SoCal bus riders are by far the most determined people I have ever encountered. Many of them wait extended periods of time in order to travel within the congested suburbs of Los Angeles and into the bustling city of Downtown L.A. My bus ride on the 187 towards Pasadena was full of single mothers, homeless dreamers and hopeful seniors of the community who view the public transit as a means of completing their everyday tasks.
On my ride, I met 65 year-old Lupita Martinez, who commutes to the Azusa City Senior Center from her residence in Monrovia. She shared that her bus rides are usually filled with monotonous people who lack the “relational skills” to interact with others.
“La gente se sube al bus y nadie se habla ni nada [People get on the bus and no one talks to each other],” Martinez said.
While riding back to her home in Monrovia, Martinez said she does not own a car and has learned to get around using the bus system. Additionally, she expressed her love for public transit and how it has helped her countless of times.
“Yo siempre me monto en el camión y hago mis cosas del diario [I always ride the bus and I do my daily things because of it],” Martinez said. “Yo no dejo que un carro me detengo de hacer lo que tengo que hacer [I don’t let a car stop me from doing what I need to do.]”
Martinez also expressed that her bus rides have always been comfortable and she does not mind the wait between buses. However, she wishes there was more community on these trips.
“Uno va y viene y mira tanta gente [One comes and goes and see’s so many people],” Martinez said. “Pero nadie nunca convive ni platica [But no one ever talks or interacts with each other.]”
According to the Foothill Transit website, more than 48,000 individuals are serviced by the transit a week. With 36 local and express routes, riders on these trips range in race, class and socio-economic status.
As I helped Martinez press the yellow strip to signal the driver to stop at the next stop, the woman next to me pulled out a binder full of cartoon drawings and asked which one was my favorite. She pointed to two different Betty Boop drawings and shared why she drew them.
“I’ve been drawing because I’m trying to make money and start my own company,” Dolores “Dee Dee” Griswold said.
Griswold is a homeless woman who rides the bus daily and commutes around the city into Pasadena in order to sell her artwork and gather cash to buy herself a meal.
“I ride this thing all the time, it takes me where I need to go,” Griswold said. “I need to sell my drawings to people so this is how I get around.”
According to Foothill Transit, since 2012, they have tasked themselves with the responsibility of exemplifying policies regarding major service changes and measuring service change impacts on minority and low-income neighborhoods.
With routes catering mainly to low socio-economic riders, it is clear to see why SoCal continues to have a negative stigma for public transit. People like Griswold and Martinez are just a small fraction of the riders represented on the bus.
As my Sierra Madre stop approached, I noticed a young mother with her child in one arm and a stroller in the other. She was struggling to insert her fee into the pay box until the older woman behind her offered to pay her fee and help her take her stroller to her seat. The mother took her seat and Griswold completed the mom on such a cute baby.
“I remember holding my nieces and nephews and they were so cute and little like that,” said Griswold.
After the bus arrived to the Sierra Madre train station, I wished Griswold the best of luck and told her to take her. But before I left, Griswold handed me one of her drawings and told me she “enjoyed talking such a sweet young person like you [me].”
As I looked at the drawing she handed me, I could not help but smile at the thoughtfulness in which she drew and crafted her work. Its human moments like these that make me realize that the average person needs a helping hand and an ear to listen.
Hearing Martinez express her love for public transit because it helps her get around are many of the stories that get lots in the negative stereotypes placed on transit. Additionally, people like Griswold can become overlooked because of her appearance and selfish egos.
Nonetheless, I encountered friendly, talkative and helpful people who were kind enough to share a piece of their life on an average bus.