Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 30, 2011

# 4 - Downtown/Medical District
Status: 10 minutes late

I decided to walk home part of the way (my Chicago blister was bothering me just enough that I wasn't sure how far I'd go) and catch a bus on 4th Street if the timing worked out. At Hill Street, it was 4:14 and I decided to grab the 4:16 or so. Except, two southbound buses had already passed and no northbound buses.

A woman sat on the bench with her elementary-aged son. She said, I thought it said 4:16 and checked the posted schedule again. At different points, we both stood in the right lane and peered down the street.

Finally, at 4:26 the bus appeared. It was full and carried two people in wheelchairs. The design of the bus is such that it meant 7 seats were lost. I wonder if that's standard for buses and if there's a way to fit wheelchairs without losing so many seats. When one man in wheelchair got off (at Ormsby?), another passenger pulled the seat down. He sat in one end seat and another guy sat at the other end. I grabbed the middle seat. The first guy had Wide Leg (aka Big Package) Syndrome. A crowd of people boarded at Oak. At a few stops, the driver said another bus was right behind her (and I don't know if she meant in view or that the scheduled bus should arrive soon), but people kept boarding, and she kept stopping. The man with the wide legs commented that the driver needed to stop letting people on. I said that the bus you know is better than the bus that's supposed to follow.

A crowd of people got off at Broadway, of course.

Public transportation survey results

See the results here.

From the press release at TARC:

  • Fifty-one percent of residents polled said they were satisfied with TARC's service.  
  • Those who were asked to suggest improvements were supportive of more bus routes, stops and shelters and of a light rail option.  
  • Twenty-three percent of those who make under $40,000 per year and were surveyed have utlized TARC in the last six months. Twelve percent of those who make $80,000 or more have used it during that time period. Wealthier families who were less likely to use TARC were more supportive of a light rail option.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

# 2 - Market Street
Status: 14 minutes late

We landed around 2:30 and had already decided that we would take the bus home if the flight wasn't late. The northbound bus was scheduled to arrive at 3:06. It would cost $1.50 for R. and nothing for me with my university ID. It seemed worth saving the approximately $20 for a cab since the bus wasn't too far off. In the past, the schedule hasn't even been close. We did consider asking one of the shuttles for the nearby hotels about riding with them as long as the shuttle wasn't full.

However, as we sat at the bus stop, there were no hotel shuttles and no bus for quite some time. There is also no schedule at the bus stop. It seems like the airport stop, if no place else, should have the schedule posted. It also seems like the airport bus should come more often than about every 90 minutes on the weekend and 70 minutes during the week.

The PDA link on the TARC page doesn't work on my BlackBerry--I'm not sure if it's a BB thing or something else. I was able to read the detour listings, which said the bus would end up at 4th & Broadway.

Finally, as I was just moments away from saying "Let's just get a cab" the bus arrived at 3:20. It was relatively full with UPS workers heading home. I sat near the front and R took a seat in the back. A group of women near me talked about work: I'm working Thanksgiving and Christmas. A few women boarded outside the State Fair. One carried a plate in a bag, another a plate wrapped with foil, and the third had a grocery cart filled with a small cooler, folding camping chairs, large soda bottles, a puzzle book, and three plates wrapped with aluminum foil. The first woman asked her what all the food was. It's for my little baby at home, the cart woman responded. The first woman asked the second, Did you see her take 3 plates? The first woman then commented to one of the UPS women, who she may or may not have already known, That motherfucker can eat, yes she can...

At one point, I moved back to sit next to R. A young man, possibly still a teenager, was talking on his cell phone. What happened? I'll call you back. When he disconnected, he said, I think my mother's dead...She had a heart attack yesterday.
The bus detoured all over the place -- we turned right on Eastern because I think Crittenden and Eastern are partially blocked because of water man work. We couldn't make a left turn on Eastern so turned right, went around the block, and then came up Shelby before turning left, then right, and coming up Preston. Eventually we made it on to 2nd Street, but much of Old Louisville was blocked off because of the Ironman race, which had runners going right through the neighborhood. At 2nd & Broadway I thought the bus was about to turn, so we got off and cut through a parking lot and darted across 3rd in between runners to get home. Fans and families were sitting on the curb in front of our building cheering on the runners. The bus went north on 2nd, so we could have gotten off at Chestnut, but it wouldn't have made that much of a difference.

