How to Take the Bus (in New Haven)

As a long time commuter by city bus, I’ve learned a few things. Finding out where you need to go, what bus will get you there and at what times can be a challenge. If you aren’t familiar with the bus route and area it is in, it becomes nerve-racking. Compound that with the senior citizen who smells like urine that sits beside you, and suddenly riding the bus loses whatever appeal it may have had.

Those reasons, it’s too difficult, too many germs and foul odors, and too many people who talk to themselves, make a lot of commuters give up on taking the city bus. The most common and convenient way to travel in New Haven is by bus. In comparison to walking late at night, or getting into a car accident, city buses are actually safer. You will see things you don’t like, but don’t be discouraged. Never enter the city and be surprised when the city acts like a city.

Moving on from that, CT Transit has routes all over New Haven. The chances of a bus not going near or directly to where you want to go, are slim. These routes often carry into other cities and towns, like Hamden, Derby and the valley area, Shelton, Bridgeport, Milford, Branford and more.

To find out where to go, you have several options. The first is to visit http://www.cttransit.com, and open the “routes/schedules” drop down menu. From there, you can choose schedules and routes from numerous cities. For this tutorial, we’ll choose New Haven. After clicking directly on New Haven, you are brought to a page with a list of buses and their routes. It starts with the Hartford express, then lists for the B bus and so on in the alphabet. Weekday and weekend schedules are available for viewing, as well as maps. Let’s assume we are going to the Westville neighborhood. We’ll click on the “Weekday Schedule” link below “B Whalley Avenue”. On the left side, buses titled B1, B2, and B3 are listed. Beside them on the right, are times. Above each time, is the place where they go at that time. When looking at Westville Center, we can see the B1 arrives at this place at 4:46 am, and runs throughout the day until 11:48 pm. We will visit going back home later.

If you do not have internet access, but have a phone, you can call CT Transit directly at 203-624-0151. This number is specifically for going into, out of, or moving around New Haven. You’ll hear an automated response saying the following, “Please be prepared to tell us where you are, where you would like to go, and what time you would like to be there.” If you haven’t prepared that, hang up and do so. Attendants will look up the closest bus stop to your location, and it is usually less than a few blocks away. If you cannot walk far, have no fear because all CT Transit buses are accessible to people who use wheelchairs and have disabilities. After finding out where you are, then you can tell them where you want to go. They will then ask for a time, and recommend the bus you should take, and what stop you should get off at.

Your third option if you are more familiar with New Haven, is to ask random bystanders where to go. This is for anyone who is in a hurry or comfortable with taking the bus. You can also ask a friend who rides the bus often, or a bus driver who is standing at a bus stop.

What you should never do, is wait at a random bus stop, and do one of two things: Ask the bus driver a million questions when he or he stops, or simply get on, pay your fare and then ask where you are going. Buses run on schedules, and stopping a bus for information holds up everyone’s day. Most passengers will get irritated and yell at you, which you will deserve. Getting on without knowing where you are going wastes your money, and you could end up in some random neighborhood in lord knows where.

Arrive at the bus stop no less than five minutes before the pickup time. Running after the bus is embarrassing, and drivers don’t always stop for stragglers. For regular passengers, the bus fare is $1.30. If you are between ages 5 and 17, your fare is $1.00. Children 4 and under, ride for free. If you are a senior citizen or disabled, your fare is 70 cents. Be sure to present your photo I.D. or Medicaid/Medicare card when paying your fare. Some colleges offer a UPASS, which allows students to ride for free, all day, every day. Check with the card office in your college to see if they offer this pass. You can also visit the ticket booth, on Chapel Street (across the street from Radioshack), to get an all day, 10-ride or 31 day pass. These passes cost more money, but are great conveniences. If you have to take more than one bus one-way, ask for a Transfer, which you will use on your second bus instead of a fare. One more tip – have your fare ready before you get on the bus.

When you are on the bus, do not smoke, eat or drink, talk too loud or play music. Conversations are fine but they don’t have to be heard by everyone. Please understand, some people are tired after a long day at work and they just want to go home. If you encounter someone with a mental illness, do not engage, encourage or taunt them. You will make situations worse, or get yourself hurt. If you are uncomfortable, tell the bus driver. They deal with this often and they know the difference between danger and mild annoyance. Keep in mind that everyone has the right to take the bus, until they cause problems.

If you are carrying a baby stroller, fold it up BEFORE you get on the bus. Ask for help from a driver or passenger if carrying the stroller and your child or children is too much for you. Place your stroller UNDER the seat, NOT in the aisles where people need to walk. If you have a bike, place it on the bike rack on the front of the bus. It has pictorial directions, but if you are confused, ask the driver to help you.

If you are young and have no disabilities, do not sit in the priority seats. These sideways seats at the front of the bus are reserved for women who are pregnant or have strollers. They are for people with wheelchairs, crutches, other injuries and people who are senior citizens. If you sit here anyways, and someone who clearly needs these seats gets on the bus, be respectful and move to another seat. Also, the front entrance of the bus has a ramp that will be extended down for you if you cannot use stairs, or you use a wheelchair. The driver will give you instructions on where to go from there.

It is okay to give someone change if they don’t have enough for their fare, but only when they are on the bus. Don’t give change to people on the street corner, because it is usually put toward drugs and alcohol. If someone is hungry, give them food. Don’t let people borrow your cell phone. Just tell them you don’t have a lot of minutes. If they keep pressing you for it, ask them why they are so interested in your phone. Chances are, if you hand it over, they will run off with it.

People have other behaviors are bus stops. They sell lucies or cigarette packs, bootleg DVD’s, have drug transactions or flirt with each other. Once again, this is the city and this is what you will see. Be aware of who is around you, and people you have never seen before. Make note of who keeps to themselves, and who starts trouble. Officers walk around downtown New Haven often, so if you see something, say something. You can also do what I do, carry pepper spray. Most of the problem people downtown know I have it, and they stay away from me because of it. Being loud and noticeable when someone is harassing you also alerts everyone around you and deters their behavior.

Congratulations, you made it onto the bus! But how will you get back? The same way you came. There is always a bus stop on the opposite end of the street where you got on. All buses coming into New Haven stop on Chapel Street or Elm Street. You can ask when you are the phone how to get back home. They will tell you which bus to take.

My final word of advice to you is that riding the bus is not a dating service. Trying to pick someone up is creepy, strange and dangerous. These are the ultimate strangers and it is better to be safe and single than raped or dead.

Good luck, be safe, and enjoy your ride.

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