Thursday, July 5, 2018

Traffic floe

School was out on this Friday, but we'd still be at University. I had an 11 hour shift on the #2, covering University Drive from Coral Springs down to Miami Gardens. It takes about 2 hours by bus, and the driver is usually the only one who does the full length.

This driver was out in the bus yard at 5 a.m., looking over the coach with a flashlight to make sure the windows were intact and tires inflated. The annunciator wasn't working and the PA was nonfunctional, so my throat was going to get a workout today as I announced stops the Old School way. Everything looked road-ready and off I headed for a lengthy deadhead to the West Terminal.

The folks I pick up on the first trip north are either getting off a night shift or on their way to their own early-morning sign-in. The wide street is pleasantly empty at that time.

This being a weekday, the University Breeze was also running. That limited stop route has the same northern terminus as the local, but goes even further south to the Golden Glades station. I chatted with the Breeze driver during our layover and made my pullout five minutes before his scheduled departure. He finally caught up with us just before Atlantic, but we somehow kept pace with each other all the way down to McNab. After that I never saw him again.

The sun had supposedly risen soon after we started this trip, but you never would have known it from the heavy gray overcast. Laying over at the West Terminal midway through the trip, another driver came over the radio requesting police assistance. He could hardly be heard over the chaotic yelling in the background. These sort of incidents are unusual in the morning, as most people on the bus have a reason to be there. The driver soon called back to cancel his request since the troublemaker had exited.

Another quirk about this bus is its saggy rack. Even at full height, the bike rack hangs so low that the wheel bracket hits the street and can't swing freely over the bike tire. Repeatedly, cyclists make the same lifted palm gesture asking me to raise the bus. 'That's as high as she goes,' I tell them, and we figure out a way to get everything secure.

A few hours into the shift, the morning rush has abated and we approach Stirling Road. The last pasture on this street sticks out like the anomaly it is, surrounded by continuous development. It's a prime corner and it's obvious the dozen cows grazing there are mostly for tax purposes until the right project comes along. They don't seem to mind the flurry of human activity as they chew their cud under a sober house billboard with a smiling young woman and the headline "I got better at..."

In Davie, we picked up Douglas at his usual stop. He was looking for work today, filling out applications and keeping positive.
"I do opinion polls, so I'm a Research Scientist!" He joked.
When he said he's also a sign waver, I suggested he use a fancy term for that as well, perhaps "Placard Exhibitionist" or "Marquee Exhibitor".

This was during election season and West Regional Library was an early voting site, so a massive crop of campaign signs had taken over the grounds there.

Our final trip south also coincided with lunchtime at the most congested part of the route. After leaving West Terminal and getting back on University, the interchange with I-595 becomes an impenetrable log jam of bumper to bumper traffic for a couple miles. To make the slow crawl worse, the bus schedule is stuck in the 1990s and only allows half as much time as needed to emerge on the other side. The faint whine of sirens somewhere nearby gradually grew louder. Finally, the crying ambulance appeared in the middle of the stopped river of vehicles, steadily plowing its way through accommodating cars like an ice breaker in Siberia.

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