lbc’s lbt is omg

October 10, 2009

Dear Long Beach Transit,

You’ve really been on a roll lately. And yes, that pun was intended. I haven’t been on your cheap, urban bus system since that summer I was homeless and even then, it was only the 4th Street crawler to get me from downtown to Taqueria #4 at Redondo. But yesterday, you became the highlight of a trek that took me from the bus stop outside my apartment all the way (sorry to bare my soul here) through the Orange County of my past and into the arms of my simultaneous future–Long Island Iced Teas and bypassing hospital visitor hours included.

Anyway, what I realized on my mandatory ride on route 91 to PCH is that where Metro went wrong in its most recent bus upgrades, you went right and your board of directors is reveling in what I see as more model-proof that effective public transportation is possible in Southern California. But you’ve always been licking at new technologies, like the water taxi that blasts through near-stagnant ocean from the Alamitos Bay to Belmont Shore and your 2006 implementation of real-time satellite bus tracking available online or from bus stops.

Your newest fleet-vestment, however, tops it all!

In April, a new batch of hybrid-electric buses–Passport shuttles on Prius technology slathered in USC-pride steroids–were added to the fleet. In addition to windows tinted on the outside and acceleration that sounds like a fucking Tomorrowland ride, the new buses have extra butt-friendly seats (like the best motel bed you’ve ever slept on) and a route-specific recording of hypnotizing upcoming-stop announcements (in a Bond-lab-of-the-future sort of way).

My bus driver was barely out of high school and smiled even though I was unprepared for the 20 cent fee hike to ride on the eastbound clean-air machine. A balding ginger wearing a Lakers-jersey and green patent leather Dunks sat across from me. He had so many bags (one on a stick) that I was convinced he was The Hip-Hop Hobo Leprechaun I’d been dreaming of writing screenplays about. More people got on. There was no graffiti etched into the windows, no shitty tag names scrawled into the seat backs. The crackheads sang to themselves, the high school girls texted their 20 year-old boyfriends. Everyone said “Thanks” to the bus driver as they got off, even the ones that didn’t speak English.

It was a pleasant experience and I hate that word and never thought I would ever use it, especially in reference to something in Long Beach and especially not about a fucking bus ride, but it was. Everyone on that thing is a typical Long Beach freak–even me–and the experience of us freaks engaging in some form of civilized urbanity provided an uplifting feeling that betrayed the surrounding decay like a night at the Queen Mary Hotel.

So, I’m throwing up words here because I’m glad someone acknowledges what Metro never will: that even weirdos who ride the bus deserve privacy from the  gawking public, comfortable seating and a lulling directional voice reminding us of where the hell we are because sometimes, who knows?

Oh yeah, Long Beach.

–Mandy

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