We got home around 4 p.m. 90 minutes from the airport. It's about 6-7 miles from the airport to home (by car). In Chicago I rode two trains from Midway into the city, past the Loop, in about the same amount of time (from getting off the plane to getting to the door), which was about 12-13 miles by car.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

# 4 - Central Park
Status: 2-3 minutes late

I was at the northwest corner of 4th & Broadway at 7:30. The #4 (Southland Park?) turned right onto 4th. People boarded. The bus idled. The light changed, and I crossed the street. I was near the edge of the first TARC bench when the bus pulled off. Curses! Fortunately, the weather was nice and I was wearing practical shoes, so I kept walking south. I stopped at Kentucky Street for the next bus. It was supposed to arrive at the previous stop at 7:44 and I boarded at 7:47.

A man was sleeping on a bench near Central Park. A tattooed student took a photo with her iPhone while we were stopped at the light.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

This morning I drove. I had to get from downtown to Germantown/Schnitzelburg by 8 a.m. and then to work in Old Louisville. I knew how to get from point B to C, but to get from point A to B would have required getting up earlier (and it was difficult enough to get up) and probably two buses (4 and 27, most likely). When you have a car, it's easy to choose that instead of dealing with the extra hassle of scheduling.

However, it's also the first day of classes at the university so the number of cars and people is much larger than it's been since May. And I don't like to pay to park. And I don't have a university parking permit. Last week my free row of street parking became metered spots and I had to pay $6 for 2.5 hours of parking in the garage. Today I thought I'd park along a side street near the high school which had had spaces last week. Not this morning. I circled around a few streets. It took me less than ten minutes to drive from B to C and at least 10 minutes to then park, plus another 10 minutes to get from the car to the office.

I ended up a few blocks away from campus in a non-metered, non-permit-required space. Which is fine -- the weather is nice, and I could use the walk. But I do this again in 2 weeks and am strongly considering planning ahead for the bus this time.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

# 18 - Eastbound
Status: ?

I was coming from my doctor and didn't know what time the bus would arrive (insert request for mobile app here). I must have just missed one because I ended up waiting for at least 10 minutes for the next one. While I was sitting on the bench, a young woman asked if I knew where the health department was. Another woman, with a cigarette, husky voice, and t-shirt about God, came up and said, "What do you need, hon?" and directed her to the place. Everything in that area is medical or health related. As the bus approached, the husky-voiced woman commented on the weather being hot and getting everything done so she could go inside for the rest of the day (it was just before 10 a.m.) But her grandson's having a birthday party at 5:30 and Gramma has to make an appearance. I said it wasn't as bad as it's been.

While on the bus, I saw a pregnant woman in pajama pants and a tank top at the corner by the Long John Silver's. She walked by as the bus was stopped, inhaled on a cigarette, and then threw it to the ground. Oh dear. The woman in front of me held a small mirror and applied eye shadow--pretty impressive on a bus.

A man in a Yosemite Sam t-shirt and an electric wheelchair boarded so the people in the front rows moved back. A man who smelled like urine sat next to me. He said something I couldn't understand so I kind of smiled and nodded. Then he asked if it rained "up here" last night or in the morning. The guy behind me said no. I said it had rained yesterday afternoon but not since then. The urine-smelling man said down where he was it rained so hard it pulled trees down. Then he reached his arm across my face and held on to the cord for a few minutes before pulling it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

# 4 - Southland Park
Status: 2 minutes early

The bus was heading east on Broadway while I was stuck at the northwest corner. As soon as the other crosswalk hit 0, I started across and was able to meet the bus at the stop. He also idled for a few minutes, but you never know.  The back of the bus rattled whenever the bus was stopped. Traffic was a little heavier since school has finally started. When did school buses get the hoods that stick out again instead of the flat fronts?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

# 18 - Westbound
Status: few minutes late

A woman was standing with a young girl across the street (not at a stop) in the shade. The girl saw me and yelled "Hi!" across the street. I waved and yelled back. A few minutes before the bus was supposed to arrive, they crossed over to the stop and the sunny side of the street. The girl had a little doll that sang, "I'm a little teapot." She asked where the bus was. Her nana said it was on its way then commented to me that it should have been here already. A freight train passed on a side street and we all watched the graffitied cars of what looked like coal, wood chips, and other freight pass by.

