I’m sure some of you read the transit rant of a few weeks ago when I had to wait two hours for a crosstown M86 bus. I write those things in hope that the mayor might read them, or at least be informed about it, and do something about better transit service. But I know that will never happen, so it’s more about just getting it out. And if I rally a few friends to commiserate with me, I feel a little better.
My wife isn’t fond of my negative rants, she always points out to how I say, “there’ll be another one,” whenever we miss a bus or a train.
While that is true, it always helps to know WHEN the other one will come.
For example, if a few weeks ago the shitty BUSES app on my phone had said:
“Next bus 2 hrs,” rather than 2 mins, then 6 mins, then it suddenly changed to 20 mins, then went blank entirely, I could have walked. But I kept hoping against hope.
Yesterday I was to go to the East Side again for another job, this time on 71st Street, meaning I was taking the M72 bus. I got off the train at Central Park West and took up a position across the street from the Dakota. I checked my BUSES app and it said “next bus 2 mins.”
Five minutes later it still said 2mins, as it did ten minutes later.
Then suddenly, just before my watch hit the 15 minute mark I saw the bus cross Columbus avenue. I was 20 minutes late to my job.
The way back wasn’t much better, when I got to 72nd Street and 3rd Avenue the app said: “2 mins.” It said 2 mins for 10 mins then changed its mind and said: “15 mins.” I groaned inwardly, especially since it was starting to rain harder.
There were two other people at the bus stop with BUS TIME apps on their phones, two young women; and they discussed the futility of relying on the app. I guess it isn’t any better than the one I have.
Those apps rely on the GPS signal from the buses, the MTA uses GPS to track their buses and reprimand drivers for lollygagging and whatever. I remember one driver telling another that, saying “You gonna get suspended. They got the GPS.”
But I don’t think it makes a lot of difference, the GPS can’t tell if the driver is lollygagging or stuck in traffic.
The bus finally came, when I’d started waiting there was no one at the stop, now there were at least 15 other people including the two app girls.
My plan was this: Get on the bus, take it to Broadway instead of CPW, go to Fairway on 74th Street, then either take the 1 train home or if the wait wasn’t long, the M5 bus.
See, even if I took the 1 train, it would leave me 6 or 8 blocks short of home, depending on whether I got off on 145th or 157th Street respectively, and I would have to hop on the bus anyway. So the best option would be the M5, which would leave me right down the block on the corner of 152nd and Broadway.
I left Fairway with my now heavy Whole Foods shopping cart, I use that for my tools when I don’t need to carry a lot; and headed for the corner of 72nd and Broadway.
I checked my app and said: M5, 0 mins, 3 mins. That meant I’d just missed one, and if the app was to be believed, there would be another in just 3 short minutes.
For once the app was right, and I happily boarded the almost empty M5 bus.
The driver zoomed up Riverside drive, and more and more people got off, the bus made less stops. It usually takes 45 minutes to get from 72nd Street to 151st Street on the M5, but we made it to 135th Street in 20 minutes.
135th Street on this route is significant, because this is where sometimes they switch drivers, or take buses out of service. This always takes time. I could see the dispatcher waiting for the bus on the sidewalk, and after a couple of people got off; there was only me and one other person left on the bus.
“Go up to 139th Street, he’s waiting for you, and discharge the passengers and turn around and bring the bus back to me. I just radioed him, he’s gonna wait.”
Those were the instructions the dispatcher gave to our driver. I was expecting for them to make us get off the bus and wait for the next one, which is what they usually do.
“Folks, you have to get off at the next stop. 139th Street will be the last stop. There’s another bus waiting for you there.”
Sure enough, as we approached 139th Street I could see a bus at the stop, and I hoped he would actually wait.
Our driver pulled up in front of the other bus, and as I waited for the door to open he said, “Look at that! You got the red carpet treatment!”
“Thanks,” I said.
“You like getting the red carpet treatment? Isn’t this great?”
I thought about complaining about the long waits for the M72 earlier, better still, I wanted to tell him the story of the M86 from 3 weeks ago, and how I wanted to throttle the driver who told me he “Don’t know what to tell you,” when I complained about having to get off a bus that day.
Yeah, this is pretty nice, thank you,” is what I said instead.