Another one rides the bus
October 9, 2012 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What's the correct way to ride the bus and get off at a certain stop?

Kind of a dumb question, but I need to ride the city bus (in Seattle) and don't have much experience with it. I rode it once and muddled my way through it.

What I had trouble with is indicating to the driver where I wanted to get off. A display at the front of the bus said what the next stop was. I pushed the little ribbon thing when the one I wanted came up and we did stop there. But I felt like the driver and other passengers were glaring at me like I did something wrong. Maybe it was just my imagination but I do want to make sure I get it right next time.

Any idea what I did wrong? Maybe somebody else pushed the ribbon before I did, so I was annoyingly redundant? Maybe I pushed it too soon after my stop name displayed, and came across too overzealous? What's the normal or polite way to use that thing? Any chance I misread the display somehow? I feel completely clueless.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're doing it right.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:14 AM on October 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you did everything correctly. Maybe you're just oversensitive since you feel like you don't know what you're doing?
posted by barnoley at 9:15 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, that's right.

Also, "being glared at by the other passengers" is pretty much synonymous with "riding the bus" just about everywhere I've ridden a bus.
posted by gauche at 9:16 AM on October 9, 2012 [57 favorites]

There's no special etiquette. When your stop is the next stop you press the stop ribbon or yank the stop chain. You can't double-press the stop indicator; it will only ding once per stop, no matter how many times you press it.

You may be imagining the dirty looks, but even if you aren't, obnoxious strangers are as much a bus commuting hazard as potholes are a bike commuting hazard. Pay them little mind.
posted by zjacreman at 9:17 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks! Yeah, I guess I'm just paranoid since it's an unfamiliar setting.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:18 AM on October 9, 2012

But I felt like the driver and other passengers were glaring at me like I did something wrong.

I suppose it's possible that the bus routinely stops along its route without the signal being pressed. I don't see how you'd know that without risking missing your stop, so by all means, press the wire. Whatever tiny sound it makes can't be that irritating. People on the bus can be grumpy because they're on the bus.
posted by gladly at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Disclaimer: my experience is mainly in Chicago, I have never ridden a Seattle bus.

Here, the stop request cord only 'dings' the first time someone pulls it, so it shouldn't annoy anyone if someone else had already triggered it.

People routinely pull the cord very early, like as soon as the bus has left the previous stop. I don't think there is anything rude about this. It is certainly preferable to waiting until the last minute so the driver has to cut across traffic or slam on the brakes to make the stop.

It is polite to exit using the rear doors of the bus, so that if there are people waiting to get on, they can begin boarding immediately (using the front doors) without having to wait for you to get off first. But this is certainly not a rule that is universally observed (at least around here) and it's not a big deal to exit at the front if you see that no one is waiting to board, or if the bus is crowded and it would take much longer to push your way through to the rear doors.

Sometimes people will get annoyed if you don't get off when the bus stops at stop A, and then pull the cord and get off at stop B, where stops A and B are very close to one another—for example, there are two bus stops near my apartment that are literally on the same (short) block. I tend to think the people who get visibly annoyed are the ones who are being rude here, not the people choosing to get off at a closer stop vs walking a little further, and that they should take up their frustration with the transit agency placing stops so closely rather than fellow passengers who take advantage of the stops as they are currently placed, but I may be in the minority position on this one.
posted by enn at 9:21 AM on October 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

I'm not super comfortable on the bus yet (just moved back to the Bay Area, have taken Muni a few times)'s just awkward at first. I get so nervous about missing my stop, especially when I'm in an area I'm not super familiar with. Also many people are weird/cranky/tired/rude. You get used to it after a while. Try to watch what other people do when they get off.
posted by radioamy at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2012

I ride the bus (in Portland) all the time and can tell when a newbie gets on. They tend to want to look around at everyone, which, of course, would invite people to stare back at you. Most people who ride regularly will have their bus face on anyway, which would look as if they're glaring at you. It's just bus face.

Other than that, sounds like you're doing it right. The best thing is to get on, don't make a fuss about finding a seat, and have something to focus on (book, music, etc.).
posted by perhapses at 9:29 AM on October 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

If you're young and able-bodied best to get up a few seconds early so you don't "pull the cord" and then when the bus stops take forever to get your stuff, negotiate your way out and up to the door while everyone watches on. People do get annoyed at that as they just want to get home or to work and off the damn bus. Also you should use the back doors to exit the bus and not the front doors, which are for people to enter, if applicable to the model of buses in Seattle. Leaving from the front holds up the line. Those are the only things I could think you did "wrong" and they are pretty mild offenses! I don't take the bus very much, living on a subway line, but when I do there's plenty of thousand yard stares but no active glaring. From the passengers anyway, bus drivers are always narky and unpleasant.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:37 AM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: The "enter at the front, leave at the back" rule is interesting. I hadn't considered that and did exit at the front of the bus. Our buses are the long folding kind, like two regular buses joined with an accordion piece in the middle. If I'm in the front segment, is it still appropriate to exit at the rear, which is further away than the front door?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:40 AM on October 9, 2012

It sounds like you did everything correctly.

