Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: Sportran Route 15, North Bossier

Sportran’s Route 15, North Bossier, runs from downtown Shreveport to Willis-Knighton Bossier and back, via Texas Street, Benton Road, and Airline Drive:

SCHEDULE ACCURACY:  The bus got to my stop at 5:51, just two minutes after the scheduled stop time.  Considering the traffic on Airline Drive, I’m impressed with that level of accuracy.

SPACING OF STOPS:  When riding a bus, one of the more aggravating things is poorly spaced stops—they seem to be every 100 feet when you don’t need them, slowing down the ride, then the only stop close to your destination is a mile away.  This wasn’t the case.  It seemed that there wasn’t an inordinate number of stops and the location of stops made sense.

TRANSFER OPTIONS:  There are multiple options to transfer to the other Bossier routes, #14 Barksdale and #16 East Bossier.

POINTS OF INTEREST:  From north to south, along the route are: Willis-Knighton Bossier Hospital, Target/Best Buy/North Bossier Shopping Centers, Airline High School, Wal-Mart, Pierre-Bossier Mall, First Baptist Bossier, City Court, Bossier Police Station, the Louisiana Boardwalk, and of course downtown Shreveport.

TRIP TIME:  15 minutes from Airline/Melrose to the downtown terminal.  Faster than expected.  Only marginally slower than a personal vehicle.

RECOMMENDED USAGE:  This route covers a lot of ground and a lot of important places.  However, the schedule starts late and ends early, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays, so that does affect the usage somewhat.  In my mind, this route is great for residents of north Bossier that are headed downtown for a night out.  Rather than drive downtown, park your car, take a cab home, then hitch a ride back downtown to pick up your car the next day, why not take the bus downtown?  The last trip to downtown is a little early in the evening, though, so plan to do more downtown than just go to the club.  Maybe see a movie at The Robinson?  Or get a great dinner at  Monsour’s?  Whatever you decide to do, you can do it without worrying about how to get home or how to pick up your car in the morning (yes, I’m assuming that we’ve all realized that drinking and driving is officially passé).

Get on the Bus, Part II: How to Ride

It’s been well over a month since my post on riding the bus, and I realize that I’ve yet to write even one of the promised reviews of each bus route.  The truth is, I still hadn’t ridden the bus yet; the only way to keep me from riding my bike is to pry it from my cold, dead hands—or break a spoke and the rear hub.

Yes, with my trusty steed in the shop, I figured yesterday was as good a day as any to ride the bus for the first time.  I’ll get to the actual route review momentarily, but first a primer.  Riding an unfamiliar public transportation system can be a little hard to figure out, even for someone with a few years of experience on public transportation.  So, I’d imagine it is downright intimidating for someone whose last bus experience was in the eighth grade.  Here are some things you should know before you ride:

1)  Route design.  Public transportation routes can be designed two ways.  One way is a grid system, with routes forming a crisscrossing grid over the city.  The other is a spoke system, with all routes originating from a common central station and going out and back, like spokes on a wheel.  The latter is the type that Sportan uses, so the routes are very convenient if your destination is Downtown.  Otherwise, things get a little more complicated; look at your route ahead of time, know where you need to get off to make your transfers, and be sure you pay attention.

2)  Scheduling.  In some cities, bus schedules will read something like “every 10-12 minutes between 6:00 and 10:00.”  However, the Sportran system is not like this.  Presumably due to low ridership, each bus route has a timetable that shows when the bus leaves the downtown terminal and when (approximately) it will arrive at key stops along the route.  Further, the service is a little more infrequent than “every 10-12 minutes.”  It seems to me that it’s about once an hour.  So get to your stop a little early—you don’t want to miss this bus.

3)  Cost and payment.  The simplest answer is $1.25, paid in cash on the bus.  If you choose this option, exact change is required, as the bus does not give change.  When you get off the bus, you can transfer to another bus for $0.25.  Daily and monthly passes are $3.00 and $40.00, respectively, and are purchased at the downtown station, not on the bus.

4)  Etiquette.  Remember, get to your stop a little early.  When you see the bus approaching, you should wave or signal the driver that you’d like to board, especially if you are the only one at the stop.  The bus doesn’t stop at a stop if there’s no one there; make sure the driver knows you want to get on.  Once you’ve boarded and paid your fare, find a seat—proper etiquette would be to take the furthest rearward seat that’s available.  This way, as the bus fills up, it is easier for others to find seats quickly, helping to speed the trip.  Also, the most forward seats are designed to accommodate wheelchairs if necessary.  Once in your seat, make sure you’re only taking up one seat.  Keep your belongings in your lap or at your feet.  You don’t want to be that guy:

5)  Disembarking.  When your stop is approaching, pull the cord to signal the driver to stop.  Remember, the bus does not necessarily stop at each stop.  Unless it causes more problems than it solves, you should always use the rear doors to exit the bus.  The front doors are for boarding, the rear doors for exiting.

That’s it.  That’s all you really need to know about riding the bus.  It's really pretty simple.