As part of my effort to go vehicleless, I have been investigating alternate forms of transportation. I’ve walked, hitchhiked and bummed rides from friends.
On Monday, it was time to try the bus. Never having ridden the bus locally, I approached the matter with some trepidation.
Past bus experiences have not left me with fond memories of public transit. These include riding a variety of school buses (including 30 miles both ways through the desert in the ninth grade), missionary transfers, and while in the Army.
Then there was that time as a cop when I had to board a Greyhound bus and remove a passenger who had defecated in his seat and smeared it on the windows.
The matter eventually attracted the attention of his fellow passengers, who alerted the driver. He pulled over and called the police. When I arrived, I dragged the guy off the bus while his former seatmates dry-heaved and applauded.
Note: The guy “broke away and deliberately jumped” into a nearby irrigation ditch and “refused to come out” until “he had cleaned himself up” sufficient to be arrested and transported to jail. That’s what the report said anyway.
So buses are not high on my list of preferred transportation. However, if I’m going to be without personal wheels, I need to know about them.
To catch a Utah Transit Authority bus, I had to hop on the internet and plan my trip. Since I didn’t even know where the bus stop closest to my house was, it required serious investigation.
At http://www.rideuta.com/, there is a way to plan your bus trip by studying a map that, upon first glance, seems to have been created by Jackson Pollock with some help from the Greyhound bus guy.
But with only a small amount of cursing, I figured it out. Armed with five bucks, I walked a block to the stop and waited for the F547 Herriman Flex bus.
Warning: It was supposed to arrive at 10:50 a.m. but didn’t get there until 10:54. Not a good start.
Now for the upside. The driver was Ana S., a pleasant grandmotherly woman who has been pushing UTA buses for more than 20 years, including 2 million miles without a crash being her fault. That’s impressive anywhere but almost impossible in Utah. The best I could do in my truck was 10,000.
Since I was the only passenger for a short time, I was able to interview Ana with some basic questions.
I already had spoken to a UTA media affairs person, so I knew that the agency allows service animals aboard their buses and trains. But I decided to test Ana.
Me • “Would you have let me on your bus with a live mako shark under my arm?”
Her • “No.”
Me • “What if it was a service shark?”
Her • “Sharks live in the water.”
There was no arguing with that, but I wasn’t done yet. I fired off a list of savvy journalist questions designed to reveal the true bus experience.
Ana has never had to throw anyone off her bus. She has had to tell some teenagers to settle down, but who hasn’t? Nobody has ever died on her bus. She has never transported loads of illegal drugs (that she knows of), and she likes her job.
Just to be sure, I also interviewed some of the passengers, many of whom have been riding UTA buses for years. No complaints, or at least none to which they would admit.
After a trial run of about an hour, I concluded that riding the bus is more convenient and less dangerous than hitchhiking. This is odd, given that people in cars can be selective, while public buses have to pick up everyone.
I’ve added public buses to my list of potential transportation. But not until I can find a Burmese python service snake.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.