You pull the cord before your stop. If the bus you're on actually displays the upcoming stop (which I really loved when I was in Vancouver this summer; all cities should do this!), then pulling the cord when the appropriate stop name is displayed is appropriate.

As for possibly pulling the cord too early, I don't think that was likely an issue in your case but, if there is a significant distance between stops, I find that it's often a good idea to wait until you're close to your stop to pull the cord. I've found that drivers will occasionally get distracted and forget that someone requested the stop if the cord was pulled too far from the stop.

As for "enter at the front, exit at the back" on the accordion buses, my experience is that these buses have two (or three) "back" doors -- one in the front segment and one or two in the rear segment. Using either of these doors should be fine. Exiting from the main, front door is usually not cool unless the bus is super packed and you're already standing/sitting near the front door. In this case, exiting out the front is likely more convenient for everyone than trying to force your way to the back of an overcrowded bus.
posted by asnider at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

The "enter at the front, leave at the back" thing actually varies place to place. In some cities, people are really rigid and adamant about it. But some cities they don't care, and some cities there's actually a different pattern that you need to follow. (In Pittsburgh, for instance, you pay when you get off on certain bus lines at certain times, and so the pattern is sometimes actually enter-back-leave-front.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sometimes people will get annoyed if you don't get off when the bus stops at stop A, and then pull the cord and get off at stop B, where stops A and B are very close to one another—for example, there are two bus stops near my apartment that are literally on the same (short) block

Agreed, I've seen this on a route I took daily. Or they get annoyed if you meant to get off at B, but pulled the cord too early and the bus has to stop at A even though nobody wants to get off there. Still, just ignore them; it's one of the costs of public transit!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:53 AM on October 9, 2012

I believe enter front leave back thing is pretty common, because it provides for the best flow - I did some Googling and that is also apparently the custom in Seattle. The accordion-style busses generally have several doors. You should try to move back when you get on the bus in order to allow more people to get on easily after you. Of course if it's full and there is only a seat towards the front, grab it! But it's best to try to make your way toward the door a block or so ahead of time so you can hop right off when the bus stops.
posted by radioamy at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2012

I live in Seattle. Sounds like you did everything right. There's nothing wrong with leaving at the front of the bus here, especially since you sometimes have to pay when you get off the bus instead of on.

And yeah, people will glare at you on the bus. Don't take it personally.
posted by lunasol at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2012

Response by poster: ...especially since you sometimes have to pay when you get off the bus instead of on.

Is that so? How would I know when I'm riding at one of these times? That's a mistake I would not want to make.

Thanks for all the great answers, by the way. You've all been a big help!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2012

I live in Seattle, ride the bus every day, and I can confirm that you did everything right.

Also, what lunasol says is not entirely true anymore here. As of the last month or so you now must always pay your fare when entering the bus, and you always must enter the bus using the front door. There is no ride-free area anymore so everyone always pays at the beginning of their ride, rather than sometimes paying at the end.

And in terms of which part of the bus to exit, it depends on how crowded the bus is and whether people are waiting to to board the bus at your stop. If there is no one waiting to board then you can exit at the front. If there are people waiting to board then exit towards the back.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just to clarify what lunasol said, in case you don't know about it, when you're going toward downtown you pay as you enter, and when you're going away from downtown you pay as you leave. If your bus doesn't go through downtown you pay as you enter.

Exit by whichever door is closest, though if you see a huge mob of people waiting to get on, the back door is your best bet. Pull the cord when your stop is coming up, not at the last second. If you are in a really unfamiliar place, you can also ask the driver to help you not miss your stop; I've done that occasionally.

On non-preview, disregard what I said about paying as you enter or leave, since apparently that doesn't happen anymore.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2012

The "pay as you leave" thing is NOT the case anymore. That rule only existed when there was a ride-free zone (downtown). As of this month, the ride-free zone is gone so you always pay when you enter. You can confirm this by boarding at the front of the bus where you will see a sign on the little payment box thing that says "pay as you enter" and how much the fare is.

(also, don't worry, the bus drivers in Seattle are usually not assholes and if you tell them it's been a while since you rode, they'll understand your confusion)
posted by joan_holloway at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ha, yeah, fellow bus rider here. Being on the bus is like entering another world. It really is the world of the street, and for us middle-class normals it's a totally different thing from what we're used to. For the most part it's not dangerous, just annoying, and you'll get used to the scene eventually.

A good percentage of bus travelers are challenged in various ways - disabled, mentally ill, high, homeless, etc. They may not be too good at following social norms. They're kind of like children that way. It bothered me at first, but not so much anymore, because they're clueless but not hostile. Anyone who is well-groomed will be a subject of some amazement on the bus. You may get comments on your clothes, but it'll usually be complimentary. Expect to be engaged in conversation. There are lonely old people who will treat the chance to chat with a shiny young person as the highlight of their day. It doesn't cost anything, so I usually oblige...

