Need directions?

by Radio Somewhere

I remember the first time I was on a bus in Seattle when the driver messed up. It was back in 2003 and I’d only been a regular rider for a few weeks. It was around 8pm on a Saturday, coming back to West Seattle from downtown. The various ramps coming on and off the West Seattle Bridge are a bit confusing and the driver ended up going the wrong way — and couldn’t figure out how to correct the mistake. A couple of passengers moved up front to give directions, which involved a U-turn under the bridge in a tight spot with one passenger in the front door well making sure that corner of the bus didn’t hit anything (“you’re good, you’re good”) — and all the time, I’m marveling that in other places I’ve lived, the bus driver would probably be dangling from the bridge by now.

I’ve given my share of directions to lost drivers. I live in the upper reaches of my local route, and one morning I was greeted by a very relieved looking driver who confessed that he had somehow managed to make it down to the waterfront — but had no idea where to go next. The bus was empty and he had begun to worry that he might not pick up a passenger before he was completely lost! (This was on a rather low-use version of the route which was finally deleted a few years ago.)

This is the first week of a three-times- yearly King County Metro ritual known as a Shakeup. Routes are revised, and drivers get to pick the work they want, will settle for, or get stuck with — depending on seniority. So we often get a new driver — hopefully someone who knows the route well — but not necessarily. The bus I was on tonight went totally the wrong way. No one got mad. The inconvenienced passengers just got off at the next stop to walk back — and a couple of others informed the driver of the correct route. I suppose we’re all just used to it!

Better than this morning though. My usual bus didn’t show up at all, and OneBusAway was showing very strange data, which makes me wonder if there was a bus just going around in circles — only to get stuck in one dead-end street after another:)