accidents, other stuff

Yesterday, on the 23 line, I was waiting to finish my right turn onto Lake Street from Hennepin Avenue. The light was about to turn yellow. As I checked traffic to my left, I heard a THUD and looked back to my right. All I saw was a blue-green Chevrolet Cavalier and a lot of cans of food rolling down the street.

I had to ask my passengers if that car had just hit someone. It had. It was kind of weird. The driver didn't brake, at least that I could hear. He was clearly finishing off his turn in the yellow light. She must have been in his blind spot. I absolutely don't want to excuse not looking where you're going, but it happened in the middle lane, so the woman who got hit very likely should not have been there.

I hope she's OK. I haven't seen anything in the news, so I assume she's still alive.

I got to the 17W terminal yesterday up in Northeast and a street supervisor showed up. She asked me if I'd written an Operating Conditions Report about the westbound trip I was about to make. I hadn't. Apparently someone is having trouble with overload and time issues.

I've driven that work on Fridays in previous picks and this pick I drive it Monday and Friday. I've never had a real problem, but Mondays and Fridays tend to be lighter days of the week.

So the supervisor followed me and I kept it on time. But I noticed something interesting.

BREAKING NEWS (and it's not good):
Kassie just pointed out to me that Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, the food writer for our biggest local free weekly, City Pages, is leaving next month. Oh boy, does that suck. Unless Demko has written a cover story, I barely pick up CP anymore, other than to read Dara. Yeah, that poor paper has really declined ever since Village Voice Media put some turd named Kevin Hoffman in charge. And no, I don't know him, but I do know that a lot of really good writers have left that paper because of him.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh. I probably picked up 35 people on that trip and all but about five of them paid with cash! See, we have this great little thing called a Go-To Card now, and pretty much every route I drive has a large percentage of people who use it in one form or other.

I think the marketing department needs to get themselves to Northeast Mpls and spread the good word. That would certainly make that trip easier to keep on time!

I had to detour today on the 11 because there was a rollover on 3rd Avenue a couple blocks north of Franklin. As Kassie pointed out, it would take some serious effort to get going fast enough to roll a car in that area.
[update: the story, thanks to Kassie's sharp eyes]

Today, as I was waiting for a bus, a school bus pulled in to the convenience store across the street. The driver (I think) got out and went inside. About two minutes passed. Then someone inside the bus started honking the horn. The driver came out of the store, appeared to make a walk through on the bus, then went back inside. She was still inside when my bus showed up. I thought it was odd that a driver would stop at a store with kids on her bus. Maybe it wasn't the driver I saw. I don't know...

Jesse rode my bus this evening. He was our wedding photographer.

I have to get up very early in the morning. That does not please me.

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training update

I've been training three new drivers. As I mentioned, they passed their CDL tests a couple weeks ago. That's the easy driving test.

The next step for new drivers is to pass their in-service test. I've spent the last two weeks riding the bus while they practiced picking people up.

With the exception of a couple days spent on the 2 and 94 lines, and some time for miscellaneous other tasks, we were on the 17 the whole time. That's the route Nicollet Garage's safety supervisor tests them on. Back and forth, back and forth between downtown and Lake and France. I really like the 17 when we don't have to follow a schedule.

So I sat in the seat behind the fold-up seats and watched them. Are they checking their mirrors every 5-8 seconds? Getting close enough to the curb? Beeping their horn as they approach vehicles that might have someone near them? Are they looking in their mirrors before, and as, they change lanes? Traveling at an appropriate speed? Leaving themselves enough space between the bus and the vehicle in front of them? Pushing and pulling on the steering wheel when turning (not hand-over-hand)? Staying off the curb? Keeping an eye on stoplights? Pulling the emergency brake when people are loading or unloading bicycles? Checking the rear door, front door, right exterior mirror, middle interior mirror, left exterior mirror, turning on the left turn signal, checking the right exterior mirror again, then the left exterior mirror again- all in that order, before leaving a bus stop? Completely covering the brake and accelerator pedals with their foot? Being polite? Calling streets? Looking into their future? Staying on route? Getting the fare recorded correctly? Giving out the correct transfers? etc. etc. etc.

I find that it's much more tiring to ride the bus than it is to drive it, especially as an instructor. It definitely takes energy to keep up with and catch everything that my students are doing. Also, when I'm driving, I know when I'm going to brake, turn and swerve. My body is prepared for the motion. When someone else drives, it's all reaction. I've been a little sore.

Anyway. Today, they put it all together. They all passed their in-service tests.

I'm happy for them. I'm happy for me. Though it's up to them to get it right, and they deserve all the credit, I always feel like their performance reflects my instruction.

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sk8 rats

Yesterday I was driving the 17 up the Nicollet Mall during rush hour. As usual, the Mall was busy. Buses lined the blocks going both ways. There's about three feet between the northbound and southbound buses.

I was loading passengers at 7th Street when group of kids on skateboards exploded through the opening between the buses, down the middle of the street. And they kept coming. I'm terrible at estimating numbers, but there must have been at least a hundred of them. I saw a cop yelling at them, but most of them just kept going. And the ones who quit only did so temporarily.

It was really cool; they made me laugh.

Update: Ryan pointed out in the comments that it was Go Skateboarding Day. Aha. I had looked around a bit online to figure out what was going on. I think it's kind of odd that 3rd Lair didn't mention a thing. (Or at least I couldn't find anything about it on that mess of a site...)

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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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