On a good day, it takes me 1 1/2 hours to get home from work by bus. It has now been two weeks since I’ve had a good day. And this is in no small part due to the bus driver who appears to now be permanently assigned to the bus I take home five days a week. Now admittedly traffic on Interstate 95 is bad due to the collapse of the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi, and the subsequent rerouting of traffic. But this driver apparently takes the attitude of “oh well, I’m going to be late no matter what I do, no point in hurrying”. Here’s how a typical ride home goes:
The first scheduled stop is his layover point, at 4:41 pm. What actually happens is that at 4:41 the driver decides to finally get back on his bus, close the door, adjust his seat and mirrors, etc, etc, and finally get the bus in gear and move anywhere from 1-2 minutes later. His layover point is 100 yards down from my stop, where the traffic has to wait to make a right turn onto a bridge; so if there’s a line of cars waiting to make the turn, add another 2-3 minutes. We finally all board and are ready to go. Add another minute if he just misses the light. OK, the light’s green, let’s go already. So the driver SLOOOWLY pulls away from the stop, like a semi-trailer truck trying to get into gear going uphill. He reaches the breathtaking speed of 23mph and proceeds to crawl through downtown St. Paul. At every red light and every pickup point, he starts braking half a block away and SLOOOWLY coasts to a stop, dragging out the last 4mph of speed over several seconds. He comes to a complete dead stop, seemingly takes a second or two to remember how to open the doors and then finally opens them. Passengers board; once the last one has boarded and paid, he sits there until he can remember how to close the doors again. When one second’s extra promptness would make the difference between just making a yellow light and just missing it, he always, always misses it. The real insult is the light just before the freeway entrance: once it turns green, there’s just enough time to get through the next light if he would only MOVE! But no, he gets through the first light and then actually slows down.
OK, so we’ve finally gotten on the freeway to Minneapolis. The posted speed limit is 60 mph. The traffic actually moves around 70. The bus then proceeds to go at about 50-55 mph. We are literally the slowest vehicle on the road. Cars pull around us to get into the lane that is wide open ahead of us. A chance to gain a few minutes before we hit the bypass chokepoint? Forget about it. Then we hit the chokepoint. The driver then immediately moves into the right hand lane, miles before our exit, so that we can sit behind all the traffic trying to squeeze onto the freeway from the entrance ramps while the left hand lane averages 15 mph faster. We finally get to our exit ramp. We’re late of course, but I could still just make my connection if we’d only move promptly. Yeh, right. More crawling at 23 mph. More taking forever to start and stop. More missing light after light. I finally get off at my stop, run three blocks trying to catch my connection, and get there two minutes after my second bus has left.
The thing is, if you ride the bus with any regularity, you can see the difference between the two types of drivers: the ones who try to make that little bit of extra effort to be prompt when they’re running late; and the slowpokes. The drivers who seemingly live in slow motion, with the reaction time of a sloth. Who drive as if it hurts them to push on the pedals. Yes, I know the freeway is backed up. I could still make my connection even if we’re five minutes late; but not if we’re seven minutes late. To continually miss my transfer by the amount of time the driver spends lollygagging is infuriating. I have fantasies of bushwacking the driver just so the bus company has to replace him with someone who hopefully knows how to drive faster.