The bus is an overlooked vehicle, which is ironic, considering its size. People are absolutely enamoured with their cars—they love the freedom provided and the bond they form with their machine. Many people would never consider the bus because they don’t need to look past the car in their driveway when considering how to get from point A to B. Even pedestrians shun the poor bus, wary of its reputation for being unreliable, slow or scary. Many more simply do not know how to ride the bus, much less how to get the most out of it. The predominant view of the bus is wrong, and it’s time to wake up. Once you know how to ride the bus, an entire new option for getting around is opened up, and how you traverse the city will blossom with opportunity.
The number one reason to ride the bus at all is cost—if you have a Wolf Card, riding the bus is now free. Even if you don’t, a day pass can be bought for just $3 on the “Token Transit” app. The savings make it worth considering as an option instead of buying pricey Ubers or paying for gas and parking, depending on where you want to go.
Admittedly, the bus exchanges savings in time for these savings in money. Sometimes riding the bus is slow. Sometimes you will wait impatiently for a bus, or have to walk a few minutes from the bus stop to your destination. Sometimes where you need to go isn’t serviced by the bus. This can make the bus frustrating to use, but all of it can be mitigated by knowing how to plan and use the bus efficiently.
Bus routes and schedules are confusing, but with a variety of tools, planning can be manageable. Buy a bus book at the bus station for a quarter and keep it in your backpack or purse in the case electronics fail you. From there, the best apps for determining what bus to take and when to catch it are the simple map apps, Google or Apple. Type in where you want to go and set the options for “transit” and let the phone do the work for you. Sadly, this isn’t a foolproof technology, so once you are at the bus stop waiting for a bus search for the sign explaining how to text a number and receive an alert for when the bus is going to arrive, which is usually more accurate at predicting when the bus will come and will warn you if the maps app messed up and promised you a bus which doesn’t exist. Worst case scenario, the RTC website has bus trackers which are accurate but locked behind a clumsy website, so use it only as a last resort.
When the bus comes, proper etiquette is to show the driver your Wolf Card or whatever payment, say “howdy” and take a seat—avoid eye contact with people and just relax or else you run the risk of awkward bus conversations. Using your favorite map app, you’ll be able to see ahead and track all the various stops so you’ll know when exactly to signal to get off. Push the stop button and don’t forget to thank the bus driver when you get off! The more you ride, the more comfortable you’ll get with the process, and soon entire bus routes will be glued into the back of your head, opening up a new dimension to transit in Reno.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at vrendon@Sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.