Life on the Bus

Given the overwhelming response to the Life on the MRT thread, I think a thread on the bus is in order. Growing up in the suburbs, I never once rode a bus back home where bus riders are mostly poor, inner-city folks. But here the bus is part of my everyday life. What kind of bus experience have you had? What bus has the most maniacal drivers? Have you noticed any improvements on the bus lately?

Something new I noticed yesterday on the 236: Automatic announcement of the upcoming stop (complete with four languages not unlike that of the MRT and digital display at the front of the bus). The 644 started having their drivers announce it via a microphone a few months ago, but now it’s done almost on a whim, with little enthusiasm, and only in Mandarin, of course.

Ah… the annoucements… Apparently next to Ximending there’s a ZhongHua station ? eh ? what ? what station ? Must confuse the hell out of people who are looking for a bus stop

You’ve seen a bus driver than speaks Mandarin ? Things are changing… rare to see a bus driver who can actually speak instead of grunting

Another example of bad translation, as zhan can refer to either a station or a stop. There’s a ZhongHua Rd North Stop. The only “station” in that area is Taipei Main Station. The former ZhongHua Rd South Stop has become the Ximen MRT Stop. Both stops are on the east border of Ximending.

I know, it’s a bus stop not a bus station, just a little niggle but it could confuse people.

I have horror stories from many years ago, not really applicable now I’m glad to say, before the days of the MRT

I quite often take the bus. Guess I don’t have to comment on their driving skills (or rather the lack thereof) but the worst was a bus pushing a motobike which got in his way - intentionally of course. The biker didn’t fall down (was one of those cart types) but instead just moved away.
Once I rode a bus and felt the seat was shaking / loose and when I looked down I could see the street below me through a hole appr. 5 inches in diameter. :shock:

Drivers are IMHO very ignorant to people on the bus, especially the elder.
Sudden stops, changing lanes like a scooter or not stopping at the bus stops at all (no matter if you are on the bus and pressed the signal or you wait at the bus stop and signal him by hand) - seen it all.

Improvements: yes, some buses have now maps in English and some lines have a LED display showing the next stop in Chinese and English.
Most (all?) do accept the Easy-Card which I find very usefull.
But only a few buses are what I would call new and comfortable, the rest just seems to be used until it breaks apart.

I ride the bus only twice a week and for a short distance but after Typhoon Nari knocked out the MRT in September of 2001 I had to take it everyday for about an hour and it was pure hell. Maniacal drivers weaving in and out of traffic like they were driving a sports car, passengers packed in like sardines and if you think Taiwanese can be rude cutting in line at the 7-11, try it when an empty seat opens up on a crowded bus. A housewife in a print dress suddenly becomes a judo expert. All I can say is thank God for the MRT. I did notice the new announcement system last week that Incubus mentioned and was most impressed. Can this be a sign that Taipei may one day actually fulfill its desire of becoming a tourist-friendly city?

I think that’s going a bit far

If you want to believe in buses, take one from “Shoudu” company, such as the 235, my personal favorite. Consistent, clean, the drivers are courteous always, and they all put on full Santa suits the couple of days around Christmas. Plus they go where I need to get to!!

my favorite was always the 265. coming from nyc suburbs where the bus comes every 20 minutes and probably not in winter because it broke down watching the buses come every minute or two was always fun :shock:

it’s a lot better now than the old days, many buses were not airconditioned and in scary shape–there was even a seperate fare for air con or no air con–used to be amazed too when the buses sometimes DIDN’T STOP at your stop but just kept going :x they still do that?

they were always reliable though, you got there on time, maybe a little squished but i took them a lot in the old days. i still can shock people with my encyclopedic knowledge of the routes, always fun :slight_smile: don’t know about all these new 500 and 600 buses though

Yeah, I think I still have a punch card or two from the old buses back when it was like NT$6 for normal and NT$8 for air-con…the routes have changed remarkably little, too!

