Standing while riding is no big deal

Crystal Valdez, Reporter

Public transportation in Bakersfield has been the subject of countless complaints made by residents for years and recently by Bakersfield College students. If we don’t have a car and we can’t find a ride to school, our last resort is often to take the GET Bus. For some of us that’s apparently not enough. Additionally and oddly enough, students often complain that buses are overcrowded, especially in the mornings on their way to school.

As I was distributing The Renegade Rip’s fourth issue, a fellow student approached me with a story idea. This student asked me to look into the dangers of riding the bus in town. According to this student, many people are required to stand and the city should look to an expansion in its public transportation system.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to have no idea what the inside of a bus looks like, there are bars placed at the top of a bus’ ceiling for bus riders to grip in order to avoid falling over and injuring themselves as the bus makes its routine, frequent stops. Since buses are usually expected to be overcrowded, especially at certain times of day, seats are filled until the last two or three, so buses typically don’t get crowded enough for people to have to stand until they arrive at BC. The reality of it is that what BC students experience on the bus on their way to school is nothing compared to what residents in other cities experience on a daily basis at all hours.

I’ve paid frequent long-term visits to larger and much busier cities in California (Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Francisco), and it’s safe to say that their public transportation is superior and more complex compared to ours. However, a key idea to take into consideration is that those cities are larger and busier, resulting from a larger population. 10.1 million people live in LA, roughly 954,210 people live in San Francisco and Berkeley combined. Only 347,843 people live in Bakersfield. Different demographics require different resources. We have a GET bus system, but we don’t have an LA Metro Rail or Bay Area Rapid Transit system (subways) simply because we don’t need one. Thus the call for a GET bus system expansion is unnecessary and would probably cost the city a lot of money.

The traffic we experience is scarce in comparison to that of cosmopolitan cities. Residents of those cities would roll their eyes at anyone who complains about driving through rush hour here in Bakersfield. Streets are so crammed with cars in cities like LA and San Francisco that residents often prefer walking from point A to point B. Those who don’t like to travel on foot ride their bikes, take the bus, or take the subway. BC students who can’t handle taking the bus because standing for five or ten minutes is difficult to handle should look to this example. However, I think we know that’s not going to happen.

I rode the GET bus to BC every Monday through Thursday for my entire first semester until I finally got my license. My stop was the second one on route 60, so I never had difficulty finding a seat. I always had my headphones and a book with me because I would spend an hour on the bus since I live on the Southwest side of town.

I was always comfortable, and I never saw any issues. I never noticed anyone else experience any issues aside from an incident in which a woman shared stories from her experience in prison, and she informed everyone on the bus on the reason why they no longer serve hot dogs in her old state penitentiary.

Bus riders sitting on the handicap seats never seemed to mind giving up their seats for the blind man or the woman on the wheelchair. I was always a recluse on the bus, but others wouldn’t hesitate to spark conversation with the stranger sitting next to them.

I never had to stand on a bus in Bakersfield, but I’ve had to stand on every form of public transportation in LA and the Bay Area, and I’m almost positive that standing in a bus that goes 40mph is less terrifying than standing in a subway that goes 70mph. There are people standing on buses here in town, but only for a little while. So many people stand in buses of LA and the Bay Area that I’m surprised there is enough bar space for everyone to share.

We’re sheltered. Yes, there’s room for improvement, but we’re actually pretty lucky. If you’re fortunate enough to have a college education, standing on the bus for a while shouldn’t be too much of a burden. Some public transportation is better than none.