People watching

Where I sit offers a good view of a busy tram stop. Good people watching. Evening is coming on, but the day has been warm and the night will be pleasant.

Out one window I watched a woman, old and bent, age reducing her to perhaps four feet tall, climb onto a tram with deliberate slowness. It was not easy for her to do, but life is not easy, and that’s no excuse to stop trying. She had her life to get on with. Then I glanced out another window just in time to see a young couple, perhaps in their late teens, dash through traffic and hurdle the metal fence meant to discourage people from dashing through traffic. Carefree and completely trusting of bodies that have never failed them, they laughed and joked as they flirted with the autos.

The old woman was once that way, too, and one day, if they are lucky, the kids will be like the grandmother, watching crazy fool kids who think they are immortal.

4 thoughts on “People watching

  1. Speaking of trams (and indirectly other public transportation), there was a recent letter to the editor in the Albuquerque Journal that said the city’s bus system couldn’t count as REAL public transportation unless there were schedules posted at the bus stops. This writer’s objection wasn’t that the buses don’t have a schedule (they do, and the schedules are given in widely available brochures and also posted on the Internet), but that the schedules aren’t posted at the bus stops.

    I don’t recall seeing schedules posted at the tram stops in Prague. One simply waited at the stop, and sooner or later (usually sooner), a tram would come.

    Admittedly, on most bus routes in Albuquerque, the buses don’t come as often as the trams come in Prague, but so long as someone is waiting at a bus stop during the bus system’s hours of operation, that person will eventually be able to get on a bus. And during peak hours, some of the Albuquerque buses actually do come as often as the Prague trams.

    Yes, Albuquerque’s bus system isn’t nearly as practical and efficient as Prague’s trams, but I can’t see that not having schedules posted at the bus stops causes the bus system to be unworthy. It seems to me to be a totally ridiculous reason to find fault with the system.

  2. Another source of confusion in Albuquerque: Some buses run all day, some run late into the evening but others don’t, and some only run during “commuter” hours — a few hours in the morning and afternoon. Exactly when, of course, varies by route and who knows what other factors. Also, some of the bus routes change depending upon the time of day.

    Also, it would be nice if the bus stops, at least the bigger ones with shelters, could post a system map or at least show nearby connections.

    Also, some of the bus routes are not well connected, leaving folks running across a busy avenue through traffic to try to catch their connection before it goes over the horizon and they have to wait, 20, 30, 40, ? minutes for the next bus.

    It’s sort of like the problem Bill Bryson complained about in Wales, where Cymbria Transport fiendishly planned things so that their bus always got to the train station several minutes after the train had departed.

  3. Actually, if one knows what to look for, one can find some information about bus schedules. Route number signs in turquoise are for “regular” buses that pretty much run all day, Monday through Saturday. Some also run on Sundays, and a note to that effect is in smaller print at the bottom of the number sign. Coral signs indicate “commuter” or “express” buses, and there’s a bit of smaller print below the route number telling what hours that particular bus operates. One still can’t tell exactly what time a particular bus will arrive, but at least the signs let people know when waiting for a bus is likely to result in actually getting one.

  4. The “if one knows what to look for” is a big if. In Prague, at every tram stop is a schedule and a full listing of all the stops the tram visits and how long the ride will take. In the metro stations are maps that show the entire transit system, and I think the maps are in most of the trams as well.

    When a tram route is temporarily altered, the modified schedule is posted in yellow.

    If you are a visitor to Albuquerque, the system is completely opaque, except that route 66 follows Route 66. You can’t just hop on a bus heading the right direction and be confident that you will have the information necessary to reach your destination.

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