sorry 'bout that

The bridge over 494 at Lyndale has been torn down. That means the 4 that ordinarily goes over that bridge has been detoured. It also means that a shuttle has been created to get people from the Menard's east of 77th and Nicollet to the 82nd Street Transit Station.

I think the shuttle is being run by South Garage. I've seen a map of it, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it, because I figured if I somehow had to drive it, I'd look more carefully then.

I drove the 4 today. I didn't have to worry about Lyndale on my southbound trip (I was on Penn), but on my return trip, I was supposed to go north on Lyndale, so I had to detour. The detour takes us over to Nicollet in Bloomington where we cross 494, and then back to Lyndale on 77th, on the Richfield side of 494.

My paddle (a.k.a. schedule) had a note at the 77th and Lyndale time point. It said to wait for the 4 Shuttle. I saw a notice this morning on the bulletin board regarding that particular note. Now, I'll admit that I'm pretty foggy early in the morning, so I didn't see that it said 4F, which I was not. What I did notice, for some reason, were the words WAIT and REQUIRES. And I could have sworn I saw UNDER PENALTY OF DEATH, but on second look, I guess that part isn't there.

Anyway, I got to 77th and Lyndale and waited. Just like my paddle told me to. I waited almost ten minutes, then put in a call to Control. (I also remembered the part where it said we might be late.) It took them five minutes to get back to me. They must have been busy this morning. I stated my problem, which was that I had not seen a single shuttle in ten minutes, and I mentioned the note and I asked if this was dumb, or if I was doing what I was supposed to. I waited for an answer. Five more minutes later, I was told that the shuttle must have gone on ahead of me, and since I was now twenty minutes down, I could go ahead.

It was really cold this morning. I picked up a lot of unhappy people. I did not blame them one bit. I apologized. They were OK.

I got back to the garage. I looked another copy of my paddle. It was the same. I looked at the shuttle map. The shuttle does not even go to 77th and Lyndale. And that is why I did not see one.

That note is no longer on that paddle.

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first day of the extra board

I had 4:30 call this morning, which meant that I showed up at the garage at 4:28. The block between home and the garage felt like the longest block I've ever walked. Then I realized that I had forgotten my work bag at home, so I walked home, got it, then walked back to work. Then I was really cold.

First, I pre-tripped a couple buses. When we get to our bus, we have to make sure it is in working condition. It's an inspection that takes about five or ten minutes. However, if, for instance, the wheelchair lift doesn't work, and the bus is supposed to pull out in two minutes, there isn't time for another complete pre-trip inspection. The dispatchers make sure there are a couple buses ready to go, already pre-tripped, for such an occasion.

Then a dispatcher gave me a piece of work on the 589. We don't do the 589 out of Nicollet, and I've never been trained on it. And that is why I love the extra board. It's way more interesting than driving the same piece of work every day or every week.

Anyway, the 589 snakes around Prestigious West Bloomington, then works its way up to 394 on Normandale Blvd/Hwy 100, making a couple detours along the way. I wasn't too worried about getting lost, since I'm mostly familiar with the area.

I was, however, concerned about having to pass people up. Some of the women who got on my bus were worried. Apparently, the 589 is usually served by an articulated (a.k.a. accordion) bus.

As new people got on, they'd comment about how it was going to be crowded. The way they were carrying on, I imagined a standing load, packed to the back, and having to tell some people that they couldn't possible fit inside the bus.

Well, by the time I got onto Hwy 100 and wasn't going to make any more stops, everyone had somewhere to sit.

Yesterday there was weather. Today there was traffic. I dropped my last guy off approximately 25 minutes later than my schedule said I was supposed to. Just before he got off, I kind of apologized for running so late. He laughed and told me not to worry about it; he was only five or six minutes later than usual! Sweet, sweet scheduling department.

I got back to the garage and filled a trip on the 17 line. Then I chatted with a couple fellow drivers for a while and got sent home.

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are you sick of hearing about the 17 yet?

Another Saturday, another 3:45 AM alarm.

But I didn't get much sleep that night. I couldn't get to sleep in the first place. I was still looking at my clock at 11:30. Sometime between bedtime and actual sleep, in addition to the simple inability to fall asleep, I had to attend to the noisy air conditioner and Jeff, who was licking me and growling at me to let him out of the room. Then, in the middle of the night, I was awakened twice. When the compressor in the air conditioner stopped, I could hear what was going on outside. And what was going on outside that roused me from sleep, finding my ears through the white noise of the air conditioner's fan? Our neighbor plays drums in a band and they had been practicing in his basement. They were long done practicing (I think) but someone was on his front porch, right under our bedroom window, with his guitar, singing his heart out, presumably to one or more of the lovely ladies who I'd seen hanging out there earlier. Eh, can't really be too upset about that.

I woke up at the aforementioned Hour of Evil and walked to work. I was pleased to note that I was assigned a decent bus for the day. So far, so good. Then I realized that I forgot the bananas that I wanted to bring with me.

On my way out to my first terminal, I stopped at a Holiday Station and picked up a banana and an orange. Back to doing just fine.

I had a pretty good morning. There were a few more cars out and about in the very early hours, but very few of them actually got in my way. I was tired and a bit cranky, especially for the first few hours. I see I wrote in my notes that annoying people = any people. Nice.

The only thing that really amused me was at the stop near Central and 4th Ave. SE. An older guy was waiting there, kind of checking out my bus. But he didn't want to get on. I had about 45 seconds to kill, so I sat there wondering what he was doing. I was just getting ready to leave when he finally approached me. He said, "My friend is supposed to be getting off this bus and meeting me here." Then he poked his head inside and looked around. "John! Get off the bus!" And John got off the bus.

