There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Thursday, June 21, 2007

No free rides and no buttons

"There are no free rides," the driver announced.

A young man was talking on his cell phone to someone about how to get from American River College to Arden Faire Mall. He had been on the phone for several minutes when he finally walked up to the driver and asked him.

The driver explained that you take the No. 82 bus from ARC and then get off at Watt and El Camino, walk across the street to the gas station and wait for the No. 23 bus.

The young man was relaying this information when the driver announced over the bus PA system that there were no free rides today. The "Dump the Pump" day was just a promotion, a way to get people to try transit.

"No free rides," he repeated.

Life and RT are like that, I thought to myself.

Later, I was deep into my book when I heard the driver say, "Are you a student or something?"

The driver was leaning over looking at the side of his fare collection box and then up at a lady who had just taken a seat and then back to the coin window on the box.

Maybe having her hair so tightly pulled back and so severely tied in a bun made the lady angry. Or maybe it was the driver's "or something" in reference to her.

"I put in eight quarters," the lady retorted.

"It only shows four," the driver replied.

"Didn't you hear eight quarters?" the woman demanded as she made her way back to the front of the bus.

"All I heard was money," the driver said.

She rummaged in her purse and then tossed more coins in the box.

"That's what four quarters sounds like," she said as she turned to return to her seat. "You should learn that."

Fuming in her seat, the woman announced that she was going to report the driver to RT.

"Best news I've had today," the driver said.

I was left to wonder whether this was one of the benefits of the "Dump the Pump" promotion -- new riders who believe drivers count the fare by the sound of the coins falling into a bin -- or just a random annoyance.

Personally, I was more than a tad disappointed with RT's handling of the promotion.

The "Next Stop News," Regional Transit's newsletter for riders, has the details about the promotion on the front cover. And there it is in green ink, RT announces:

"Ride RT on June 21, Dump the Pump Day and pick up your "I Dumped the Pump" button on RT buses."
I was willing to give RT the benefit of the doubt when I didn't get a button as I boarded the No. 82 bus. But when I then transferred to the No. 30 bus and STILL didn't get a button. Well, that was just unacceptable.

Where's my button?

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