Bus Culture 101
As I’m starting my fifth semester on campus, I can admit that I still get on the wrong bus from time to time. It’s an easy mistake to make. I couldn’t tell you from memory alone how many bus routes that there are to travel.
But, like everything at the University of Massachusetts, it seems complicated at first, more than need be. Sometimes you’ve just got to jump in feet first lest you risk missing out.
Once you’ve gotten on the wrong bus at Walmart and find yourself at the end of the line in the middle of NoHo (the neighboring Northampton) it cures you of making the same mistake in the future. This brings me to lesson number one; always ask the driver when you get on the bus where exactly he or she is headed. Yes, you feel like the rest of the passengers are staring at you awkwardly as the newbie who has no clue what they’re doing. But you’ll thank yourself for not ending up in downtown Northampton at six o’clock in the evening in the dead of winter.
There are two basic approaches to the bus system. One is to stop by the campus center and pick up the six or so neatly folded PVTA transit route maps. The other is just to wait at the Haigis Mall until one of the buses comes along that looks about right and take your chances. There’s a website for UMass transit too in case you lose those schedules, in addition there is a phone number (413-545-0056) if you’re really stuck.
The orange buses and any non-shuttles require that Five College students show the driver their student ID when boarding, or else you’ll have to pay the normal fare. With your I.D. you can ride for free.
Be ready for weekends and holidays when the schedule changes up. And I can’t reiterate enough the need to be diligent so as not to get stuck at the end of the line at 2 a.m.
Lesson number two is to pay attention to what number bus you’re getting on and the destination. The majority of the blue and white busses are on-campus shuttles. What this means is if you live in Sylvan, have an 8 a.m. class in School of Management and it’s below 30 degrees with precipitation, you won’t have to walk.
Have to go get textbooks at Amherst Books? Take the bus, and whatever you do, don’t walk there in flip-flops. If you do, you’ll need that same bus route to CVS for some band-aids and antibiotic cream.
There are many advantages to riding the bus besides avoiding blisters, namely that you’ll save gas. With the prices of the flammable gold yo-yoing past the depths of the average college student’s purse, do yourself a favor and leave the keys at home. You’ll also save money on parking passes, meters and tickets.
You’ll also pick up memorable anecdotes from riding the bus, especially riding at midnight when more than half of the shuttle’s occupancy is taken up by your intoxicated peers. And don’t worry if you get on a late night bus and see a cop on board, its become the norm.
With all the coffee cups that we use at the Dining Commons, the food we leave uneaten to get passed on to the dish rooms and the plastic bottles we leave lying around the lecture halls, riding the bus is the least we can do to make up for the invisible carbon emissions cloud hanging over Amherst.
Don’t end up like one of the shameful seniors who still can’t make heads or tails of the bus schedule. The buses are a way of life on campus and simply part of the UMass culture. The university is huge, but believe it or not, it starts to feel pretty darn small after a semester or two. Getting off campus is essential to the experience of living and learning in Amherst. “Oh the places you’ll go,” to quote a piece of Dr. Seuss wisdom that becomes a fast favorite during graduation season.
Yes, it’s awkward to be crammed in the bus like a sardine with people standing on the steps and the bus swaying with the weight of the passengers as you take a turn off of North Pleasant Street. But the bus’s grimy hand-rails are like the temperature in Bartlett Hall. It’s just part of our lifestyle at UMass. We complain and nitpick, but our campus has character and it’s ours to both love and hate. You’ll soon find the pros outweigh the cons.
Hannah Nelson is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.