. Single fare. (Although I often had a monthly pass, anyway.)

    I wonder if Psycho Karen is still driving bus there. If so, you can ask almost any driver or regular passenger about Karen the Busdriver, and they’ll know who that is, and perhaps even have a story to tell. She was just passively-aggressively horrible to everyone, which would spark incidents. I understood she’d had suspensions, and had even been assaulted by passengers, but kept on driving. Perhaps she was protected by work rules.

  5. March 16, 2015 at 6:42 am Lesley responds:

    Great article. I am disappointed to hear that you can’t stay on the bus and ride it further down Main St. without paying an extra dollar. That would have caught me off guard also and I probably would not have had the extra dollar because, like you, I rarely have cash on me. I like the idea of being able to swipe your credit card.

  6. FWIW you don’t need exact change.

    You can buy a single fare or an all-day pass at the farebox with anything up to a $20 and get change as a stored-value farecard. These are good on the buses for all future travel, and while they do expire it’s about 10 years in the future.

    You can also buy them at East Ave Wegmans and other locations around town.

  7. March 16, 2015 at 8:17 am rochester_veteran responds:

    I’ve taken the bus, off and on, since I was a kid. Back in the day, it was to go Downtown when it was in its former glory. As an adult, I’ve taken the bus when I’ve had vehicle breakdowns and also just to save money. If you live in a suburb and don’t work Downtown, taking the bus can very well turn a 20 minute commute by car into an hour or more by bus. Also, there is no longer a regular bus route where I live, near route 33, the Westside entrance to Rochester, so taking the bus is no longer and option for me. Also, it would be nice if RGRTA redesigned the antiquated “spoke and hub” route design, where one has to go Downtown to get to an eventual destination. I know there’s some routes that broke from the paradigm, such as the 19th Ward to MCC route, but it would be nice if there were more.

    • March 16, 2015 at 9:58 am Adrian Martin responds:

      “Also, it would be nice if RGRTA redesigned the antiquated “spoke and hub” route design, where one has to go Downtown to get to an eventual destination.”

      AMEN! My wife used to ride that Route 52 before RTS canceled it.

  8. Right now frequency is the limiting factor. Busses at 1 hour intervals off peak times, I can’t go anywhere with that. It’s easier to drive or bike. We need busses coming every 15-30 minutes.

  9. March 16, 2015 at 11:15 am Steve Clidas responds:

    Your ignorance the real world is just astonishing.
    1. Kids are there because they get out of school in mid-afternoon; most adults work til 5pm.
    2. Peopled do not “choose” to ride the bus. They are either too poor to own a car or, like myself (legally blind), disabled and do not drive.
    This is an important piece that should be part of any reporting about public transit in Rochester. The bus system is used primarily by those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. RGRTA’s planning does not take this reality into account. The schedules and fares are based on variables that do not include work times and places used by the working poor. There is never any follow up on customer complaints.
    3. The kids in the transit center are constantly harassed by the police. If they stand in groups while waiting – as much half an hour – for connecting buses, they retold to move along or leave. The kids are overwhelmingly African-American. The cops are all white.
    4. Other than the restrooms, there are no convenience facilties at the Transit Center like: a coffee shop and/or sandwich shop; change machines; WiFi (might keep kids busier and allow adults to do business while waiting for half hour long connections),\; better music background (I dig Classical, but wouldn’t mind variety)

    The most successful part of the Transit Center is that is is indoors. Beyond that, it has not resulted in any positive changes for customers: primarily, the working poor and RCSD students.

    • March 16, 2015 at 11:21 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      1. Many, many adults get out of work at 4 p.m. This is evidenced by the traffic on the roads, people at Wegmans and the gym. Rush hour in Rochester starts well before 5 p.m.

      2. You’re right. Many people don’t “choose” to ride the bus and the data supports this. Most are poor women. But I don’t think my choice to ride the bus and write about it makes me “ignorant.” I also never said the bus system shouldn’t improve for its customers. My point is if the bus system wants to expand its base, the factors I point out are important.

      3. I didn’t witness harassment. I did feel uncomfortable. If I wanted to be in that environment, I would have become a high school teacher. The volume of teens is a big barrier to getting more people to try out transit. And the volume of teens HAS led to problems.

      4. The transit center deliberately didn’t include stores to encourage street life.

      • I work at Clinton & Broad and I choose to ride the bus daily.

        We live in the city and choose to own only one car.

        The stereotype of bus ridership as the downtrodden destitute makes it easier for public officials to ignore the needs of mass transit in their planning and political calculations.

    • Wow, you’re going to imply that police are telling the kids to move along because the cops are “white” and the kids are “African American”? And it of course has nothing to do with the recent violence and the backlash about security at the transit center right?

      Oh btw…I was once a young teenager. And I was “harassed” by cops and security at malls many a time. I had security follow me around FYE the entire time I was there. I had a police officer tell me to “get out of here” once when I was legally parked waiting for a friend. I had a few police pull me over, search my vehicle and then proceed to play a prank on me by pulling out aspirin from my vehicle and pretending it was a heavy drug to see my reaction. Oh…and I’m “white”. This has nothing to do with “race” and everything to do with how teens tend to make bad decisions based on impulse and not logic due to being immature. Stop making excuses and blaming the cops and security for everything they do when we need them to keep us all safe since so many parents seem to no longer be interested in watching their own kids.

  10. Back in the 1980s one could ride buses within the Inner Loop for free. One paid when boarding inbound, when debarking outbound, and not at all when doing either downtown. (I don’t think one had to pay twice for travel across the city, but don’t remember how that was controlled.)

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