“Only smart people ride the bus”

My Saturday morning routine slightly changed on the crisp morning of February 21st since my plans to drive to my 8 a.m. shift at Athleta in Pasadena was rearranged to take a different mode of transportation… the bus.

This photo was approximately taken at 6:45 a.m. after learning that the bus had just left me. Photo credit: Camille Garcia

This photo was taken at approximately 6:45 a.m. after learning that the bus had just left me. Photo credit: Camille Garcia

I woke up an hour earlier than I usually do, got dressed in my Athleta gear (sapphire blue workout capris, a military green jacket, and black Nike’s), ate breakfast, and was out the door by 6:35 am to make sure I was at the 66 towards Montebello Station bus stop in Boyle Heights by 6:45 a.m.

As soon as I walked out the door, I began to use the Google Maps app on my iPhone to direct me to the bus stop. After five minutes of walking back and forth, I arrived at the bus stop to only learn that the bus had just left.

I looked at the app to find out when the next bus would come and it said 7:05 a.m. According to the app, I would’ve been at work by 8:10 a.m.

I decided to check Apple’s App Store to see if there was a Los Angeles Metro app hoping that Google Maps was lying to me about the time of the next bus arrival. There was! I downloaded it and as soon as I opened the app it couldn’t find my location. I gave up and decided I would drive to work and proceed with plan B.

After my shift, I planned to take the bus from my friend’s house in Boyle Heights to her dad’s house in La Cañada.

Just so you know, La Cañada is a 10 minute drive from Pasadena.

Anyways, I started my trip by walking to the new bus stop, the 66 on 8th  towards Wilshire. Once I got on the bus, I noticed that I was the only one on it…it felt nice.

At the next stop, a hispanic lady stepped onto the bus. As she approached a seat we exchanged eye contact. I immediately felt a warm connection with her and knew I wanted to interview her. I walked over to take the seat in front of her and introduced myself in Spanish. Her name was Irma Hernandez.

Irma told me that she came to L.A. from El Salvador in 1985 and has been riding the bus ever since. She has been planning her trips by calling the metro’s transit phone number. In her 30 years of taking the bus, she told me that she has noticed very few changes except the increase of ridership.

“Now I see a lot of people on the bus… not like before,” she said in Spanish, “Now the buses are more packed with passengers during the week. On the weekends, they’re empty.”

According to research conducted by the Metro, Angelenos made an average of 37 million trips in 2014. With L.A. County’s population rising to 10 million in 2013—the highest in the nation, I can only imagine how many trips Angelenos will be making this year.

Despite her concern of how packed the bus gets during the week, Hernandez affirmed her satisfaction with the Metro’s rail system.

“They arrive faster and do not stop much” she said. She also stated that she would like to see more rail systems in L.A.

The Metro is currently working on a handful of projects within the county. The majority include rail system expansions to cities in the east-side such as Azusa, and cities in the west-side such as Santa Monica and Westwood.

Bus stop at the corner of Hill and 8th street. Photo credit: Camille Garcia

Bus stop at the corner of Hill and 8th street in Downtown, L.A. Photo credit: Camille Garcia

After 21 stops, I was in Downtown. I got off and crossed the street to my next bus stop, the 90/91 towards Sunland. After patiently waiting for about 15 minutes, the 90 finally arrived.

This time I sat in the back of the bus. Sitting next to me was 19-year-old Daniel Peña. Chatting with Daniel, he told me the bus is his family’s only mode of transportation. I asked Daniel what he would change about the Metro if he could and he mentioned the Metro’s security.

“There was a time where a guy tried to take over the bus—he tried to remove the bus driver,” said Daniel, “the guy ended up leaving and the bus driver was pretty traumatized.”

This is not the first time passengers have experienced odd situations on the bus. Just this past June, a man was suspected of attacking bus riders with a screwdriver at numerous locations in L.A. The L.A. Times also reported in February of how more than one in five Metro passengers face unwanted sexual behavior.

In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security introduced the campaign, “If you see something, say something,” in an effort to build safe communities. Attempting to live out the campaign, Metro launched the Transit Watch website and app to allow passengers to report suspicious activity to Metro sheriff deputies while on the bus.

About halfway to my destination, I met Dottie. After learning about her airline stewardess career, I asked Dottie if I can interview her about her experience on the Metro. She only told me one thing.

“Only smart people ride the bus, said Dottie. “People who ride the bus do not have to worry about a thing.”

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