For bus riders, getting there is usually considerably less than half the fun. You wait for the bus, then board and ignore your fellow passengers as you wait for the trip to be over. You’ve got somewhere to be, and transit is the dull means to the end.
This is how I rode the bus before I started this column, but now I find myself exhibiting strange behaviour, like riding for the hell of it.
I take a bus from downtown to the transfer purgatory that is Hurdman Station, where I watch some riders sitting stone bored in the heat, others springing off one bus and sprinting to catch the next. Time spent between buses at Hurdman is either too long or too short.
I’m waiting for a chance to ride one of OC Transpo’s new toys. I just miss one of those nifty double deckers heading for Tunney’s Pasture, but manage to catch one of our new Orion VII diesel-electric hybrids.
The hybrids, which are expected to use about 25 per cent less fuel, have been gradually joining the fleet all summer.
So this is the bus of the future. The ceilings are noticeably higher, and the ride seems quieter. It’s air conditioned and so far free of graffiti. Nice. The Orion VII’s speedier acceleration takes an older woman by surprise as she tries to squeeze into a seat. She lurches and stumbles, but a quick-thinking nearby passenger helps her stay on her feet and get seated.
Up front, a mother with a stroller and Olympian patience restrains her multi-tasking toddler, who brings us to an unscheduled extra stop just before LeBreton by pulling on that irresistible yellow cord. Mom apologizes to the driver, but the little guy’s helping to recharge the bus’s lithium ion battery, which gets its juice from braking.
If I’m growing slightly nerdy about buses, and I think the accusation’s valid, I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to the real transit enthusiasts. YouTube is packed with videos of various OC Transpo vehicles in action, many of which can be credited by prolific bus-watchers emac4ever, new flyer800 and breeze646.
On the OC Transpo Bus Fan Club group on Yahoo, they’re trying to count the number of hybrid buses in service, trading tips on catching a double decker, and reporting sightings of the elusive bus 8792, the oldest bus in the fleet, last of the GM-made buses put into service in 1987.
I am clearly a Stevie-come-lately to the bus-spotting game.