As a regular bus rider who despite moving next door to an MRT stop is already mapping out the bus routes for her favorite stomping grounds from her new apartment (I can take the 220 to Tianmu instead of the 285 which I can take almost right from my current apartment and goes right by my job…talk about convenience), I love the bus system. Almost more, dare I say it, than the MRT. And more often than not, I hate it. It’s pretty convenient yet frustrating at times. There’s something about the challenge of the bus system. I never rode a bus until Typhoon Nari wiped out most of the MRT last fall and after getting punched in the eye by a wandering elbow I swore I’d never step foot on one again, but I did and continue to.
I have gone from that wet-behind-the-ears newbie whose Mandarin-speaking roommate walked her to the bus stop her first day of taking the bus to work and gave the instructor directions on where to drop me off like a little kid on her first day of school to a full-out bus surfer babe. I am working on completing a whole journey without touching any surfaces with my hands. So far I might grab the ceiling or touch a pole with the heel of my hand if we are going around curves fast or making sudden stops. I think I have just as many if not more memorable moments on the busses here as I do the MRT. One of my favorites (aside from getting a bruised eye from the flying elbow) is when I was looking at my current apartment (until 3/15, baby!) and got on a 282 in the wrong direction. When I tried to say the name of the stop that I wanted, the driver stopped the bus in the middle of He Ping E. Rd and told me to get out. I looked out the door at the oncoming traffic and tried to ask the driver if I could get off at a stop. He growled and pointed out the door. So I had to dash across a major road and hope that I didn’t wind up decorating someone’s windshield with my body. Ironically, my mother had the same problem when she attempted to take the 282 to a site during her visit back in May. Must have been the same driver. I know there was one 282 driver who used to wear a fishing cap and a neck brace that was just pure evil, never even honked to or responded to honking from a fellow 282 driver, drove like a bat out of hell, and regularly passed stops even if there was a group of elderly nuns waving to him frantically. Another 282 driver decided to cut some car off and slam his brakes on which sent my shoulder crashing into a pole and caused me to pull that muscle just because the car made him spill his cup of betel nut juice. We had to walk over the nasty, foul-smelling red puddle to get off the bus…and it was when they had just changed the busses so it was a brand-new one. And don’t get me started on the roaches I have seen on some of them including at least 10 baby roaches that suddenly appeared along my window and on the floor under my seat on a BR6 one night.
When I see R19 busses, I hear “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan in my head except it becomes “Red 19”. When Typhoon Nari took out the MRT, the busses were ridiculously full…to the point that they would lean to the right from all of the people crowded onto the steps from both the front and rear doors because there was no where else to stand and the drivers would pass stops because there was no room to pick anyone else up (this was the 905, 906, and 909 in Hsintien which go all the way out to Songshan, and they had filled up before even crossing Bitan!). You know how the MRT trains get crowded at rush hour so that people step off to let people get out? That’s what they did on the busses too at that time. I spent many morning commutes that fall getting a perfect view of the road ahead from the bottom step of the front doors…if I got picked up that day.

Rascal, maybe I live in a fortunate part of town, but I have ridden on the brand-new 282, 292, 235, 15, 285, 18, 74, BR3, BR6, and the 902 vans (one of the roach-inhabited lines along with the Taishan which is still very disgusting). Then there are those busses who used to have holes in the floor patched up with dirty rags and rotting wood. I have been on a Taishan line bus that had a hole in the floor…I bet if we slowed down enough, I could have seen the trail of oil leaking from a broken oil pan. I like to count the 900 lines: I have been on a 901, 902, 905, 906, and 909. I have seen a 904 and a 907 or 908 (I forget). Anyone know how the numbers work out. I haven’t quite gotten around to buying a bus map.

I like how I currently can walk out my door and get on a bus to either Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and Taipei Main Station (15) or Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall and Mucha Zoo (282) or Shihlin b[/b] Night Market (902) or Tonghua Street Night Market (282). I’ll miss that when I move into town…or at least until I can figure out where the busses in my new neighborhood go.