And so I drove, mostly on autopilot, just concentrating on not hitting anything or anyone.

Then, on my last eastbound trip, my farebox began acting up. It didn't want to take dollar bills and it acted like it was shorting out. I called Control and was told that my relief driver would pull out and wait. So instead of a relief driver taking over my bus for me at Uptown, that driver was going to get his own bus at the garage and drive it to Uptown. When I got there, my passengers would get on his bus and I'd drive my bus with the bad farebox back to the garage. Excellent. Now I'd be done one block from home instead of a mile and a half. (Though Kassie was planning to meet me at Uptown with our car, saving me the hassle of catching a bus, then walking home.)

When I got to the terminal in NE Mpls, I saw a street supervisor. She pulled her van in behind me and walked up to the bus to talk to me. She said she planned to follow me and count passengers because she was aware that we were "working too hard out here," as she put it.

Well, that's good news and bad news. It's really nice to hear that someone cares about the conditions on the 17. But to keep it on time, or even close, I often have to, uh, bend some rules regarding speed limits and green-to-yellow lights. So I'd have to be on my best driving behavior and my relief driver would have to wait a little while for me to show up at Uptown because I was pretty much guaranteed to be late.

And then the trip went really well. The passenger load was light and traffic wasn't too bad. My farebox was completely useless, so no one had to pay. I picked up a woman in a wheelchair at 7th and Nicollet, but that only put me down about five minutes getting out of downtown. If I didn't have a street supervisor tailing me, I probably could have made most of that time up before Uptown. Instead, as we got within a block of Uptown Station, we were due to arrive about seven minutes late.

As I sat at the light at 28th and Hennepin, I could see my relief driver at the station. Then, just before I got the green, he turned off his four-way flashers, put on his left turn signal, and left!


By that time, I was really, really ready for a nap. Add angry to the equation and I was not thinking clearly. I called Control, which was what I should have done. But I sat at the station, which is what I should not have done. We sat there for about three minutes while I waited for Control to tell me that I would have to keep driving. If our relief driver is not at the relief point, we are expected to continue to drive the route until someone can take over for us. I know that, so I should have known what I was supposed to do, but my muddled head prevailed. Of course, by then the street supervisor's numbers were messed up and she was kind of ticked off.

I turned the corner on Lagoon and headed west. Thankfully, when I talked to Control again, they had contacted the driver and had him wait for me at Market Plaza. I got there ten minutes later than scheduled and the woman in the wheelchair was still on my bus. So, for the second week in a row, my relief driver had to start his day about fifteen minutes in the hole. That's tough.

I got 37 minutes of overtime, but I'd much rather have had that time at home napping in my bed.

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the 17 got "fixed"

As I mentioned when I posted my new picked work, the last time I drove the 17 on Saturday, I got absolutely destroyed. When I started driving full time, the 17 was a good line to drive. Then, a few years ago, someone in scheduling thought they had a good idea and they completely overhauled the way the schedule worked.

It looked good on paper, of course. On Saturdays, for instance, one set of buses would go back and forth between the northernmost terminal and a western terminal just past Uptown. (The 17's route makes a backwards L- from NE Mpls through downtown and Uptown to Hopkins, a western 'burb.) The other set of buses went between downtown and Hopkins. I drove the latter path for a couple picks. So there was a big overlap in the middle with one group taking NE part and the other group taking the western chunk.

In practice, it was ridiculous. The western part is really busy and the schedule was not written to accommodate the load.

Someone finally noticed that the 17 was running really late way too often and decided to fix it. Our buses are equipped with GPS, so there was a wealth of information for them to study. I submitted that chart and commentary during that process.

I was rather skeptical when I saw the result of the study. I don't remember exactly how it looked, but they added a minute in a few places, mostly on the west end of the route.

So I've been avoiding the 17 on Saturdays. But when I picked work for this pick, it was the 17 from 4:42 AM until 2:00 PM or some other route until 8:44 PM. I decided to suck it up and get done early. Now, except for one round trip, I drive between NE Mpls and Hopkins all day.

I suspected that it would be OK for most of the day. There are very few passengers early in the morning and there's hardly any traffic.

When my alarm went off yesterday, the time started with a 3. Ouch. But, as I predicted, it went really well all morning. I was able to keep it reasonably on time. That's when I really enjoy the 17.

The layovers are pretty weak, but I did get one decent one- with free entertainment!

Everything was going really well... until about 11:30. I turned the corner onto Lagoon from Hennepin and saw a small nightmare. Construction workers had two of the three lanes blocked off heading west on the best way to get to Lake Calhoun on a beautiful Saturday morning.

I arrived at that terminal with two minutes to spare before I had to get going again. Then, on the next trip, I ran late into downtown, got stuck behind a 25 on the Nicollet Mall, and got even later. I had about a minute-and-a-half at that layover. Then, on my last trip of the day, I picked up three passengers who required the lift. I got to Uptown Station, where I got relieved, 13 minutes late. Sorry, Mr. Relief Guy.

I realize that I can't make a judgment based on one day. But the only time I ever kept that bus close to on schedule was when I had no passengers and there was no traffic. As soon as Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis woke up and got into their cars and on the bus, it was over.

For me, it was only a couple hours of hassle, but I felt sorry for the guy taking over for me. I haven't seen his work, but it's never good to start out 15 minutes down.

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