The bus system in Dayton is:
A) Difficult to Navigate
D) Limited in Area
Okay – time’s up! What’s the answer?
Well – I can tell you that I don’t know. But I’m going to find out! No gossip, no rumors – just my experiences exposed. If the bus late, dangerous, or annoying, I’m calling them out. But you’ll also know if the bus driver is helpful and if the routes are easy to navigate. I really don’t know what to expect, so you’ll know as I know.
As much as I’ve HEARD about taking the RTA (fodder for our lil’ pop quiz), most of the people who are talking don’t actually ride. And the people who do ride, don’t usually talk too much about it. So – I cornered my friend Jen who utilizes RTA as her main source of transportation and got her insights.
Well, mostly it works pretty well, if you’re staying in Dayton or close suburbs and if you’re traveling between 7 am and 6:30 pm weekdays. Traveling in the evening or weekends gets a lot trickier because bus frequency declines dramatically.
As far as bus clientele I rarely have problems. Occasionally the kids can be kind of loud, but most drivers will intervene if it’s excessive or if they’re being rude or crude. It’s usually a pretty friendly atmosphere. And if there is someone acting strangely, there are other people experiencing it with you which can be kind of fun.
Another benefit I found when I took the bus to work was that extra 15-20 minutes before I had to be fully engaged. When I was driving to work I needed to be awake and alert. Taking the bus let me work into my day more gradually.
So, as I get closer to launching my week without a car, I’m gathering all the info I can about how I’ll get around. The RTA Web site has been my “go to” for this purpose. In case you want to try a similar adventure, I’m going to clue you into my process in hopes it makes things easier for you.
- It surprised me when I found how easy it is to buy passes and tokens around town. I figured I’d have to go to a transit center. It makes it a lot easier to know I can get a pass when I’m doing the grocery shopping and just hop on the bus when I’m ready to ride.
- RTA offers bike racks (yay!), but if the bike rack is full, you can’t bring your bike on board, you have to wait for the next bus (boo!). Maybe every time I get on the bus there will be one or fewer people who are also riding a bike. We’ll see. But if I have to wait for another bus b/c I can’t get on with my bike I’ll be annoyed.
- Along the lines of scheduling – I’m confident about the bus that will get me to work, but I’m a little concerned about the buses that will take me home after meetings, dinners, shows, and nights out. The RTA schedule shows that my ideal route home stops running after 6 PM. Now, I realize I CAN get home another way (as long as I’m leaving the city by 11:30 PM), but it takes some research and planning and more late-night walking that I would choose.
- One of the complaints I’ve heard is that RTA is notoriously late. On-line, they offer an “On Time Service Guarantee,” but that just means they won’t be more than 30 minutes late. And if they are, they give you a free pass. Sorry, but if I’m more than 30 minutes late to some meetings, I could have burned some major bridges.
- In getting ready for this adventure (finding my routes, etc), and I have to report that the RTA Web site is not as user friendly as it could be. There are great resources – maps and recommended routes – but the maps are small when you print them out. And the “trip planner” (which gives you times, bus numbers and route options) didn’t recognize the addresses I plugged in. I had to put the same location in 5 different ways to get the system to recognize where I was trying to go! That said, there are other ways to discover what you need and I’m now the proud owner of a few route map brochures that I’ll keep with me. (Which is laggardly of me, but since I don’t have a smart phone to check for new schedules, a handful of paper maps suits me just fine.)
Am I adding to the negative stigma by being worried before I even step foot on the bus? Maybe. Maybe that says something about human nature. Maybe I’m just a worrier (thanks for passing THAT trait along, mom). Or maybe that’s one of the reasons RTA is getting a bad rap in Dayton these days – we do a little online research and give up without even stepping up on the bus. Whatever it is – I’m a few days closer to saying good-bye to my friend the car. I’m excited and nervous.
If you have any recommendations for smart bus riding tips, let me know!
RTA has generously offered a few 7-day passes that DaytonMostMetro.com will be giving away as I chronicle my adventure. If you’re interested in giving it a shot yourself, you might just be able to win one! And if you want to have your say, RTA is soliciting feedback as they plan for the future – let them know what you need for mass transit.