Nothing gives you as much 'Pimp Status' on the bus as a $2.00 unlimited monthly pass.
This pass is for the serious bus rider. It communicates to your fellow passengers 'That's right, I ride this bus so much that it's worth it for me to buy this $66 pass every month'. I know this, not because of the looks I get when I whip mine out, because I don't have one. I know this because of the feelings of awe and wonder I get when someone takes theirs out. Most people spend a minute trying to filter in two dollars or digging around for change*, but when someone pulls out that little blue card and quickly swipes it through the reader and continues on....it's as sexy as bus riding gets.
The other day my roommate was telling me about this idea of 'Pedestrian Pride'** and its importance in helping build sustainable cities. The first and only thing I could think of involving pedestrians and pride was that little blue bus pass. The pride I hope I'll feel my first time swiping it, proving just how bus savvy I am. But that was it, because riding the bus is hard. Not hard in the sense that figuring out which bus to get on and when to be at the stop and finding a stop is hard, that's fine despite smartbus.com's efforts to confuse you, you can figure it out. But hard in the sense that it's hard to feel successful when you're standing at a bus stop***.
I think it's pretty much assumed, at least in Detroit, that the people on the bus are too broke to afford a car. Which is probably a fair statement. I don't know if I would be riding the bus if I could afford a car and the insurance and gas. In fact, I know I wouldn't. So the bus becomes this daily reminder of what you don't have and also acts as a neon sign that announces it to the world, and sometimes the world is less than kind about it. This isn't New York where everyone from beggars to lawyers take public transportation. It can't be. Our particular economy depends on the success of the car industry. If people started abandoning cars and started embracing the bus system you'd start seeing bumper stickers that said "Out of a job yet? Keep taking the bus."
So yea, maybe those of us on the bus can't afford a car, but there are a lot of incredibly decent people on the bus. There are young men who stand so old men can sit. There are grown men who stand so young women can sit. There are people who help senior citizens carry their groceries off the bus and people who give someone with a bum dollar**** 4 quarters. People going to work and school and to visit Grandmothers in the hospital and sisters for their birthdays. So here's my point, bus people are just people. So please don't stare at me while I'm waiting for the bus and when I tell you that I take the bus please don't ask me 'Why don't you just buy a car?' and if you ever see me with a little blue $2.00 monthly bus pass, it's okay to be impressed.
* If this is you, you should know you consistently piss me off. You know the bus is coming. You know it's $2.00. There is a line of people behind you waiting to get on and you're holding them up which is ultimately making my commute longer. It's called a change purse. Get one.
** More coming on this.
*** Especially in Birmingham.
**** A bum dollar is a dollar so crumpled and torn that the bus won't take it. It makes this loud obnoxious noise when it rejects a dollar. Having a bum dollar is one of my greatest bus fears.