Humbling Transportation Brings On Some Deja Vu


I am forced by the transportation gods and fate to start taking the bus to and from work.  So is my girlfriend.  What’s interesting is that we are both getting out of the experience two diverse… experiences.  Let’s start at the beginning here.  Upon arriving in Las Vegas to seek employment among the those that tend to the rich and famous, our  vehicles have gradually ceased proper operation.  For the moment we need to hang onto cash to pay for the myriad of repairs so we are now taking public transportation.

An old propane-er… circa 1969

For me this is my first use of public transportation in over 30 years at least.  But back in the day when I did use it with any regularity I lived in Chicago and I didn’t yet have a car.  In my early pre-car teen years I did a fair amount of bus and “L” subway travel.. mostly to local movie theaters, trips to the Loop, and the occassional Cubs game.  The buses at the time were 50’s era propane-burning clanking things that rattled with each bounce, had no A/C (nasty in the humid Chicago summers), and had those windows that never would open on their slide tracks properly.  They were hot in the Summer and damn drafty in the Winter.  But we were young and no one cared.  It was cheap transportation.  The inner city had those electric buses (basically a regular bus with a long rooftop metal arm that struck the power wires that ran over the middle of the wide boulevards. 

CTA electric trolley buses showing the overhead electric wires

Those were not exhaust smelly either.  But we seldom traveled on streets with those buses as that technology was being phased out.  In fact, there were still a few of the older electric trolleys  that ran on rails in the streets in some of the older neighborhoods, but those were gone by time the 60’s were over.

Old street railed trolley... phased out in the mid to late 60's. The city just asphalted over the rails.

Those were the days that my parents and grandparents would spin their yarns about traveling on city “streetcars” for a nickel (rather akin to their tales of having to walk to school 5 miles a day, butt naked in blinding snowstorms).  In those days we were paying a whopping 25 cents a ride.  As kids we loved riding on the seat farthest back as the rear of the bus would bounce the highest on Chicago’s notorious pothole streets of the day.

Well, those days are long gone and as us boomers spin yarns to our own kids and grandkids about having to take public transportation “way back” in those unimaginable days of paper transfers and no air conditioning, we now enter the age of modern public transportation.

New, pretty, "articulated" bus.

The Vegas bus system is about as contemporary as you can get as big cities go.  The buses are clean, air conditioned… and completely decked out for the handicapped.  Buses “kneel” for the elderly to walk onboard; there’s outside mounts for bicycle riders to store their bikes; inside seats fold up to acccomodate wheel chairs.  While the driver is supposed to assist those needing the handicap services it many times becomes an event where the other riders will assist the driver.  The buses themselves are of the “articulated” type… what looks like two buses attached in the middle with a swivel-accordion bellows-looking arrangment.  Common with big city transit these days.

The bus ride itself is 2 bucks… still a great rate for a ride (5 bucks gets you a 24 hour bus ride use around the whole city).  Being from Chicago I am used to far more bus stops, but the buses here do run faster likely because of not having so many stops.  But some things don’t change; the wait for the bus, the sometimes standing room only, and the people themselves.  Other than riders using their personal electronic devices, people are still the same… maybe a little more polite and tolerant than the “olden” days.

My travel time on the bus is not as great as the trip my girlfriend takes twice a day to her job.  So I don’t get to connect with those around me.  Not that I want to, mind you.  While I enjoy people and the public in general I tend to prefer to keep to myself in situations like bus travel.  My girlfriend is an opposite.  By the time she reaches her destination she has everyone singing “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall”.

Well, we shall see how this bus travel goes.  I am a student of people and their actions… so I am sure to learn a few things, get a little deja vu of my Chicago years… and leave the driving to someone else for a while.

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