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A Ride to Work on the City Bus

It’s “Ride Your Bike to Work Week,” and some Springfield commuters are finding new ways to get around town. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe is one of them – he took a trip from his house to the KSMU studios via foot and city bus, and has this report.

SOUND: typing on a keyboard, clicking a mouse

I’ve been living in Springfield for five years, and I’ve never ridden a city bus before. I guess I always figured if I needed to get somewhere, I could just hop on my bike. So I’ll need to go to the City Utilities website, and find a bus route map. So I’ll type in city utilities dot net. In the top right search bar, I will type in bus route map. First one that comes up: city utilities routes and schedules, click on that. Scroll down to daytime route map. That opens up a p-d-f file and I have a map of the city bus routes. So I will find Grant and State, that’s about where I live. Alright, it looks like I’ll need to take line 6, the black route to the Park Central Transfer Station.

Ok, I’m standing outside my house in West Central Springfield, and I’m going to go walk to the bus stop. It’s off of Walnut Street, and that’s about three blocks from where I’m standing. So, let’s go.

SOUND: walking

Alright, there’s the bus stop sign, right at the corner of Walnut Street and Ninth Avenue.

SOUND: Street traffic

Alright, about fifteen minutes after I got to the bus stop, I see the bus approaching. I’ll try to flag it down when it gets close.

SOUND: entering bus.. “Hey, how’s it going? How much do I owe you?”…

Sound: bus noises inside

A handful of middle-aged adults are riding the bus with me. The ride is pretty short—about six or seven minutes long.

SOUND: exiting bus

I made it to the Park Central Transfer Station, and I’m looking at a map to see which route I need to take to get to Missouri State. It looks as though I need to take line 12, the pink route – south National. So it’s just a matter of waiting for my bus.

SOUND: sound of bus transfer station -- 3 seconds just full sound…

I’m not the only one waiting for a bus. A mother with her newborn baby, a group of teenagers, and an older man with a scraggly beard and dirty ball cap are waiting anxiously for line 1, the North Kansas Expressway line. When it arrives, they eagerly climb aboard.

Then I meet Jessica Riley, a radiology student at Ozarks Technical Community College who, like me, is waiting for line 12. When that bus hits Fremont and Sunshine, she’ll get off and hop onto line 11, which will take Riley to her home near Sunshine and highway 65. Riley says she’s been waiting for line 12 for the past 15 minutes, a little longer than I have. So what does she think of the city’s bus system?

RILEY: “I think it could be better.”

SAM: “Really? How so?”

RILEY: “Because the route I live on, 11, only runs once an hour. It kind of stinks.”

SAM: “Once an hour?”

RILEY: “Yea, and it only runs five hours on Saturdays and it doesn’t run on Sundays.”

Riley says the other “stinky” part about riding the bus can sometimes be the patrons inside.

RILEY: “There are some interesting people. There’s a little bit of crazy people, there’s normal people, and just stinky people.”

SAM: “Stinky people? Literally like they haven’t showered in days stinky?”

RILEY: “It can be bad sometimes. The smell is horrid sometimes. I feel like I have to bring a bar of soap and be like, ‘Here you go.’”

Untimely scheduling and foul odors…so what keeps her coming back to the bus stop then? Simple: it’s cheaper than owning a car. Adult fare for a single bus ride costs one dollar and twenty five cents, with a ten cent single use transfer fee. Daily passes for adults are three dollars and seventy five cents.

“I personally spend 22 dollars a month for riding a bus, and that gets me Monday through Sunday, anywhere I need to go with multiple transfers,” Riley said.

SOUND: Bus motors at transfer station

More buses are piling into the transfer station, but because a tractor trailer just ran into an overhanging roof of the terminal, the buses are having a hard time exiting. Finally, after a 25 minute wait, line 12 arrives. I step aboard.

SOUND: entering bus..

SAM: “Does this route go to Missouri State?”

DRIVER: “Yep.”

SAM: “Excellent. Do I pay you here?”

DRIVER: “Yep. Dollar twenty five.”

On the line 12 bus, I sit down next to Maurice Wilson. He’s been riding the bus regularly for the past six years. I ask him what route he’s taking.

“It’s interesting. I started off on the 11 at Battlefield and Golden. Took the 11 to the seven and went out to the Wal-Mart on Campbell. Got back on the seven, came downtown, got back on the 12. I’m about to go to Battlefield and then I’m going to donate,” Wilson said.

That’s quite a trek for one day on a city bus. I ask Wilson if he usually gets where he’s going quickly during these cross-city trips. He said it depends on the line and where he needs to go. A Kansas City native, one thing he doesn’t like about the buses in Springfield is that there aren’t routes that go all the way down the main roads.

“The Glenstone bus should go all the way down to 44, turn around, and go all the way down to Republic – but it doesn’t. It’s just really weird getting used to that. Same with the National [route] – it doesn’t run all the way up and down National. That I don’t understand about the bus system. Then there’s no bus that runs down Kansas. I think they should at least have one that runs every two hours. People do travel up and down Kansas expressway,” Wilson said.

Line 12 is cruising through center city – south on Jefferson, east on Cherry, then south again on National. We’ve reached campus, and Wilson pulls the cord for me to notify the driver I’ve reached my destination. My ride is finished.

SOUND: exiting bus

Now, the final leg of my journey – a ten minute walk to the opposite side of campus.

SOUND: walking

Ok. I reached my destination – Strong Hall at Missouri State. A route that takes seven minutes by car, ten minutes by bike, and 45 minutes by foot took me an hour and twenty minutes by bus.”

So maybe the city buses are a slower alternative to other modes of transportation. But remember that Jessica Riley pays 22 dollars a month to ride the bus, and she rides almost every day. For Springfield commuters, it comes down to personal preference – get where you’re going quickly in a car, efficiently on a bike, or cheaply on a bus. This week, when the focus is on alternative modes of transportation, you might try something new. Maybe you’ll see new parts of the city and meet new people, just like I did. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.

For more information about “Ride Your Bike to Work” week, as well as information about city bus fares, go to our website, ksmu.org.