Rain, NextBus, and the not so rapid 1R

10 Jan

Normally, when I write about riding the bus, I’m pretty positive. Honestly, sometimes I sound like a cheerleader for AC Transit, especially for the 1R rapid bus. And my cheeriness about riding the bus is not a front – I really do generally enjoy it. I don’t mind waiting a few minutes (even in the rain). I enjoy random transit encounters. And most of all, I love not having to drive, or to focus on anything as I ride around town.

But something’s changed this year. Sure, I have a lot of stresses in my life right now, so maybe I’m just being less patient, but it really does seem like bus reliability and speed has decreased greatly in 2008.

I could probably write pages about my complaints of my transit experiences during the past two weeks, but I’ll spare you the pain I put my girlfriend and co-workers through by narrowing the complaints down to three simple thoughts…

1. The bus is never there when I’m waiting for it.

2. NextBus stopped working.

3. The “rapid” bus has slowed down, to the point that taking the regular 1 is sometimes as fast or faster than taking the 1R.

OK… I lied, I can’t just leave it at that… I have to explain…

1. Since the rapid bus line started on Telegraph in mid-2007, I remember few times when I waited more than 15 minutes for a bus. Even when the buses got bunched up, there were 8 buses per hour on the line (5 rapids and 3 regular) so you were bound to catch a bus pretty quickly. But during the past two weeks, I’ve waited more than 20 minutes (and sometimes more than a half hour) for a bus on at least 4 occasions. Luckily, I sometimes have avoided waiting in the rain by hanging out in my apartment and checking NextBus every couple minutes, but that brings me to my next point…

2. NextBus is broken! Of course, last year there were a few times when it failed me, but this year it’s failed me nearly every day. It says a bus will be there in 8 minutes so I book it out my front door and onto Telegraph, run to the 1R stop, and proceed to wait for 20 minutes. Or it tells me a bus isn’t coming for more than a half hour so I hang around in my office for a while, wait until the time drops down to 10 minutes, and walk to 14th and Broadway and there’s nobody waiting at the stop! Something tells me a bus did arrive sometime in that last half hour, unless everybody decided to stay home from work that day. To top it off, the NextBus status signal at the 14th and Broadway bus stop stopped working a few days ago, so I have to gamble by taking the 1, since I can’t tell when a 1R is coming…

3. Lately though, that’s not a gamble because the 1R no longer goes fast. Sure, it makes less stops, but the drivers rarely hit the speed limit and they’re in no hurry to move away from a stop. I’m wondering if riders complained about how fast they were in 2007 (I used to make it to work in 10-12 minutes) – maybe the fast driving scared them? I’m not sure, but the drivers have changed and it’s really frustrating. Today was the worst though. After passing up a 1 because I saw a 1R right behind it (usually a good choice), the 1R drives off fairly slowly, stops at a regular 1 stop for no good reason to pick someone up, proceeds on slowly, and then stops at another 1 stop and turns off the engine. She proceeds to just sit there for 10 minutes! She didn’t get out to use the bathroom or get something to eat. She didn’t make a phone call. She just sat. And yes, on regular buses this is normal behavior because they have to stay on schedule, but that’s why those of us in a hurry ride the “rapid” bus. And when people went up to ask what was happening, she just screamed at them and told them to mind their own business. Needless to say, I arrived to work late when I had aimed to get in early.

Woo! That was exhausting. But really, I’m not interested in complaining just for the sake of complaining. The truth is that no matter how much I love AC Transit and my particular bus line, it’s just not equipped to deal with inclement weather, bad traffic, or the varying behaviors of bus drivers.

So what’s the fix? Let’s start building Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) already. I don’t know about other bus riders, but I’m so ready for it. I really dream of the day when I don’t have to rely on NextBus because buses will arrive every 5 minutes. And the bus will travel almost as fast as a car because boarding will be streamlined. And you know what I look forward to most? Writing loving notes about my bus rides, instead of complaining tirades.

One Response to “Rain, NextBus, and the not so rapid 1R”

  1. eron December 18, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    now it is superlate 2008 here. and this.

    my experience is the same to better than that of you. the ride to berkeley recenlty had one non-Rapid stop for letting a handicap off 1 BLOCK from the rapid stop, to my chagrin. stupid, huh?? its rare for rapid drivers to stop indefinitly at hubs. that happens to 51 riders. ALOT. dont get me wrong i love the 1R. and the 72R. but the rate of wait now is 10 to 30 minutes especially in dwntwn berkeley & oakland! i hate it when it goes to 1 stops. totaly against supposed regulations. PLUS – as of the third quarter 2008 sum landscaping action is underway south of telegraph at 20th. meaning that (going southbound) the REAL straight & left-turn lanes have been blocked off NOW, concocting CalTrans makeshift lanes negating the marked ones in the process, compelling 1s & 1Rs (maybe 18s) to take this cowardly detour/off-route AROUND telegraph 2000-2200 (finally reaching telegraph at 22nd, killing time/ adding precious minutes to the route time) in lieu of waiting till the opposing traffic pass to pull a RIGHT turn onto the telegraph base at telegraph 2000. its this easy way out some are drawn to. dont wanna take a risk……AND the regular route to be topographically correct! it is super rare for ANY bus driver to act out a right turn at 2000 telegraph. that is my sole complaint to the not-so-rapid buses/BART. pathetic ass drivers tell me its blocked off. NO ITS NOT!

    i also opt for the 1R even when 3 1s pass. the 5 bus/hour & 12 min/bus is so not feasible to me. ive learned that nextbus isnt all that accurate my case in point above. i love the long straightaways without stopping half up to 2 3rds of the mile. international and telegraph both. alotof the time even the artics will pass common civilian private traffic!! i live in alameda.

    that is all. a reply a year later. well you get feedback

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