When the bus arrived, it was semi-full. There was an empty row, but I let the woman and the girl have it and I stood at the back door. I thought the standing might be good for me, but I forgot how bumpy that ride is with the train tracks, turns, and poorly-kept roads. A man sprawled across two seats offered me a seat, but I said, "No thanks, I'm fine." Then the man behind him stood up and said he was getting off soon, so I sat down. A woman boarded with two pre-teen/teenaged girls and a young boy. One girl sat next to me, and the sprawler got up so the woman, the other girl, and the boy sat there. Across the aisle, two people sat in the aisle seats next to empty window seats.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Today I drove to work -- I was running late and decided it was easier to drive and park near campus rather than walk to the bus and wait. As much as I consider giving up the car completely, it is really nice to have the option of driving sometimes.

I was stopped at the light at 3rd & Broadway going south in the left lane when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. A bare foot tapping against a sideview mirror. With painted toenails. A well-manicured hand with gold rings and a cigarette. A tanned and grey-haired and moustachioed man driving a semi-beat-up domestic mini-van. I hope that van was an automatic transmission. The part I was most amazed at was how did he get his foot up there and out the window? There was no way I could have gotten my leg up on the driver's side window--of course, I was wearing a pencil skirt, but even without that, I would need a lot more yoga classes.

I've seen passengers do that but never drivers. Especially such well-pedicured and manicured drivers. He ended up well in front of me for the rest of the trip south -- guess the foot that was in the car is a pretty heavy one.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I jinxed myself on Saturday. During a conversation I said that I hadn't been panhandled in awhile downtown. Not for cash or cigarettes. The closest thing was the Darling guy on the bus last week.

We thought maybe those coin boxes were actually working. I understand the premise of them, but I'm rarely asked for money directly -- it's usually Tarc money, a transfer ticket, or cigarettes (or a light). Sometimes, there's the My car broke down and I'm out of gas and I have to get back to Lexington and I need $8, but let me first assure you that I'm not one of those people who just asks for money. R. told someone once to try the travelers support office, and the guy said, "Yeah, um, maybe I'll try calling my friend again."

At the end of Derby weekend near 4th Street Live, a guy with a guitar asked us for money for the Greyhound. If you've been playing your guitar all weekend downtown in a bar area during a giant tourist weekend, and you can't make enough for bus fare to Cincinnati, then you should just sell your guitar.

In the morning, I'm walking to the bus stop and I'm about half a block from the intersection when a gaunt woman carrying a plastic bag crosses the street to approach me. Ma'am, she says, just as I walk under some trees and get sprayed with rain water dropping from the leaves. I tell her, Sorry, I need to catch the bus. And while I did have to wait at the light to cross, the bus arrived almost immediately after I arrived at the stop. In the afternoon, I'm walking home along the same block (only slightly north) when she crosses the street again to approach me and says Ma'am. I tell her, I can't help you.

I tend to feel guilty when I refuse someone, which is what I do every time. In this case, both times I didn't even wait for the question. If it was cigarette related, I couldn't help anyway. If it was TARC related, why are you still on the same block more than 7 hours later?  If it was just for money, first of all, I don't even have any cash -- not even loose change. Second of all, you're not supposed to give any out (that's what the point of the boxes is).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

# 4 - Downtown/Medical Center
Status: 2 minutes early

Yesterday was the tale of two motorcycle vests. There was the older, mulleted man in the morning and a younger guy in the afternoon who boarded around Hill or so. His vest had metal studs instead of patches, and he wore a newsboy cap (is there another term for that), but with the vest, the cap made him look like a newsboy who would hit you in the knees with a tire iron if you didn't buy the paper.

This is a very cute advertisement (seen originally at Bus Stories). TARC doesn't have ads like that -- we get ones like "Son in jail? Call Waddell!"

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

# 4 - Iroquois Park
Status: 2 minutes late

I had my alarm set for 6:15, but then I hit snooze, then I moved it to 6:30, and then I turned it off. All to say I did not get up until just before 7. I was, however, out the door by 7:40 or so. Which meant I waited for the 7:55 in the humidity. I considered walking a few stops ahead, but I was sweaty just standing there. The bus's AC was so cold that my sunglasses fogged when I boarded. Only 3 other people were on the bus, and two of them got off at Breckinridge.