Another favorite bus moment was getting onto an 18 which very much resembled a Bluebird school bus in the US back in the mid- to late 80’s/early 90’s when I was in elementary school from the inside except instead of green seats it had pink seats and everyone was sitting in them like calm adult-sized children, two to a seat. The driver was calling out stops by microphone. I felt like I had entered the Twilight Zone. Then someone hit the signal to get off…

and it played “It’s a Small World”.

My favorite is the low chassis bus. I know the 606, 287, and 74 have them. The large windows, wide doors, and soft lighting make it very pleasant to ride on. Just wish there were more of them.

The 285, 606, 15, 33, and 41 have them too. They’re nice, but they took out a lot of seats or so it feels. I like that back row though. It’s so open unlike the back row on other busses.

Why do busses with the same number go on different routes ? What is the point in that ? No. 212 is a good example, one turns left after KunYang, the other goes straight on, both number 212. There are many that do that, 10,275… Why not give them different numbers if they do different routes ?

I know what you mean. The 251 and 236 do the same thing going inbound. Instead of going all the way to Taipei Main, some of them just turn around after Gong Guan and go back out to Jingmei. I think it’s because of the passenger distribution, as a lot of riders connect to other bus routes at Gong Guan, making it unprofitable for the bus companies to have lots of empty buses after a certain stop. So I always keep my eyes peeled for the qu jian che sign (between sections bus) at the front of the bus.

Elsewhere, embryopoet wrote:[quote]though i now can recognize many of the mrt stops from my brief perusal of the schedule’s pages, there’s no way i was going to be able to decipher all the stops on the key bus routes i may take to get to where i need to go.[/quote]
If you’re talking about getting around in Taipei, then learning just a few characters can help a lot.

Knowing ??? (Taibei chezhan) is essential.

You will no doubt have noticed that most stops have four-character names. Because of this, stops whose names have different numbers of characters really stand out and are easy to spot in a quick scan of the signs at busstops.

?? (Gongguan) and ?? (Dinghao) are two-character names that also make good reference points. Find a few other stop names that stand out and use them too.

Marking the stops near MRT stations was an excellent idea and is a big help to those semi-literate in characters.

subsequent to my earlier post, i became more confident of deciphering the mrt stops from the other stops. so now i’m more confident on the bus and, once i get closer to “civilization” (aka, taipei city), i will be a much more avid bus rider.

when i ride the mrt, for some reason it reminds me of going on group trips in beijing guided by the chinese gov’t. they would always take us to where they wanted us to be, rather than “letting” us explore. i feel like the mrt is where i, as a foreigner, am expected to be. but when i’m on the bus, i feel like i did when i would just hop on a bike and ride around the city and see and meet your average beijingren. i feel like i’m becoming more and more a person of the city - as opposed to being an outsider looking in - as i brave the busses. plus, it saves on the pocketbook.

i actually am going to pick up the bloody bus route thing today, i think. it never hurts to continue learning those chinese characters…

[quote=“cranky laowai”]You will no doubt have noticed that most stops have four-character names. Because of this, stops whose names have different numbers of characters really stand out and are easy to spot in a quick scan of the signs at busstops.
?? (Gongguan) and ?? (Dinghao) are two-character names that also make good reference points. Find a few other stop names that stand out and use them too. [/quote]Here’s a two-character name that always appears on busstops but don’t confuse it with an actual stop: 痔瘡 (zhi chuang). I guess if you sit in a bus too long, you’ll need to go to this particular “stop” :laughing:

I wonder if that was for more circulation or to help warm the bus up from the driver having the AC at 18 degrees. I can bus surf a little, but I have suffered too many injuries from standing on a bus (while holding on to something and from other people), and it’s not easy. [/quote]

In spite of all the signs put up by bus operators assuring riders that the bus you’re on has been sanitized, I still adopt the hands-free approach these days from the time I step on board until I alight. As for that bell you need to hit to indicate alighting, I take out my key and use it to press the button.

I use my easy card to hit the signal.