Two nights ago, I had a long wait for the bus.
I saw a broken down bus being towed.It finally showed up. After
a few miles though, this bus also broke down. This time it was
the wheelchair lift. The driver got the wheelchair onto the bus
o.k. Then, he couldn't get the lift to fold back into its place.
I went outside and tried to help push it in, but nothing worked.
We then had a wait (of over an hour) for the next bus. It had
a front entrance wheelchair lift (which worked fine).
When I finally got home, I heard people grumbling as they got
on that they had been waiting since 6 p.m. It was after 9. For
most of the passengers, a half hour trip had been extended to
Once, years back, I had a "triple header" where three
busses I was riding (or trying to ride) broke down.
last night, I had to wait over an hour. The bus was crowded and
it took awhile to get a seat. I reached up to grab a hand bar
and my hand was covered with thick, black dusty dirt. It occasionally
seems as if they let some busses sit in the garage for months
(waiting to be repaired?) and gather dust. Then they clean them
only partially or not at all. I've noticed seats to be similarly
dirty now and then.
The level of trash and garbage on the busses seems to be better
than it was at its worst. They're still often dirtier than they
should be though. When people were forced to sit in the back of
the bus it was probably because the back is more unpleasant, less
desirable than the front. The engine of the bus is usually in
Last night, the fumes were noticeable. I could feel
the heat intensely. It was amazing that the "hot seat"
was still usable. I've thought of carrying some protection (like
a cushion) for when I get the hot seat. It's not always this bad
but often enough. I wonder if someone will be burned or injured
from this someday.
I'm sure people are injured on the busses (without it being noticed
My biggest worry is when it is really crowded. You
can really get packed in like a sardine. Then, around you, I often
see extremely elderly people and wounded or injured people. I
remember one time there was a guy with a bandaged up foot near
me. I kept being pushed toward him, trying to keep some distance.
These are but a few of the hardships and hassles
we bus riders are forced to deal with. It seems to be connected
with the city's laying off many of its bus mechanics. Then, there's
always been trouble with the Detroit bus system, one of the worst
in the nation.
TWO (January 2005)
Now the mayor intends to cut the bus service even further (get
home by midnight or turn into a pumpkin, or get a taxi if you
can, or go for a long walk).
Apparently, there's a problem wherein most large
cities have a district related funding for their bus systems and
Detroit does not. Even so, a lot of our suffering seems related
to a bias against the pedestrian and the user of mass transit.
Most of the advertisements are on the outside of the bus where
people with money can see them. (It seems that they figure if
you don't have enough money to buy a car than you must not have
much extra money to spend).
People riding the busses are sometimes poor or even homeless.
There are also students, the elderly, the infirm and those who
are blind, on crutches or in wheelchairs. It's a shame that these
citizens are often subjected to long waits, full busses and non-functioning
Ever since the streetcars were sent away (and their tracks left
abandoned) Detroit's worked to have a decent bus system. It was
o.k. back in the day (good times and bad). Then, it started to
THREE (February / March 2005)
I've heard that one third of Detroit's residents
don't own cars. It follows that if the bus system is further damaged,
then it will add to the city's economic problems. Besides the
city employees who are being laid off, people will lose their
jobs because they can no longer rely on the busses to get to work.
I've been riding the busses in this city since I was in grade
school, since the 1960's. I've got a lot of interesting stories
I could tell. It's not quite the amazing experience (for me) that
the New York subway trains are. In New York, the parade of people
and the whole subway experience amazes me. If I lived there, I'd
likely get used to it. Yet, the energy and possibilities would
still be there. Here, it's far different.
On the Detroit busses, I have had interesting conversations with
strangers (presidential election time, September 11 time etc.).
I've seen amazing things. I've also been somewhat annoyed, threatened,
hassled and even scared. Yet the times when I'm directly bothered
have been rare. It's been awhile. Overall though, the worst times
are busses running off schedule (arriving late or not at all),
breaking down or having to wait in near zero weather for long
periods of time.
can get hot, dirty and smelly. People are mostly cool, even friendly,
yet can be obnoxious and rude. It can be an unpleasant ride at
Yet, in some strange way, I sort of love riding the busses. I
get a sense of being part of a unique Detroit community (the bus
riders). I can write and draw. I can listen to music or the news
(or not). I can read books. I can look at the changing city streets
(in all their shabby glory) and daydream. It's not all bad.
Now, the Detroit bus system seems to be at a crossroads. It's
being investigated. It could be an important political issue in
We'll see what happens. It seems as if they don't care that one
third of the city's residents have their access to the city severely
limited. It's already bad enough so please don't make it worse.
Meanwhile, the "People Mover" goes around in circles.
It's fun for the tourists but for the bus riders it "adds
insult to injury." It's a taste of what mass transit in this
city could be. Yet if it is taking away money (that could be going
into improving bus service), it's more of a ball and chain (a
"circus ride" taking money away from more serious transit
Riding the busses can be interesting and even a bit "fun."
It can also be work, even hard work, confusing work, a complicated
game and a journey out of something by Franz Kafka! You can go
in circles and jump through hoops and eventually get to where
you're going. Yes, we'll see what happens.