Foothill Transit carries about 48,000 passengers a week to and from their destinations. Foothill Transit is second largest in its fleet to regional provider Metro, which has over one million riders a week according to Metro.net.
I began my journey with Dadrienne on Foothill Transit in Azusa, California. We took the 187 bus route because it’s local and easily accessible. Plus, it’s the route I would take to work if something happened to my car and I wanted to familiarize myself with it.
I felt nervous. I was mostly afraid the bus only took quarters, which seemed impractical to me and that I would fumble with my money or be rejected from riding. I feared getting lost even though it’s a straight shot down Foothill/Huntington Drive to where we were going.
Finally the bus rolled up and my impatient 20 minute wait was over. I inserted my money into the slot and took a seat. The bus wasn’t overly crowded but there were quite a few people on it.
The next few stops brought a dozen more people on. I observed as two men walked on. One was short his bus fare by 25 cents and the man behind him paid the rest for him.
A woman next to us, probably in her late 20’s, turned and faced us.
“Do you think it feels like a normal day outside?” she said. “Like it doesn’t feel like it should today.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I said. “It’s sunny but it’s still cold and it feels like the middle of the week, not a weekend.”
“I know! That makes me feel better. I knew I needed the opinion of other women about this,” she said. “Do you two go to APU? You look like you should be in a play, they have those over there, right?”
We said yes and explained our public transit project to her. She seemed very interested in it. She wished us luck as she got off at her stop.
The rest of the ride was uneventful and I watched people get on at almost every stop and settle in to their seats. I imagined my life as if I depended on public transit.
Our stop was Monterey and Huntington in Monrovia. At a bus stop in Monrovia on Shamrock and Huntington, I talked to a young woman named Kari. She currently lives in Pasadena but takes Foothill Transit to work in Monrovia and sometimes to La Verne to visit family.
“I’ve been taking the bus for about a year and a half now,” Kari said. “I get my license back soon and I can’t wait.”
Based on her tone of explaining her experience, I sensed she was not very fond of it.
“I hate taking the bus. As someone who use to driving it’s hard to rely on someone else to get me places,” said Kari. “For example, I take the bus to work. If it’s running late, then I will be late and that is frustrating for me because I have no control over it.”
Kari told me it takes her about an hour to get to work from Pasadena and when she travels to La Verne it’s almost a two hour trip. In her opinion, the bus is not cheaper than a car, especially taking it everywhere and transferring bus lines.
Later in the day, I spoke with another public transit user, named Brad. He lives in Azusa but commutes to work in Monrovia.
“I’ve been taking the bus every day for about a year,” Brad said. “It’s okay, the one things that annoys me is how inconsistent the bus schedule can be.”
He listed some pros and cons of the bus system as he has experienced.
“There’s only specific times that it runs, obviously, so that is a problem,” Brad said. “I would definitely say it’s cheaper than a car though because there is no insurance or gas costs.”
Like Kari, Brad explained to me how it can get expensive fast if you have change buses frequently. I thought about how these two people who had similar situations for taking the bus, had different views about it.
It was getting dark outside so after warming up in a café, we found the Monterey/Huntington stop and waited. We witnessed a car accident and a cop scene within one block of each other while sitting at our stop.
Again, we waited over 20 minutes for the bus.
On the way back to Azusa, we sat across from two older men. They seemed to know each other and discussed rising gas prices the entire ride. Not many other people occupied this bus.
We got off at the Citrus and Foothill stop in Azusa and walked back home, our adventure over. I felt encouraged as I walked home, knowing I was now capable of riding the local bus system.