A Fair Response to “An Ode to Riding the Metro Bus”

Last week, I read an article published in The Buffalo News that was titled “An Ode to Riding the Metro Bus,” written by Buzz News Columnist Mary Kunz Goldman. As someone who’s been riding the NFTA-Metro bus for essentially my entire life, it’s obviously a topic that piques my interest and I was curious to read the piece. Goldman’s piece highlights some of the positives of taking the metro bus, while realistically pointing out that the Buffalo transit system isn’t perfect.

As someone who’s been taking the bus daily for years, I really felt that this article just… didn’t do enough for me. I wanted to write my own piece, not just on the positives of the bus, but also on the negative aspects which Goldman really just touches the surface of.

I’ll start with the positives.

As someone who is car-free, the bus is a great option. Our bus system in the Buffalo-Niagara region can take you around the city, out to places like East Aurora and Niagara Falls, even offering a downtown express to/from the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport.

It’s relatively cheap, just $2 per trip (comparatively, NYC’s MTA is $2.50, while Toronto’s TTC is $3.00). You can get a day pass for $5, or a monthly pass for $75 (compare: Pittsburgh’s monthly pass for one zone is $97.50). This is significantly cheaper than what it’d cost me to pay for a car, gas AND downtown parking, and I always buy a monthly pass, saving me $5/month or more.

The bus is my lifeline. It’s how I get to work and home every day. It’s how I traveled to Buffalo State when I was still in college, and how I got to City Honors back in high school. The majority of bus drivers are cheerful and friendly, though like anything else, you’ll get a sour one once in a while. But I’ve got my standard driver that gets me downtown every morning, and we chat over our common interest of hockey, or my regular driver home every evening.

The bus has given me a chance to reconnect with a cousin that I used to see only twice a year or so at extended family gatherings. It does foster a sense of community sometimes; you ride with the same people every day and you’re bound to start talking. It’s handy in the winter – I never have to worry about driving, regardless of the conditions. I know it may take longer and may not be as convenient, but I’ll get where I’m going.

But the Buffalo News article doesn’t really touch some of the negative aspects of taking the bus. I’m not intending to scare anyone away with what I’m writing here, but I feel like it’s important to showcase both sides of things here.

So what have I seen over my years of riding the bus? Let’s see.

There was the gentleman on the Metro Rail who glared and screamed at me for literally no reason. We weren’t the only people in the car, but it was a sparse crowd, enough for people to realize that I was uncomfortable. I was 17 and not one person said a thing to him.

Or how about the gentleman on the Elmwood bus who was clearly very high on drugs, so much so that he passed out sitting next to me? Or the man on the Broadway bus who, visibly drunk, sat drinking out of a paper bag and was then kicked off the bus?

What about that Sunday afternoon when I was on my way home from a show at Shea’s, and two men in the back of the bus were flipping open a lighter for fun? I sure felt safe then.

How about the time I sat in the back of the bus and a high school student next to me caused a ruckus? This kid… he threw an empty plastic bottle towards the front of the bus and it hit a gentleman in the head. He proceeded to race to the back of the bus, picked up this kid and screamed in his face — while managing to push the kid literally in my lap. I’ll never sit in the back corner of the bus again, thank you very much.

Or that day when my boyfriend and I both hopped the bus downtown (one of his first adventures with the Metro, I might add) and a woman decided to stand in the middle of the aisle, screaming about — what else? — her underwear. I kid you not. Other misadventures: people singing out loud and loudly, riders vomiting without warning, girls sitting on their boyfriend’s lap for no apparent reason…

I can also count numerous times where buses either a) showed up incredibly late (we’re talking 7-15 minutes late), b) just never showed up at all, without warning or explanation, or c) drove right past you without even considering stopping to pick you up. Those are always fun times, especially if you’re headed to work or class and have to tell your boss “Sorry I’m late, the bus drove right past me….” and hope they can believe you.

Now, I’m not naive. I’m sure things like this happen in every city across the world with public transit. I just think it’s important than if you’re going to produce an “ode” to the NFTA-Metro, you have to cover both sides of it. As someone who’s been riding the bus for years, I can vow that it is a great thing and there are many, many positives… but you can’t ignore the downfalls.

Every day is definitely an adventure, I’ll give you that much.

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5 thoughts on “A Fair Response to “An Ode to Riding the Metro Bus”

  1. I agree with a lot of your points! I think one thing that I feel like she touched on, but didn’t quite grasp is how the bus can be a great leveling influence. She mentioned that it gives “that community feel”. I always love riding the Elmwood bus after work, where you see the business men w/ their briefcases with the women who literally counted out her last nickels and dimes to get to work, with the guy who’s been drink since 10 am, with the kids coming home from school. I think society would be better if more people rode the bus, b/c when you’re alone in a car, it’s so much easier to pretend all those other aspects of society don’t exist, ya know? I feel much more a part of society as a whole in the 4 years I’ve been car free. Not sure if that makes any sense, lol

    Also, I cannot stand when they drive past you at the stop. What is up with that? It’s infuriating!!

    • I think that’s a great point, and it definitely makes sense to me. People from all different walks of life ride the bus. It brings people who may otherwise have NO interaction together and brings them outside of themselves to look at the society as a whole.

      And right?! It’s understandable if the bus is full to bursting, but even then, the driver should stop and politely inform the person that they just don’t have space, not just drive past. But when it’s clearly a bus with room on it, and it just drives right past you…. come on now.

  2. Very well written. There are times I had to call my job and inform them I’d be late because the bus was late, or was full to bursting and had no more room.

  3. Heck, tonight I witnessed three robbery suspects run onto the bus, which was stopped by the BPD shortly thereafter. Cops nabbed the trio of no-goodniks.

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