Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tales of Public Transportation: Part II

[UTA] TRAX is one thing, and buses are another.

On the train, the driver remains anonymous, locked in a complicated-looking cockpit up front, emerging only to assist special-needs passengers. But the bus driver is out in the open and greets people jovially as they board. (I’ve noticed that the children’s song is incorrect, though: The driver on the bus hardly ever says, “Move on back!”)

Maybe the driver's accessibility is the reason people are so much chattier on buses than on trains. The bus driver becomes a reassuring mommy- or daddy-figure, bringing to mind happy memories of childhood road trips and relieving riders of their inhibitions. (If this is the case, UTA drivers should probably start saying things like, “Because I said so” and “Don’t make me pull this bus over!” whenever the ridership starts to act up.)

Conditions vary from route to route: Commuter lines are fairly quiet, if agonizingly slow. (The new “fast bus” routes remedy this, but you have to be ready to leave when UTA says you're ready to leave.) Long-distance express routes are silent as morgues. Intercity buses are where all the action is. And the most infamous among these have long been the State Street lines.

This afternoon, my partner Dave and I had to travel to 1700 South on a minor but urgent piece of business. I thought he was planning to drive, but as it turned out, he had already checked the bus schedules and found that the No. 200 bus travels up and down State Street every 15 minutes--even to such far-flung regions as Murray. It surely would get us where we needed to go!

The story is too long to post on Salt Blog--it's got a big wind-up and a hidden moral, and would probably take up half a page--but, it's the story in which a strange woman on a State Street bus asks Dave and me, in a loud voice, which one of us is the man in the relationship.

If you're interested, please proceed to the strange and beguiling tale of:

(Brandon Burt)

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