How to RTB (Again)

Writer's Note: People tend to believe there are no rules on transit. Well, there are. Most are unwritten, common knowledge. Others are inherent, kindly practiced without complaint by thousands each day.

Let's get some age-old (and not-to-be-forgotten, if I have any say) transit edicts straight, you and I. First, there ARE rules to riding that you should be familiar with, and abide by if you have any hope of becoming a professional, thereby truly "honored" professional passenger. No matter how much our management tries to erase them, these rules have been honed over a century of our service to Portlanders. Here are the oldest, most honored transit rules my decade of service have taught me.

BE READY TO BOARD (RTB) so you can RTB (Ride the Bus). You're likely at your bus stop five or more minutes prior to my arrival. In this interval I expect you to put aside your social media or whatever jerks your internet chain, to achieve the following:

1) Know when the bus is coming, by using that powerful computer in your hand to track my bus.

2) Get your fare ready, whether it be Hop Pass, credit card, or that ancient and fading fast standby, CASH. 

3) Prepare your belongings by placing them at the bus stop pole, NOT 20 feet away, scattered haphazardly about needing to be collected into half a dozen garbage bags. Don't expect me to wait if you're 20 yards away yakking with buddies, expecting me to know (via osmosis perhaps? which is NOT an acceptable form of communication) you need MY bus. If you're not ready, standing at the stop when I arrive, you can expect my doors to close and my bus to move away once my traffic light turns green. This is especially true if the bus is on the Downtown Portland Transit Mall. If I fail to adhere to this rule, the bus operator behind me (and their cargo) is highly inconvenienced by my trying to please YOU, the unprepared who would be the first to berate me if I'm late even if YOU are part of the reason I am so.

4) BUSES DO NOT WAIT FOR PEOPLE; PEOPLE WAIT FOR BUSES. If you're running late to your stop, it's a good idea to be looking over your shoulder, or above cellphone level, to see if the bus is coming. Simply because you're in the vicinity of a bus stop doesn't mean the operator can tell you're intending to ride. Simply holding out your hand (with a light attached, if it's nighttime) is enough of a signal. Communication is key, unless you want us to roll right by you.

5) Once the doors close, expect the bus to move. You not being RTB does NOT dictate when the bus moves away from the stop. Once fare is paid you are expected to hasten to a seat, or find a hand hold to secure yourself. I take great pains to gently leave a stop, and to watch when you have reached a spot on my bus where there are places for you to grab onto before I release the brakes. If you are elderly, or physically challenged I will wait for you to safely find your spot before rolling. Please don't stand there, fussing that wallet back into your pocket or bag; please do so after you sit. I won't touch the accelerator before the bus has rolled a good 10 or more feet. This ensures a smooth launch from a stop. I won't wait while you play EENY-MINEY-MO on your phone. 

6) TURN YOUR AUDIO OFF! Including ALL sounds. A bus is NOT a Light Rail Vehicle. Your bus operator is a very busy person, folks. I share the same space as you, in a 40' long echo chamber. I can hear the lowest volume at the back of the bus as easily as that just behind me. I am constantly listening to my 40-foot machine and also everything outside and around it. When your device adds other noises, it takes me out of my "zone". My training and subsequent decade of experience has me zooming along at the speed of dark in a professional trance. When your artificial noise interrupts my flow, it distracts me. Your personal conversations are white noise, easily filtered out. When artificial sound is introduced into my mix, it interferes. It's truly a pisser when a passenger whines "my other bus drivers don't care if I play audio, why should YOU?!?" First, because I politely asked you. If I allow YOU to play audio, then others think it's okay; soon there are several others blasting their own crap. Don't argue like a four-year-old in full tantrum. Just do it, aight? Buy a cheap set of headphones for cryin' out loud.

7) Read the signs above the front door, and OBEY them. They're there for a reason. Not mere suggestions, but actual safety-related rules. I use that word specifically to get your attention, because it's usually distracted by that device in your hands rather than focused on any form of common sense. (If THAT'S even a thing any more.)

8) Do NOT exit, then cross the street in FRONT of a bus. The sign above the front door (did you know they are there?) bluntly states this. If you have to ask WHY, I worry about your diminished capacity for common sense and personal safety. But hey, I'll tell you anyway, in hopes the message resonates. BECAUSE: motorists behind a bus think it's vital they get around us at any opportunity, everyone else's safety be damned. Doesn't matter if the stop is at a pedestrian crossing with double-yellow lines prohibiting passing, Billy Beamer is gonna zip past to race to that red light ahead. If you take one step past the bus Billy cannot see through or around just as he decides to blast past me, you gonna die. Get it now? Just calmly wait for me to lumber on, then traffic can see you intend to cross the street. If you're lucky, Molly Mercedes will stop (as traffic law dictates, but is often ignored) so you can safely cross.

9) If you don't know how to open the back door, watch people who can. Take a break from Twitfeeder or whatever and pay attention. First, the bus comes to a complete STOP. The Operator will then flip the door handle, which activates a green light above the back door and unlocks it. There are simple instructions on the door, usually between the handles, which read "Touch Here". Notice the word touch is not the same as push. Sometimes, depending on the model of bus, if you simply place your hands an inch or so in front of the word "Here", the door will open. Screaming "BACK DOOR!" at the operator only irritates us. No, we won't leave our seat, walk back and open the door, then hold your wee hand as you walk across the street. 

10) When a bus (finally) reaches the end-of-line stop, give us a break. We will usually turn the bus off and take one. This is not a signal for you to attempt boarding. We have to scour the bus for lost and found items and trash. Then we're gonna go pee, folks. Stretch a bit, walk about, check our own phone, and breathe easily a few minutes. We will gladly serve you in a few minutes, so please be patient. It doesn't matter if we arrived five minutes after we were supposed to leave. Until management finds a way to replace human operators with artificial intelligence, humans all have needs. A 90-minute stint in the seat may seem "easy" to you, but it certainly is not.

* * * * *

Whew! There are other points I should have also covered, but these are the basics. It's amazing that I should have to repeat myself every few years, or go into such detail. Please pass this along to anyone who rides a bus or light rail vehicle. Perhaps an emphatic "DUH!" should be added afterward, but only to those who deserve it. My thanks once again to the thousands of "professional passengers" out there who make our lives easier.



  1. A bit cheeky in your delivery.

    1. I liked it, sometimes we need cheeky to see a point.


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