Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blogging From The Bus

I had to take the bus the other day. Various reasons why, and while not looking forward to it, I decided to make the most of it. Mobile blog post!


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I walked about 1/4 mile from my house to the bus stop and hopped on the number 7 bus going north. North-South bus routes are often named for the street they’re traveling; I was going north on 7th Street.


As I rode, I got a chance to look around me at the scenery, which I rarely get to do. Phoenix is a very car-dependent town and I’m a Realtor so I’m nearly always in the driver’s seat when I go anywhere.


Part of Phoenix’s car-dependence is because we’re hyoooge! It’s easily 75 miles from the upper reaches of Surprise in the Northwest to the outskirts of Queen Creek in the Southeast. Easily.


Another reason metro Phoenix is car-dependent is because it’s so stinking hot in the summer. This is an extreme climate. Imagine Calgary or the interior of Alaska in the winter, imagine it’s opposite and you have Phoenix in May through September. Heck, just imagine The Outback (the region, not the restaurant).


Back to the bus ride and scenery.


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This is a not-very-good picture of a major intersection shopping center. They’re all pretty much built on the same concept: major anchor store such as Target, WallMart or a supermarket surrounded by strip-mall type shops including food and retailers. This particular shopping center is at 7th Street and Bell Road.


IMG_1732 This strip mall also has these shops: Teaching Tools, a discount shoe retailer, a T.G.I.Friday’s, Pier 1, Tuesday Morning and Anna’s Linens (both discount home goods), Pei Wei (casual Asian fusion dining), Blockbuster, 2 supermarkets, a couple of fast food joints, a hair salon, a bagel place, a Verizon Wireless retailer, a WaldenBooks, a Post Office & More-type shop and probably about 50 others that I’m forgetting. Essentially, you could live your life without ever shopping anywhere else.


I think the City aims to have a bus pass each stop on each major route about once every 20 to 30 minutes. I waited here at the “Bell Towne Centre” for about 10 minutes for my bus transfer. Bus stops are shaded structures whenever & wherever possible. You can just see the shade structure in the picture below.


IMG_1734 Picture of a bus stop shade structure taken from inside the bus.


Here’s a confession: I’m a big dork. Phoenix is a car town. I drive everywhere. I didn’t know how to work the little bus fare chippy- receiving thingy they have on buses nowadays. I didn’t even know how much the fare was.


I knew enough to know I needed a transfer, because the buses go North-South or East-West and I had to go northwest. I figured surely $2 was enough, right? Wrong. It’s $2.50 for 1 adult, all-day bus pass with unlimited transfers.


So I get on the bus a little nervous, with my money in hand. I’ve got 2 singles or a five-spot. I don’t want to mess it up, to hold up the bus and all these other people. I’ve got all day to get to the auto shop but they’ve got schedules and deadlines to meet.



Me (to the bus driver): How much to 19th Avenue & Bell?
Driver: $2.50
Me: Will it make change?
Driver: No
Me: (digging in change purse, spilling pennies on the floor, debating about spending my entire $5)
Driver: <sigh>
Me: No, wait! I got it, here! <more pennies hit the floor>
Driver: <closing door, more sighing> OK, that’s it, you’re done.

The driver took my money at that point, put it in the fare box and handed me my ticket. The rest of the bus ride was uneventful.


Except for that part about choosing where to sit. The bus was surprisingly full, and I was instantly transported back in time to elementary school – should I sit next to the fat kid who probably smells? or next to the band geek with his tuba strapped on? Or next to that poor girl who has to wear full headgear 24-7 for the next 5 years until her braces come off? Needless to say, I sat up front with the rest of the dorks, geeks and castoffs from the Island of Misfit Toys, where I belong.


As I said, the rest of my bus expedition was uneventful and the car’s new brakes are killer. I hoped someone would get a little smile out my dorky bus-riding story. And maybe it’ll illustrate what a totally car dependent town Phoenix is. You can confirm that by checking the WalkScore of your neighborhood.


Meanwhile, riding the bus and writing this post gave me the idea for a post about how Phoenix is laid out on a big grid. That makes driving around town completely easy, and I’ll have more on that tomorrow.


PS – While researching this post I found the coolest website about historic Phoenix! Check out BradHallArt.com which is full of pics of historic Phoenix, Valley National Bank memorbilia and old maps of the Valley of the Sun.