November 2013


The wheels on the bus go round and round…

M48 at Busseallee

M48 at Busseallee, the last stop. Or first.

I take the bus to and from work, the M48.

My commute costs me about 55€ a month – unlimited travel in the Berlin AB zones, whether on bus, tram, U-bahn, S-bahn, or regional trains. And ferries.

I think it is an excellent value: I don’t own a car, I don’t pay for car repairs, I don’t pay for insurance, and I don’t pay for car registration. Instead I have a fleet of vehicles at my beck and call.

Generally speaking I don’t think too much about it: the buses are filled with people from all walks of life.

This comes to mind as I’m thinking back to my time in Portland. I didn’t rent a car – I relied upon Trimet, Portland’s public transit provider. While the light-rail rides included the full-spectrum of society, the bus rides showed a clear cut class divide—I was always at the top of the spectrum, as opposed to my middling status in Berlin.

The other difference between Berlin and Portland, when it comes to buses, is that in Berlin the drivers do their damnedest to stay on schedule – as much as traffic and passenger flow allows.

M48 at Busseallee

M48 at Busseallee — the first stop toward town.

In Portland I took a bus from the Japanese Gardens – a bus that was supposed to come once every 20 minutes. The bus arrived some 15 minutes late: the driver was one of those talkative types and had previously established a relationship with people who got on the bus with us. She then drove very, very, slowly around the park back to the light rail station. And by slowly, I mean that she basically stopped next to the empty reservoir and stared at it in awe while talking about the fact that she’d never seen it empty before.

It’s nice to have a chatty, informative, bus driver, but not if it comes at the expense of pretty much keeping to schedule: I remember a passenger yelling at a London bus driver who paused for a few minutes too long at a bus stop on Oxford Street (actually, I was getting irritated with the bus driver; the woman reached her boiling point before I reached mine).

2 comments to The wheels on the bus go round and round…

  • Koko

    That’s a pretty good deal. It’s 100 USD for an unlimited pass. It was just raised from 80 last January. I rarely drive my car anymore. I keep it because I still like to go back to visit friends in Indiana.

  • Joanne Audretsch

    Reminds me of my days in Berlin, many years ago, Adam! Same situation : no car, no insurance, much freedom but also occasional frustrations! Nonetheless. The money saved was more than worthwhile. And the “everyday life” that is experienced daily on public transportation is worthy of a novel. 🙂