It was a hybrid bus that squeaked when moving forward but not when braking. An older man with a cane and a mullet boarded south of Oak. He wore baggy shorts, a stretched-out t-shirt, and a motorcycle vest with Route 66 and other patches on it. His hair wasn't even quite a mullet because it was spiky in the front--not business. His arms showed faded tattoos of eagles and other images.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

#4 - Downtown/Medical Center
Status: 1 minute late

An older man with a braid and Hawaiian t-shirt sat next to me. I thought he might be a tourist even though he smelled vaguely of paint. Until around Kentucky St, when he said, "Hey darling, are you using your transfer ticket?" I replied I didn't have a transfer ticket (which is true, since I use my university id), but I didn't tell him that even if I did, I wouldn't give it to him. My name is not Darling, I wanted to say. You can say ma'am, miss, or Excuse me. Transfer tickets are hot commodities on the bus routes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

# 4 - Downtown/Medical Center
Status: On time?

It was a game of musical chairs in the front seats of the afternoon bus. Baby Jane Bag Lady was in the sideways seats behind the driver. She had 7 bags in her cart and three bags next to her. In the front-facing seat right behind her was another woman with a shopping cart, but it barely had anything in it. I believe there's an untapped market for bus-friendly shopping carts. I was in the 2nd set of front-row facing seats on the non-drivers side and gave up my aisle seat at York, but the person stayed up front.

At St. Catherine, the bus started beeping. Then another beeping tone that was quieter and faster but happening at the same time. It stopped at Kentucky and then started again right before Broadway. If the bus broke down, I would just get off and walk, but with this weather, I would not enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

# 4 - Downtown/Medical Center
Status: 13 minutes late (approximately)

I left work in time to catch the 4:26 bus home. It did not matter, because the bus did not show. I had no phone (hence, no clock) so I had no idea when it was officially late, and I could not call or text R. to give him a heads up since he was planning on meeting me at the stop. A southbound bus approached as I reached the stop and another passed before a northbound bus showed up -- never a good indication. It was very hot outside and the covered shelters do not provide any protection against heat. It's like sitting in a dirty greenhouse with all that glass. And with the heat, it's not worth starting to walk--I'm also always afraid the bus will show up and pass me just as I'm halfway between two stops. Finally, a bus showed up -- it was even a hybrid bus and the AC was working! Immediately behind it was another bus. The 2nd bus passed us while the 3 people at the stop boarded the hybrid. I thought it would end up being another game of passing each other, but the 2nd bus stayed in front. Our bus idled at Cardinal for a minute -- really?! We caught up to the other one at 4th & Broadway.

Somewhere along the route, near Central Park, we almost rear-ended a pick-up truck. At least, that's what it seemed from my perspective. The truck was waiting to turn left when the traffic light turned yellow. I would have thought we were on the 4:26 bus (except for the idling earlier), because the driver was not going to lose any more time and decided to go through the light. But the truck hadn't turned yet, so there was a bit of maneuvering. I've been in scarier situations, but I still made a face of alarm.

Two young women boarded, one of them with a Mohawk. The Mohawk one paid and received a transfer, and then I swear she just handed the transfer to the next girl. I guess that works as long as they're not both using the same transfer at the same time.

Today, I have to go from campus to Germantown (technically, Schnitzelburg) and then from there to downtown. I plotted out the bus options yesterday. I would get to my appointment early and possibly have to wait up to 20 minutes for the first bus to go home depending on how long my session lasts (one bus there, 2 buses home). But after waiting around yesterday afternoon, I decided to drive today. The benefits of having a car when one needs it. If it were not 100+ degrees outside, I might be more willing to bus it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Making bus stops convenient for pedestrians?

Woman convicted of vehicular homicide (despite not having a car)
Raquel Nelson, 30, is opting for a new trial on charges relating to the 2010 death of her 4-year-old son, who died in a hit-and-run collision as the family tried to cross a Cobb County, Georgia, road.
Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide and other charges for not using a crosswalk. The convictions carried the possibility of jail time. At the sentencing Tuesday, Judge Kathryn Tanksley gave Nelson probation, community service and the chance to opt for a new trial.

I heard this story on NPR over the weekend and was flabbergasted that the mother had been charged. The drunk hit-and-run driver only served 6 months in jail. The radio story said the mother and her children had missed a bus and had to wait an hour for the next one. By the time they got home, the kids were hungry and tired, so instead of walking up 1/3 a mile to the intersection, crossing the street, then walking 1/3 a mile back to the apartment complex, they crossed directly from the stop.

Some advocates are calling for the county and the bus system to re-examine where bus stops are placed. And, of course, many are calling for the woman's conviction to be overturned.