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

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today's vocabulary lesson: APP AR

I want to write in the morning. All last year I was able to steal a half-hour or so before I started work and knock out something about the day's ride in. Now I can't, and I'm having some trouble adjusting.

Trying to be creative or at least coherent late at night just doesn't have the same feel.

Today, for instance, I jotted down some notes riding to work. Something like this:


Sometimes you get so deep into your personal world, so immersed in a book, that you forget where you are. And then you realize something is out of place. It is like waking from a dream. What's real, and what's the dream? A fog slowly lifts.

The bus isn't moving. That was what was wrong. I looked up from my book and quickly identified where we were stopped. It wasn't one of the route's timing points. There was no one getting off the bus. It was just me and the three other people who had been on the bus when I boarded. I tried looking outside, but I didn't see anyone.

Several anxious minutes passed with each actual second. Is the driver even on the bus? I couldn't see the driver from my vantage point in the back of the bus. Did she walk across the street to get a cup of coffee? Not likely, I decided. We were on the wrong side of Watt Avenue. Damn, this was weird.

But then, without a word, the driver put the bus in gear and pulled back into traffic.

I think I know what happened, and I'm quite impressed.

The other day I was reading RT's Glossary of Transit Terms and discovered something new. I was already aware of the concept of "Time Points":
A designated location and time that a bus or LR vehicle can arrive before -- but not leave earlier than -- the stated time as indicated in the route schedule.
Often in the evenings, the buses will spend several minutes at timing points, waiting to catch up with the schedule.

What I discovered in the glossary was the concept of APP AR
An abbreviation for "approximate arrival" time point. RT's operating policy permits driver discretion to depart these time points up to three minutes earlier than specific time noted in the schedule.
This rule, of course, explains why RT drivers and the 321-BUSS people warn riders that you have to be at a stop a minimum of three minutes early if you want to be sure to catch the bus.

In the little more than a year I've been riding to and from work, I've never had a driver invoke the APP AR rule. I've had a driver stop outside a Starbucks and rush in and out with a coffee. I've had more than one driver stop and rush into a convenience store to get a snack or a soda. I've had drivers take potty breaks. But never have I experienced waiting to catch up with the APP AR.

I've decided this is one really dedicated driver.

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