Adventures of an RMTD passenger

Life just got more difficult for people who, out of necessity, must take the bus. After all the public hearings and the March 1 implementation of the new routes, now comes the actual part where the rubber hits the road—and where shoes hit the pavement. Some people are still finding the new schedule confusing. I should know—I’m one of them.

Monday and Tuesday mornings, I just need to get downtown to the newspaper office. Since the West State bus no longer goes down Johnston Avenue, on March 1, I walked two blocks to School Street where, according to the schedule, the bus should pick me up at 8:30 a.m. It did—going west instead of east, the long way around (the “wrong” way). So instead of getting downtown in about 12 minutes, I arrived in about 20—but still in time to get to work at 9. The next day, Tuesday, it was the same.

Wednesday morning I have free to do personal errands. I still wanted to get downtown by 9, so once again I went up to School Street and was there by 8:30. I waited—and waited some more. By 8:45, no bus had showed up—or was it early? At this point, I had no choice but to walk on another three blocks to West State Street, where I was able to catch the 9:05 going downtown. I stopped in at the RMTD office and inquired about the School Street. The gentleman at the window said he was not aware of any problem—but possibly it went by earlier.

I walked to 404 Elm St., where I had some business at the credit union, then walked to 320 Store to pick up some soy milk and fruit. There I saw my friend, Sue, who lives in my neighborhood. She used to catch the bus on Johnston to go to work, but now with the new routes, she finds it easier to walk downtown to work, “and anyway,” she says, “I need the exercise.” One less passenger for RMTD.

I then walked back to the terminal, where I was barely in time to catch the outgoing 9:45 School Street bus. I wanted to get off at Central and Auburn to do a little shopping at ALDI’s and Walgreens. Again, I had to ride the long way around, but I got off at the intersection of Auburn and Central about 10:10. I asked the driver when the next bus would be back, and she said, “About 45 minutes.” The bus only goes one way down Auburn now—the most inconvenient way.

After shopping, I went back outside to wait on a bench with my packages until the next bus showed up at 10:55. (On its old route, the bus would have come down Central, turned onto Auburn, gone directly past Johnston, up Pierpont to School Street, and several blocks later, I’d get off and go home.) But this bus took me back to the terminal. At 11:15 it took off again, and I finally got home at 11:30 a.m.—just in time to put a few perishable groceries away, grab a quick lunch, and go back to work.

I used to be able to catch a 12:30 bus on Johnston, but again, this is no longer possible. So at 12:20, I left the house to walk five blocks up to West State Street—just in time to catch the 12:35 bus going downtown. Later, I was able to get a School Street bus at the terminal to get home.

All these errands require extra planning. Folks, here’s a tip—when the weather gets warm in summer, if you’re going grocery shopping, don’t buy any ice cream. By the time you wait around for the bus, maybe transfer once or twice, by the time you get home, you’ll have melted ice cream soup. But do take an extra sweater or even a coat for the ice-cold air conditioning on the buses.

Thursday morning, I had to get to Seventh Street by 9 a.m. I had two options. I could try for that 8:30 School Street bus (if it showed up on schedule), but then when it got to the terminal at 8:55, I’d have missed connections with the 8:45 Seventh Street. I “opted” for the 8:35 West State (now East State inbound) going downtown. At the terminal, I found the Seventh Street bus in berth E just as the booklet said. But when I turned to the page in the booklet for Seventh Street, I couldn’t find the 8:45 bus listed and was looking for the time to get back. I saw “Kishwaukee & Broadway” listed and showed it to the driver. She studied it a moment, then said, “Look here! You’ve a got a couple pages missing.” Sure enough—the map showed the Seventh Street route, but the page opposite had the schedule for the Kishwaukee bus. I had another booklet with me, so I consulted that one and found it exactly the same. That’s two defective booklets—how many more are out there?

(Under the old system, all this would have been unnecessary. I would have simply picked up the outbound at 8:30 on Johnston Avenue. That one was the Seventh Street, and it took me straight to work at 9 a.m.—no transfers needed and no problem. Or maybe that was the problem—it was accessible, efficient—and it worked for me!)

Oh, and did I mention what a delight it was Friday morning walking five blocks in the gusting wind and misting rain to catch the West State bus, hoping I wouldn’t get sick again from being chilled? And shivering up on Seventh Street at 1 p.m., waiting in the freezing wind for the bus to take me downtown again?

As Lisa Brown says, it’s all about options. I’d opt out if I could—but I can’t.

Happy traveling!

Susan Johnson is a copy editor at The Rock River Times. She relies on Rockford Mass Transit as her primary form of transportation.

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