Ever had a nightmare journey on public transit? One that either makes you sigh or laugh about the weirdness of it? We had one of those memorable rides on the bus from Denver to Boulder last night….
One of the perks of living in the small town of Nederland is getting an RTD EcoPass. RTD runs the public transit for the Denver/Boulder regional area including light rail and all bus service. The EcoPass allows you to ride any and all services for the year. Nederland passed a ballot initiative two years ago, providing free EcoPasses to all of its 1400 residents through an incremental charge to property taxes. The idea is to increase usage on the bus from Nederland to Boulder and reduce the number of people driving up and down Boulder Canyon.
For us, it has definitely provided an incentive to use the bus. When both of us worked in Boulder, we frequently took the bus to work, and even now take the bus periodically during our off hours. RTD provides express service between Boulder and Denver, and we almost always take the bus to Denver to avoid parking hassles and fees. So last night when we decided to go to a concert at the Performing Arts Complex, we decided to take the bus, which was no problem going down to Denver. Coming back to Boulder was another story.
Turns out both the Rockies, Colorado’s major league baseball team, and the Avalanche, Colorado’s hockey team were playing last night. And both games ended around the same time, 9:30 or so, which was the same time our concert was over. And like us, everyone else had the same idea to take the bus, which considering the drunken state of most of the people, was a very good idea. We first knew it was trouble when we arrived for the 10:08 bus, to see a line of a couple hundred people. Yikes! Other times, RTD has been prepared and had a second bus waiting, but not last night.
As we waited for the next bus, it became clear there were lots of Chicago people mixed in, who being drunk, decided to rile things up and start heckling the others in line. I had one woman start sniping at me that I didn’t know how to walk in my high heels. This was going to be a long night….
We saw a bus parked on the other side, that looked out of service, that said Boulder Garage. The guy in front of us commented that they should recruit him to drive a second bus to Boulder for those of us waiting. Five minutes later, we see an RTD supervisor walk over to talk with him, and the sign changes to Boulder Transit Center. I can only imagine the thoughts going through the driver’s head as he drove over to pick up this rowdy, drunken crowd of people. Why me?
Once we all piled on the bus, the night got even more interesting. We sat near the front, in order to make as quick of an exit as possible. The Chicago people started yelling back and forth up and down the bus. Then someone yells out, “Someone just puked in the back of the bus!” Thank God, we were near the front, I can only imagine the smell as the night wore on.
After riding for about fifteen minutes, we started to hear the passenger in the front seat murmuring directions to the driver. Unfortunately for the driver, the late buses going from Denver to Boulder are locals, meaning they stop several places along the way at the various Park n’ Ride lots. This driver, being recruited for this route at the last minute, had apparently never driven this way before. At one point, he thought the main highway was closed and we ended up making a rather circuitous route through the neighborhood streets of the suburbs. By this time, desperate to get back to the highway, he took the first right onto the entrance ramp, to which a chorus of shouts ensued. He’s completely bypassed one of the main stops, the Westminster Park n’ Ride. I think he was so afraid of getting lost and falling farther behind the schedule, he announced “Tonight, this is the Westminster Stop!” and came to an abrupt stop right on the entrance ramp.
Right now, there is tons of construction taking place on Highway 36, between Denver and Boulder. There are areas where the road is routed to one side then the other. I got a little worried, as I saw the bus start to veer onto the shoulder towards a barricade, and then felt sway of the bus as the driver swung it back to the lane of traffic. But it got really weird after we stopped in Broomfield. The entrance ramp back to the highway had a barricade up a third of the way down with two construction workers standing next to it. At this point, we were too far down to back up in a bus, so the workers waved him on. As we weaved in an out amongst cones and barrels, I had flashbacks to the Sandra Bullock move, Speed. Would this end with us careening off the side of the road somewhere? As we barreled along through the construction zone, I saw two more construction workers standing in the middle of the road ahead. They suddenly jumped out of the way, waving their flashlights through the dark of the night. I prayed we would somehow make it to back to the highway, and started to laugh, because the whole thing seemed so surreal.
We finally made it back to our car at the Park n’ Ride lot and got back to our house in Nederland at 1 a.m. In hindsight, we would have probably been much better off to drive to Denver that particular night, but then again I would have missed out on a memorable bus ride…
I’ve read stories of crazy things happening on public transit — babies being born, crazy people, musicians singing — would love to hear your stories of a memorable trip in the comments section below.