I sat on a blue wooden bench waiting for the 10:40 a.m. pick up when the 187 bus arrived more than 10 minutes early to my stop next to Azusa Pacific University’s large parking lot. I walked up the big rubber steps to meet the bus driver, money in one hand, the other clinging to my backpack strap.
My only other bus experience — other than riding the school bus for 10 years growing up in public school — was in Australia. As I did in every time I got on the bus in Australia this past summer, I tried to hand the bus driver my fare, $1.25.
“I’m going to Lake Avenue,” I said. The bus driver laughed and shook his head.
“This is your first time on the bus isn’t it?” he said.
I immediately turned a bright red, embarrassed as I looked toward the back of the bus and the patrons started to divert their eyes away from me and toward the window.
“Umm, yes. It’s my first day of my internship in Pasadena.”
The bus driver then directed me to the automated machine to my right where I put in my $1.25. I sheepishly moved to the first seat in my view.
Although initially the bus ride caused embarrassment, I eventually found that my ride gave me perspective of my travel options.
Especially as a college student, I would save a lot of money riding the bus. The fare for a round-trip ride is $3. For gas, I estimated, with my tank size and the average price of gas from this last calendar year, that it usually takes about $5 for me to drive to and from my internship. If I was driving every weekday to Pasadena, that is a difference of approximately $1,250 for gas for my vehicle versus $750 for the bus.
My usual commute takes between 45 minutes to an hour to get to Pasadena in the morning, but takes only about 25 to 35 minutes to get back to Azusa. Although it did take extra time to get there and back, it was only by a total of about 30 to 40 minutes.
Additionally, during my time on the bus, I was able to read and relax. Normally, I am stressed about traffic, the work I could be doing in the hour to hour and a half that I am sitting in the car and worried about how late I will be.
Sustainability is and always has been incredibly important to me. Currently, according to Foothill Transit, there are 15 all-electric buses in the fleet of 330. According to the business plan, Line 291, which travels between LaVerne and Pomona, will be Southern California’s first fully electrified bus route.
Additionally, the bus system retired all diesel-fuel buses in December 2013. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, all of Foothill Transit’s busses are “clean-burning” buses, which are fueled by compressed natural gas.
Community & Value
Last year alone, the Foothill Transit system had more than 14 million boardings, according to this year’s business plan.
As each person got on and off, they each said hello and goodbye to the bus driver. Some people Houston knew by name. At one point, on the way to Pasadena, an older man stood and talked to the driver for close to 30 minutes while he waited for his stop to come up.
My favorite part of my day, however, was the end of my first leg. My bus driver, whose name plate on the bus said his name was J. Houston, looked in the rearview mirror at me as we were starting getting further into Pasadena.
“You need to get off at Lake, right?”
“Yes, please,” I replied.
He proceeded to tell me that it was coming up next, and asked me if I needed a transfer before I got off. Then, he asked me about my internship and how long I would be at the office that day. We chatted for the remainder of the ride, and as I walked past him to exit on the cross section of Lake and Colorado, he made sure to leave me with encouragement.
“Good luck on your first day,” he said. “You will do great!”
My heart smiled as I stepped of Houston’s bus, and I thought that this bus thing wasn’t so bad after all.
Though my bus ride back to APU at around 3 p.m. did not have the same driver, I felt already more like I could build a relationship with these people who could potentially be a part of my daily life come May.
Depending on the job that I get after graduation, since I will be living in Azusa, I have very seriously considered getting a monthly bus pass. Not only would I be able to commute to Pasadena each day to save money and help reduce my carbon footprint, but it would also give back two hours of my day where I can be behind a book instead of behind the wheel.