I've been hassled on the bus, but it's rare. This probably happens more to women than men. If there's ever a problem, you can speak with the driver.

Now that I'm comfortable with them, I'm tending toward prefering the "weirdos" to the commuters. Commuters can be very uptight. I once rang the bell too soon, and when the driver stopped, I had to apologize and let him know I wanted the next one. Somebody in back yelled out, "Dumbshit!" He was the actual dumbshit in that situation. It's okay to make a mistake, especially if it's your first time on the route, it's dark outside, or whatever.

By far, most drivers are helpful. There are the occasional nutjobs, though. I once had a driver who was a speeder, and he would jam on the brakes. People were flying in the air. When he dropped me at my stop, I put one foot down and felt the bus moving while my other leg was still on the step. The guy almost tore me in half as he sped away. Another guy would accuse me every day of putting the wrong change in the meter thing. I figured he was trying to take advantage of the fact that I didn't have a buss pass. I filed a complaint, and the bus company sent me some free passes. If you ever have a problem, write down the bus number, route, and time you rode the bus so you can make a formal complaint.

And have fun. :)
posted by cartoonella at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2012

I ride the bus in Seattle almost every day. Ideas for 'doing it wrong' related to getting off the bus:

In the Seattle Transit Tunnel, no regular rider pulls the cord as the bus will stop at each tunnel stop no matter what. Sometimes someone will pull the cord anyway but I have not noticed glaring or other negative behavior when this happens.

It's standard to give the driver plenty of notice-I have seen glaring when someone pulls the cord at the last possible moment before the stop. This may have happened to you: in my experience, the next stop display is not always timely or indeed accurate.

It's standard to be prepared to get off the bus before it stops-I have seen glaring when someone waits until the bus is already stopped to begin gathering their things and makes everyone sit there for thirty seconds.

Most likely, though, you were imagining the glaring.
posted by Kwine at 10:31 AM on October 9, 2012

Riding the bus is easy, you're doing it right. The rest of it, that's just people on the bus doing what people on the bus do.

The glare, that's the 500 mile stare you get when you're into your podcast or thinking about what to fix for dinner, or plotting the destruction of your manager. Most people zone out in some way on the bus, and you might just be seeing that. More prevalent at the end of the workday than at the beginning.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:31 AM on October 9, 2012

One other thing: when you get on the bus, walk as far to the back as possible. This will put you close to the 'preferred exit'.

Standing close to the front inhibits the flow. And when it's rush hour, it gives the bus driver the wrong impression that the bus is completely full. There's nothing worse than seeing a half-full bus pass up your stop because everyone is crowding near the front.

If you tried talking to the bus driver, that might explain some of the scowls. But mostly, the world of public transportation looks about ten times meaner than the Real World. People disengage with the world to try and create some pseudo-privacy, so they just look grouchy. As someone who moved from a car-centric population to public transit, that took the longest to accept.

In Car World, everyone is much cheery and engaged with their fellow man. Because they spend so much more time alone and recharging, they're happier to deal with the small talk. If you tried to do it every day during your commute, that same person would hit a breaking point.
posted by politikitty at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I ride the bus every day in Seattle. You now pay as you enter and exit at the back. This is how it is on every bus. Some bus drivers are cool with people still exiting at the front but I've seen others yell at people about it, so save yourself some grief and use any one of the non-front doors. The glaring is just bus face. Generally speaking, nobody wants to talk to anyone else on the bus, that's just how it is. Especially at commuter times. Also nobody wants to make eye contact either.

Take a seat if you can, don't stand in the stairwells if you can't get a seat and don't put your crap on the seat next to you. People will glare at anyone taking up more than one seat but rarely ask anyone to move their stuff. People will also glare if you eat stinky food, have loud cell phone conversations or listen to music without headphones. If you're doing none of these things, don't worry about it.

Have your fare ready when you get on. Don't worry about dinging the bell more than once. It happens. (In Seattle, you can ding that thing a bajillion times. Sometimes people do that because the bus driver missed their stop. Or they're drunk/high and forgot they already rang the bell. More often it's an innocent mistake or a toddler who thinks "Fun!")

This all makes it sound kinda grim, but whatever, I love public transportation. Each route has its own quirks and feel. It can grow on you.
posted by purple_bird at 2:34 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't signal for the last stop on the route. Was on an MBTA bus where the driver yelled "That wasn't necessary!" to a young man who signaled for the last stop.
posted by 6550 at 8:26 PM on October 9, 2012

My (albeit extraordinarily limited, and also over-10-years-old) experience with Seattle bus drivers is that they are the most newb-friendly bus drivers in the country. You'd be hard to go wrong if you spoken even a bit to the Seattle bus drivers who helped me get around.
posted by colin_l at 10:54 PM on October 9, 2012

You are using a public accommodation. If you have questions, it's the bud driver's job to assist you. Ask the driver about the route, stops, schedule, etc., as long as you don't disrupt service, e.g., don't have a long conversation. You may have been observed more than glared at; the bus is boring; other passengers are the entertainment.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on October 10, 2012

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