Silent Understandings on Suburban Transit

In 2013, public transportation escorted Americans on 10.7 billion trips. According to the American Public Transportation Association, one of the main reasons that we are seeing this increase is because of the economic recuperation happening in America. A large percentage of public transportation users are commuting to work because of the increase in available jobs.

Photo credit: Mandy Mayfield

Photo credit: Mandy Mayfield

Los Angeles ranked number three in the category of largest transit agencies with over 464,875.2 passenger trips taken in the year of 2012.

Everyday, hundreds of thousands of people in the greater Los Angeles area make their way to work by extremely different means. People who take public transportation are exposed to an entirely different world than the private commuter.

Foothill transit comes roughly every 20 minutes during the day. I began my journey on the 187 off Route 66 and Calera ave .

As I awaited the bus, I noticed the man standing next to me had his bicycle. He was clearly on his way to work, as he was wearing a work uniform similar to the one a Staples employee would sport. As the bus arrived, he attempted to get on, however the bike rack was fully occupied. He pleaded with the bus driver to allow him to bring his bicycle on the bus because he had to be at work, however, the bus driver denied his request. He had to wait for the next bus, and consequently was late to work.

This brought me to the first inconvenience i noted about public transportation: time. Obviously, the bus runs on its own schedule, you’re either there at the right time or miss it. Missing the bus means being late to your destination by about 20 minutes, that’s an inconvenience work commuters cannot afford.

As I sat on the bus for another 40 minutes, I observed a very evident unsocial atmosphere. Being in a more suburban area, I somewhat expected to see interactions between those who routinely rode the bus and as a result had gotten to know one another. However, it was the exact opposite. Many individuals used the seat next to them to store their bags. I noticed that people were more willing to stand than to ask someone to move their bags.

As clearly charismatic individuals walked onto the bus, I found myself intrigued, while i found those around me to be extremely disinterested.

Photo credit: Amy Davidson (fellow bus rider)

Photo credit: Amy Davidson (fellow bus rider)

I couldn’t help but notice that the unsocial environment did not deter my bus driver Michael from becoming a part of the riders’ lives. Michael was extremely friendly and not only acknowledged every person that would enter his vehicle, but attempted to have meaningful conversations with bus riders.

Many teenagers who appeared to be on their way to school would get on the bus and high five Michael, talk to him for a bit, and fist bump him as they exited the bus. These exchanges would make anyone who truly observed them smile. A man working a job that many “American Dreamers” would deem undesirable was clearly happy in his career. Michael worked to make relationships with children who didn’t have a ride to school and was a refreshing sight in the individualistic atmosphere the bus offered.

As a man entered the bus loudly yelling into his cell phone, I noticed the unpleasant reaction of others around him. I’m sure any person would find that obnoxious. However, it brought me to my 2nd discovery, the silent understanding that held amongst the bus riders.

Some of the unwritten rules I observed included: minding one anothers’ space, not being overly noisy, and quickly entering or exiting the vehicle.

The bus eventually became crowded and someone braved the waters and took a seat next to me.

In an attempt to speak with the man, I quickly realized he did not speak English. After about 10 minutes of semi-awkward silence the man handed me his cell phone on which was a message he had entered into a translator app.

“I’m Jose, I do not really speak English and cant understand you, you text in this and I can help you,” said Jose.

I asked general questions about his life and his commute to work.

Jose takes foothill transit every weekday to his job at Mrs. D’s Diner in La Verne to his home in Montclair.

“The bus is good because its not much money,” said Jose.

Jose stated that he was thankful for the bus because he could not get a license and it gets him to work everyday.

My greatest takeaway was how important these bus systems are. In all honesty, when I had previously heard of the large budget cities contribute to public transportation I’d viewed it as a waste of money. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dozens of people got on the bus that didn’t have any alternative mode of transportation.

Public transportation allows many Americans to have affordable housing while working in highly populated areas.

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