Threatened with Jail Time by an Orange Line Bus Driver

So yes, what you read above is what happened to me at about 7:40 in the morning on my way from the Valley to Long Beach after my daily trip on the Orange Line.

The culmination of bad design, a cold morning, a bus driver needing to assert their authority, and most importantly a righteous bicyclist.

What led up to this?

Bicycling right in front of the orange line bus on Oxnard and Buffalo, the Woodman Orange Line station.

Yeah, I know, biking in front of the orange line bus is not really safe or something I like to do for shits and giggidies on the weekends, but let me tell you why I felt the need to cut off the bus at this particular intersection.

First off, when I was a really novice bicyclist and Metro rider, at this particular stop, I would often miss the bus, usually catching nothing but the tail end of its cloud of smog.

Following the traffic laws, I’d have to wait for the walk signal to turn on. As the walk signal would turn on, the orange line bus would move forward to the bus stop, about 200 feet away from me.

In order to actually catch the bus from the very same intersection, I discovered over time that I'd have to account for a lot of things within a very small time window: 1) coming from the bicycle path to the left of the station, I have to cross the street to the right side AFTER the fast-moving bus has passed 2) making sure I got to the bus or crowd of people fast enough, through a combination of bicycling and running 3) tapping my card. 4) after tapping my card, getting back on the bike quickly enough to bike the 50 or so yards separating me from the crowd of people entering the bus as the bus stop. This has to be done within a window of about 45 seconds, which can be somewhat stressful.

That. Or missing the bus.

The consequence of missing the bus? Waiting for the next bus, which could take as long as up to 20 minutes.

20 minutes in the life of this grad student is time I could spend much better than waiting around watching a bunch of tough guys spit loogies, deflecting unwanted glances from random individuals, or listening to the sounds of frozen awkward silences between riders.

Having a bicycle, sometimes I’d be better served just biking to the North Hollywood Metro station. However, I’m never sure when the bus is actually coming, unless I already see it.

If I see an Orange Line bus with an empty bike rack, I absolutely NEED to rush as fast as I can. Why? Because I never know if the next bus is full of bikes. If the next bus if full of bikes, I can’t get on, and have to wait another 10 minutes for the next bus, grudgingly and enviously watching waves of people who got to the stop at the same time as I did, prance on in leaving the bicyclist stranded.

It feels like I'm being punished for having a bike!

Anyway that brings us to earlier this morning at 7:30 AM.

At this intersection, Oxnard and Buffalo, I was waiting at the same stoplight as the bus. Not wanting to go through that stressful 45-second ritual, I decided to go before the stoplight and the bus so I'd have plenty of time to get across the street, tap my card, bike to the stop, and actually get there.

Ahhh...made it in front of the bus!

I'm going to be on time with the bike rack empty, it's a good start to my day.

As the bus approaches me at the stop, he looks at me and honks.

Yeah, I know I fucked up, I'll take whatever verbal harangue he has to offer.

I put my bicycle on the rack.

As I enter, the bus he asks me "Why you do that?"

I responded, "Because sometimes you bus drivers don't care [if I miss the bus]"

I thought that was a reasonable enough response, he had nothing else to say. I made my way to my seat and plopped myself down for the 15 minute ride to North Hollywood.

Uneventful ride.

Then comes the exit. I take the front exit so that I can get my bike.

As I retrieve my bike from the rack, the bus driver steps down from his bus and walks up to me.

He asks me again "Why you do that?"

I tell him, trying to elaborate that "Sometimes other drivers don't seem to care if I miss the bus. I can move as fast as I can and sometimes they just don't care."

He continued, "Well, that's why we have buses that come every 5 minutes. You can’t wait 5 minutes?”

I told him, "It usually takes more than 5 minutes, and I don't like being late to things, I gotta be different places."

He says "You're lucky there wasn't a Sheriff here or I would have you cited for $250 dollars"

Infuriated at the fact that $250 is hard for me to come by, remembering a blog about the middle-class habitii of bus drivers, and recalling one bus driver’s conversation about how some drivers made up to $100,000, I fired back with a mounting annoyed fury in my voice, “do you ride the bus?”

He didn't answer.

Instead he attempted to assert himself, he said, "Next time you do that on MY bus, I will report you to a Sherriff and if you don't pay that fine, you'll serve some jail time."

Completely thrown off by his unwillingness to listen, and losing my sense of rationality, I told him "Man, fuck you."

He said, "Try me then next time" as he walked off.

"What the fuck is wrong with you, making $100,000 a year and trying to take $250 bucks from me? What the fuck is wrong with you?" I yelled at him as he made his way stage left.

He called off in the distance, "Try it!"

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