Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I am apparently the official interpreter of bus schedules among my friends

Every now and then I get a phone call to look up a bus schedule on LexTran's website from friends who are taking a bus they're unfamiliar with, or when they don't ride every day. I've also given advice at work to those who have had to take an occasional bus or planned an outing that involved teaching others how to get around on public transit.

Today one of my friends was on his way to drop off his kids at preschool and his van wouldn't start. It was one of a long list of things that they've had to deal with. Fortunately it appears to be a minor issue, but for a bit they may have to take the bus. Even I was hard-pressed to figure out how the bus runs in their neighbourhood, though, because they live between Tates Creek and Nicholasville roads, and there are no time points listed in this large section of the route. I'm still not sure I understood how it worked, as unlike most routes the Nicholasville Road bus comes up and finishes up in Tates Creek, and vice versa. That, coupled with the times that have been in place since May, running either 35 or 70 minutes depending on time of day, with some idiosyncratic time adjustments in the morning and evening, makes it harder to predeict where the bus will be when, as opposed to the old leave-the-transit-centre at the :20 an :50 minute marks during the day, and on the :20 on off-peak times. I guess it's working better in terms of making it through traffic and not missing connections, but you pretty much need a schedule, ready access to it (some people carry packets of schedules with them; I keep the ones I use often on my smartphone), and the experience to figure it all out. And there's odd things to know, like how on Saturdays Richmond Road only runs every 70 minutes, but other routes such as Tates Creek and Nicholasville run every 35, so you have to pick the right bus from Fayette Mall so you don't sit down at the station for an inordinate long time and let a transfer expire. Or how some stops only are serviced during the morning, others in the evening, such as on the Woodhill route, or that after 9 pm some buses run as combo routes. Then there are the connectors that never come downtown.

Fortunately I know a lot of those ins and outs on the routes I ride most frequently. But man, it's like dancing on ice sometimes, and I think there must be a simpler way. (Although don't get me wrong, they do a lot of stuff right, and it's a complex system to deal with.)

Oh, and here's a tip for those of you in Lexington who take the bus in winter: Some bus stop signs have snowflakes on them. They are serviced if the system goes on its snow plan. Those without snowflakes are not. Fortunately my home and work stops are both on the snow plan. But some people have to walk quite a ways to get to one that the bus will come to.

No comments: