Handstraps Hoist Commuter Crowds

I have ridden Valley Metro’s Rapid line for more than two years. I take the I-17 Route, but the Rapid lines handle most of the freeways from various Park and Rides to downtown. Last week I noticed a new thing: handstraps of nylon bolted between compartments of the upper luggage rack.

Rapid buses look a little different than the average city street bus: Almost all the seats face forward, two to a row on either side of the center aisle. Two benchlike seats that can each hold about three people face towards the center aisle by the rear door. These can be folded up for wheelchair mounting. Behind that, there’s a little elevated area with more forward-facing seats. There are about six seats along the very back of the bus.

But that’s it. I don’t think they expected people standing in the center aisle. But we do!

I have seen crowds so large people take to the rear elevated portion at the back of the bus. I have stood at the front well past the line federal regulations say I’m not supposed to stand past, holding on to the rail that protects the fare box, staring straight out the windshield. Valley Metro added a few more buses to the route, but at certain times of the day– right around quitting time– the bus will arrive at the stop crowded with people in the aisle already.

I haven’t found too many good places to hang on to. The luggage racks have elastic bands to keep stuff from flying out, but they have too much give. The tubular ridge at the base of the luggage rack isn’t angled the right way, and the seams between rack compartments are rough enough to scrape the skin.

I hope these handstraps help out with holding on, but it looks like a temporary solution that a few more buses would fix. I don’t think gas prices will be going down any time soon, and the more– preferably less crowded– mass transit options we have, the better.

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