I’ve moved back to the south end of Seattle recently. Columbia City, more specifically. It’s been a rather harsh relearning of the ways that racism permeates public transportation. I’ve always thought that riding the bus is something of an equalizer, but in the past two weeks, I seem to have proved myself wrong.
First, there is no single bus that goes from 98118 (famed for being the ‘most diverse’ zip code in the country) to the University of Washington (98195). This has been a slow progression of removal of service to sites of education from this part of town. The last time I lived in Columbia City, I was attending night school at the community college on Capitol Hill. Half way through my last quarter, the only bus that ran at night from SCCC to Columbia City was discontinued. There 20 of us stood, exhausted from a full day of work followed by long night classes, waiting for a bus that would never come. My 35 minute single bus ride home turned into an hour commute because none of the buses matched up.
Second has been the overwhelming lack of respect many bus drivers apparently have for their south end riders. I’ve been yelled at, waved furiously at, and been jerked around in my seat by an obviously disgruntled driver who kept slamming on the brakes and then gas pedal, brakes and then gas pedal. One bus driver refused to move the bus until every person had paid to the last cent, then lectured anyone who was short. There we sat…and sat and sat an sat. Others don’t bother lowering the bus to help little old ladies with groceries on the bus.
Many bus driver down south seem to think its their personal duty to teach people some manners or to inculcate some kind of pre-conceive notion of ‘appropriate decorum’ that is somehow invisible and unknown to the riders themselves.
I’ve ridden the buses in Seattle for more than 15 years. I don’t have a car or driver’s license. Ive lived all over the city. And like all geographers know: place matters.
So, on that note, I’ve decided to simply report every single infraction I observe. We are not powerless. We are not simply victims of others. I’ve chosen compassion for my fellow riders over compassion for bus drivers. I realize driving the bus must be difficult. Passengers can be difficult. But a little compassion for the difficulty of the lives of those relegated to riding buses for their grocery shopping, commuting to work, getting the kids to school, making doctor appointments, for the very basic activities of living deserve more compassion. They deserve respect, if not for their time (the buses are always running late) then at least for their dignity.
As someone recently told me: We have a responsibility to be advocates for those that cannot advocate for themselves.