Amateur bus rider navigates first journey

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Photo/Kaity Bergquist

I’d never been on a bus before.

But finally, at the age of 21, on Feb. 20, 2015, I stepped on a bus, took a two-hour journey, and arrived home safely. It’s something that people all over the world do every single day, but I’d managed to avoid the experience until now. My biggest takeaway was that it is a very manageable process. It’s not the greatest form of transportation, but it is a good option to have.

My friend Kimberlee and I started our journey by planning out where we wanted to go. Using Google Maps, we decided to take the bus to Cal Poly Pomona, which was supposed to take an hour from Azusa Pacific University.

On the appointed day, we arrived at the bus stop, barely missing the 2:15 bus. I did not expect to be waiting a while, but we ended up waiting almost 30 minutes for the next bus. It wasn’t until right before the bus arrived that a few other passengers appeared.

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A mostly empty bus. Photo/Kaity Bergquist

I talked to one rider, Rebecca Allen, who said she doesn’t usually take the bus because she has a car. Her dad was working on the engine of her car that day, so she had to take the bus to get to her job in West Covina. She said that she doesn’t like taking the bus because it gets her to work either 20 minutes early or 15 minutes late.

Finally, our journey got an official start when the bus arrived. One of the first sensations I had as I settled in was that the bus smelled good. It was clean, not crowded, and quiet.

We traveled about 20 minutes, then got off to wait for our second bus. It took quite a while to get there, but when we got on, I found the kind of bus driver I had been expecting – a loud, dynamic, opinionated woman. As we got on the bus, she asked us, “do you know where you’re going?” I replied that I thought so, and that led to her ranting about how most passengers think the bus drivers should know exactly where each of them wants to go.

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Our destination: Cal Poly Pomona! Photo/Kaity Bergquist

Not long after, we arrived at Cal Poly Pomona. We walked into one of the parking lots before deciding that we’d better figure out to how get back before we wandered too far. However, I pointed out that it was so convenient that we didn’t have to pay for parking. If we had been actually visiting the campus, we would not have had to worry about paying for parking.

We figured out how to get back, but then we also had to figure out which of the multiple bus stops in the area was the right one. We quickly realized how confusing the bus system could be.

As we waited at the stop, I talked to Elizabeth Towers, who told me that she did not like riding the bus, but she lost her car years ago, and has to take the bus out of necessity. Her main complaints about the bus system is the lack of bathrooms and how long it takes to get anywhere.

“It’s cool if you’re a student ‘cause you can read or write a list or something,” she said.

Sometimes she gets lost.

“I do know where I’m going, but I don’t know where I am,” she said.

Our first return bus finally arrived, and we got on board. This one was more crowded. I talked to Gary Billingsley and mentioned that I go to Azusa Pacific University. He said that he wanted to send his daughter there. Here’s something that I found funny: our trip did not take us far from Azusa. But because of the time spent on the bus, it felt like we had strayed far from Azusa. Cal Poly Pomona is a 20-minute drive from APU. But it took us just over two hours to get there and back by bus.

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Bypassing traffic on the other side of the highway = a win. Photo/Kaity Bergquist

That’s what seemed to be the biggest complaint from the people we talked to: the bus takes a long time. Not only is it slow on the roads, but you have to wait a while for it to arrive. We experienced this ourselves at the multiple stops we had to take.

Billingsley is still trying to learn the ropes of how the bus system works. He believes that the bus drivers should be able to give him directions. When we confirmed with the bus driver that the bus was going to Azusa, Billingsley said to us, “You guys committed the cardinal sin – listening to the bus driver’s instructions.”

Overall, it was cheap and convenient alternative to using my own gas and having to worry about parking. The time factor is a huge deterrent for me. But it’s crazy to think that some people have no choice.

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