The yin and yang of CDTA

a CDTA bus

Riding the bus: The good, the bad and the human grill of regret.

By Leigh Cummings

Let's face it: unless you live and work in the same building, commuting just about anywhere in the Capital District can be an exercise in cultivating patience. Using public transportation is no exception and, like driving, has its own colorful variety of stresses and pleasures.

I get around almost exclusively by public transportation, which has its own pleasures and challenges: from the people you meet (awesome to...less awesome), near death experiences, simple (and not so simple) kindnesses, and the zen of commuting.

Buses are great in the snow
Most winters, this is an important thing to remember. You, as a rider, don't have to shovel them out or warm them up. They're super safe, and the heat is blasting as soon as you step inside. Best of all they're usually still on time.

Emergency windows can create emergencies
This is especially important to know when the bus takes a sharp turn and the window you're sitting against flies open. You'll want to send 'Thank You' notes to the people who grab your shirt and pull you back inside the bus, but you never got a chance to catch their names while you were busy praying to Jesus (and Buddha and Allah and Mercury, the Roman God of Public Transportation. Whoever's listening.)

You may wind up as a human hamburger on a grill of regret
Say, if some guy carrying a collapsible metal shopping cart falls on top of you. Oh, and he happens to be Four-Loko-drunk at 7:45 am. And asking him if he's alright will only lead to your getting a hearty cursing out. There will be spit.

The driver may surprise you with personalized service
Like when you ring the bell at Dove Street and he cheerfully calls out, "Next stop...HOME!"

The driver may surprise someone else
For example: with the gift of a change card or day pass that's been left behind. The happy customer will then help a woman overwhelmed by bags, and seeing them both smile will make your day.

Murphy's Law of Transfers
This nearly always applies when it comes to making transfers, and you can spend a lot of time shaking your fist as the bus you're hoping to board pulls away. You know there's another one coming in fifteen minutes, but still. *shakes fist*

Check that seat before you sit
This. Is. Essential. Trust that you don't want to spend an entire evening coaxing the world's largest smear of gum out of a wool coat.

Sometimes you meet people who are awesome
Like a friendly young couple just starting out their lives in Albany together. They have a rosy-cheeked infant and the equally cute dad will say things like, "Having her has changed my life," and, "I want to give her everything." You will tear up and blame it on the bus fumes.

Sometimes you meet people who are... less awesome
Like the recently paroled gentleman giving a terrifying lecture on life behind bars to two blinking and speechless high school students. The bus driver will ask him, over the loud speaker, if he wouldn't mind watching his potty mouth, but it will have no effect. You will be even more frightened of prison than you were before.

Serenity now.
For me, the bus has become the absolute best setting for meditating and getting centered. Travel time becomes a buffer on either end of your workday, with time to gear up and time to wind down. It's also an appropriate metaphor for serenity in general: there isn't much about the bus experience over which you have power. You can't control when it arrives, how fast it goes, or when it gets where it's going. But on the flip side, you also don't have to worry about what anyone else on the road is doing.

So grab a clean seat far away from those unpredictable emergency windows, then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Leigh Cummings blogs about her misadventures on public transportation (among other things). You can also find her on The Twitters: @leighcummings.

More Leigh on the Soapbox:
+ Hungry for Shades of Green
+ The Fantasy Lark Street
+ Pride in Albany


Many years ago I was on the #10 and I saw a cockroach skitter out from the wall...

Thanks for this funny and straight-talking look at using the CDTA buses. I have only being using the bus to commute for a little over one year. I had not considered the option before because I had a parking space at work and when I switched jobs that was not part of the package. It was scary at first. On the way home on one of my first few rides, a really drunk guy spilled liquor by accident and then licked it up from his seat -- which did get him thrown off the bus.
I usually ride with the same group of people to work, not so much coming home. Some people I have gotten to know and that has been a nice pleasure.
I do especially enjoy riding in the winter, as you wrote.
Some of the bus drivers are hysterical. I love those! Some are nice, pleasant, friendly and helpful. I have only had less than a handful of drivers who are sour or grumpy and won't respond to my cheery -- Good Morning or Hello!
I really liked your image of Zen -- that is so true and I will keep that in mind as a I travel.
One gripe -- I find that since the new schedule of one bus every 15 minutes started, the bus schedule is very difficult for me. I find the time the bus shows up varies by quite a bit.
I do use my car when needed -- at night, mostly. I feel really good about taking the bus, in general. The one drawback that I miss is not being able to drive to do errands right after work, as I have for years. Fortunately I live in Pine Hills and work at the Empire State Plaza, so I have a short commute.

Thank you for this. During my first year of grad school at UAlbany, the only time I drove my car was when I had to move it to the opposite side of the street. I took CDTA everywhere. Now, with 3 part-time jobs, it would be impossible to feasibly take the bus. I pine away thinking of those simpler days.

Kids under 6 ride free. That's a bonus for those of us with little kids who consider bus rides a special treat. But as Leigh points out, there will be potty language from the scary grown-ups. Yin and yang indeed! Also, I remember when CTDA bus fair was 40 cents. Ah, those were the days. /crankyoldlady

Great, funny post! Good way to start a Monday!

My husband and I love the bus. We live in Albany but commute out of town so we tend to use the bus for our nights on the town. I love, love, love the bus drivers. Every single one of them has been friendly and helpful. It's an adventure every time we go out and I love it. I wish I worked in Albany so I could take the bus every day to work.

I haven't had a reason to ride a bus in years but if I did, you make it sound almost tolerable. ;)

I enjoy zoning out and reading my nook on the bus. It's a relaxing way to ease into the day. The ride into work is always quieter and more mellow than on the way home. The ride home can be particularly obnoxious; loud, crowded and smelly. I just try to bury my nose in my nook and tune everything else out (with varying success). This is the 905, so it's a pretty quick ride, which really helps on such a busy route.

We live in the DELSO and use the bus for evenings out too. Really great not to have to worry about parking, just leave the car in the driveway and off we go.

Bring back the Number 9!

I don't mind riding the bus occasionally, but I can never seem to get my schedule to match CDTA's... I hear that's a common problem, but I really despise standing around, especially in the winter when I'm more apt to be riding the bus.

I guess that's why I have my Vespa though. :) To be fair, I really do appreciate being able to not park, or drive, or anything that requires any thought when it's bad enough weather to get me off two wheels though. Despite my dislike of buses (lack of control, etc...) they do provide a valuable service to me in terribly inclement weather. Oh, also, the other people who ride them, probably appreciate them... mostly. Or at least silently despise them while still riding them. :)

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