Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hearts express

Our commuter express routes are utterly unlike our local routes. The buses are different, the places served are different, the number of stops is different, the roads used are different, and - as many drivers will attest - the passengers are different. There is a general impression that the folks who use these routes are more demanding of quality service and have higher expectations in return for their higher fare. After all, many are professionals who work in Miami's centers of health and banking. Premium people using a premium service you might hear. With all those differences it is tempting to think of our premium passengers as being polar opposites from our local route regulars (e.g., Cold/Warm, White collar/Blue collar, Highly educated/Poorly educated). So on a day when I had a trainee in my charge, Life boarded the bus and taught me a lesson, reminding me those differences are an illusion.

We had deadheaded to downtown Miami for our afternoon tripper back north to Miramar. On SE 1st St a construction worker boarded replete in safety vest and hard hat. This had to be a mistake, surely he wanted a local Miami bus and accidentally boarded ours. First he tapped his Miami-Dade Transit pass against the farebox. This only enforced my assumption, since our bus was clearly marked Broward Transit - plus our fareboxes don't work that way. With the trainee taking over the driving duties, I had it easy directing passengers as they boarded the rapidly filling coach. The confused man was persistent so I determined where he was trying to go and sure enough our route was going near his destination in west Broward. Weary from a long day on some dusty construction site, he stuck out like a sore thumb among the sharp-dressed riders, a picture of vulnerability just trying to get home. He gave us his story of his car breaking down and being forced to take transit from Pembroke Pines to Kendall, at least a 30 mile journey. He may have first appeared to be poor at planning trips, but now it was obviously simple unfamiliarity with the transit system.

Since his bus pass wouldn't work for this trip, he reached in his pockets in search of bus fare. Empty. At this moment, the premium/local divide was about to blur.
"I have an extra trip," a passenger offered, then got up and swiped her pass for him. This wasn't a monthly pass, but a 10-trip one so it wasn't actually an extra trip, but one she would have used the next day.
Another passenger then gave her welcome: "We know you're new, so we'll look out for you. On the bus we're family." Yet another passenger voiced agreement and suddenly this was a bus of truly premium people.


After that incident of selflessness, a side note of selfish self-promotion.
I was selected Operator of the Month at the Copans garage for December 2016. I like to joke that the criteria may need to be revisited if they're picking weirdos like me, but I am thankful for the honor and hope it means I'm doing something right.


Also, the new pick starts today! The variety pack this time around is: 11, 19, 31, 36, 40, and 62. Some of our most exciting routes - and all locals. What's old is new again - a long overdue return to nights. So instead of being there when the city wakes up, now I'll be out there to tuck the county in for the night. Come ride with us...

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