I’ve got a limo that’s forty feet long,
I’ve got a driver who won’t steer me wrong…
– Saint John Transit radio jingle
I’ve been a bus passenger for most of the last 27 years, so I feel eminently qualified to offer these handy tips on how to ride the bus:
Getting on the Bus
1. Know where the bus is going, before you get on. If you are unsure, ask the driver. It was pouring rain in Ottawa one day, and I was too lazy to cross the street to catch the bus. I assumed it was a circular route…it wasn’t. An hour-and-a-half later, I ended up in a suburb of Ottawa, and had to get on another bus to get back home (the one I should have gotten on in the first place!).
2. Have the correct change, or better yet, invest in a monthly pass or a punch card. Have it ready (in your hand) when the bus pulls up. No one wants to wait while you dig around in your purse or search in your pockets for something besides lint. Do not use your child’s pennies to get on the bus!
3. When you board the bus, be seated immediately after you’ve paid (and received your transfer, if you require one). The bus driver is not your best friend, and has no desire to hear about your Great Aunt Martha’s gall bladder surgery. If the bus is late, it was probably caused by some fool who wanted to tell the driver his life story – do not chew out the bus driver. Remember that unless you are elderly or physically disabled, to leave the seats closest to the door for people who need them! The bus driver might be really cute, but he is not in love with you, and needs to concentrate on his driving. Do not distract him with idle chit-chat.
Behaviour on the Bus
1. Don’t wear highly-scented products on public transit. The person next to you may have allergies, or may not like the smell of lavender. If you’re using the bus to get home after a workout at the gym, your fellow passengers will be grateful if you shower first.
2. Respect personal space. Be aware of any large purses, packages or bookbags you’re carrying which could whack unsuspecting passengers in the head on your way by. Try not to step on people’s toes (apologize if you do!). If forced to stand on the bus, leave a reasonable space between yourself and the person beside you.
3. Your personal electronics devices should not disturb others. Keep iPods at a minimal volume. Resist the urge to sing along with the music…it is unlikely that you are as good a singer as the performer. Do not call your ex on your cellphone to tell them exactly how you feel about them. If your phone rings on the bus, answer it promptly, and keep the call short.
4. Do not disturb people who are reading. Reading on public transit is universal body language for “I vant to be alone.” Do not attempt to engage these folks in conversation unless their shoes are on fire, or there is a tarantula crawling up their leg.
5. Be friendly to people around you, but not too friendly. If you feel the need to communicate with fellow passengers, small talk is the safest avenue to travel: the weather, how the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing this year, or where “those cute boots” came from. Do not discuss politics, religion or sex. If a person is talking to themselves, do not interrupt them (and perhaps move to a different seat). If someone has fallen asleep, alert the driver – he will wake them up so they don’t miss their stop.
6. Do not do anything on the bus that you would not do at a dinner party: throw garbage on the floor; swear like a sailor; French-kiss your significant other; or perform personal grooming tasks such as cleaning your ears, flossing your teeth, or trimming your nails.
7. If the bus is crowded, and an elderly, disabled, or pregnant passenger gets on, offer them your seat. This is basic, common courtesy.
Travelling With Small Children
1. If you need to bring a stroller on the bus, have someone travel with you to help get it on and off. Some drivers and fellow passengers will provide assistance, but that’s not always the case.
2. Respect personal space. Do not drive over people’s toes with your stroller, run it into their shins, or block the exit. Do not allow your child to play with items belonging to other passengers, especially with sticky hands.
3. Bring a snack/toys for the child if you’re on a long commute. Your fellow passengers do not want to be stuck for twenty minutes listening to a cranky kid scream. If your child makes a mess, do your best to clean it up. No one enjoys sitting in a puddle of juice.
4. Make sure your child stays seated and under control. If the driver jams on the brakes, little Johnny will be airborne if he’s standing on the seat looking out the window. Make sure he does not disturb other passengers by kicking the seat in front of him, or making unnecessary noise.
5. Do not allow your child to ring the bell until it’s really time for you to get off. Hold his hands if you have to…there’s nothing more annoying to the driver and other passengers than the bus stopping for no reason.
Getting Off the Bus
1. Do not ring the bell too early. The best time is right after the bus passes the stop before yours (or pulls away from it if someone else got off there).
2. Do not ring the bell too late. If the bus stops suddenly because you waited too long, your fellow passengers are likely to spill their coffee, break a tooth on the metal bar on the seat in front of them, or fall down if they’re standing up.
3. Wait until the bus slows down or stops before standing up. I’ve seen people fly around like rag dolls if an inexperienced driver applies the brakes too enthusiastically. Always hold onto a seat or a bar if you are standing or walking when the bus is in motion.
4. Exit through the rear door, unless you are elderly or disabled. Your fellow passengers might be standing outside in the rain waiting for you to get out of their way so they can board.
5. Thank the bus driver as you go out the door, and then make your way to the curb as quickly as possible. Do not continue talking as if you’ll never see the driver again…there are other people waiting to reach their destinations!
If every bus passenger followed these simple rules, riding on public transit would be much more pleasant!