Thursday, December 26, 2013

Service Change: South Florida, Part 2 - BCT Buses 11 and 22, the Tri-Rail and Roundabout Trolley Going Back, the Avis Shuttle Bus, and the Atlanta "Plane Train"

After arriving in Fort Lauderdale, we decided to walk down to the beach. What we didn't realize was that it was a three mile walk - and a guy at the terminal told us it would only be a half hour. We walked down Las Olas Boulevard, which is the downtown shopping hub of Fort Lauderdale. It got suburban pretty quickly, and soon the buildings were far behind us with no beach in site. There's a cool suburban neighborhood in view of Las Olas, where every street is on its own isthmus; there are also foreboding "Private Property" signs in front of each one. After a massive drawbridge over the Intracoastal, shops popped up again as we approached the beach. But you don't want to hear about our walk - you want to hear about the bus ride back.

Not the exact bus we took, but I saw it on our walk.
As you might expect, we were pretty tired by the time we got to the beach. We had been seeing a few 11's on the walk to the beach, and we figured it would probably be an easy way to get back to the central terminal. We didn't have a clue of how often it ran on Sundays, though, so we had to totally wing it. After visiting a rowdy mall to use the cockroach-infested bathrooms (seems like gross bathrooms have been a common occurrence on this trip), we had to figure out how to get to the 11.

At this point on the route, it runs on A1A which is split into two halves about two blocks apart. We walked over to the southbound half (being a little north of Las Olas) and looked for the stop. My mother waited at the corner while I ran ahead to see if the stop was over there. As I did, an 11 came tearing down the street. I shouted to my mom, and she came running down.

This is what a BCT bus stop looks like.
A pretty bad picture, but I was excited to see the bus.
Now, typical of not-quite-fully-modernized bus systems, the fares are strange, uneven amounts that you have to pay with exact change. In this case, it's $1.75 per person - what are the chances of having three quarters in your wallet? As some people may say, "Ain't nobody got time for that." Luckily there were two of us, so it was a nice even fare of $3.50. As we were stepping into the bus, I tried to take a picture of the interior, but the camera was acting up and some guy was getting mad at me. What came out was a blurry mess:

Oh, this is the worst picture.
The segment between the beach and the central bus terminal is actually only a small fraction of the entire route. It starts out north in Pompano Beach (which, incidentally, has a Tri-Rail station), heads down the A1A, turns onto Las Olas Boulevard (about where we got on), heads down to the Central Bus Terminal, and makes its way northwest to some mall called Sunshine Plaza. The whole route is over 20 miles, and that's not even the longest one. One of the Palm Tran bus routes in West Palm Beach, the 40, is over 40 miles long!

The views from the ride were the same as described in the first paragraph of this post. The bus was reasonably crowded, with about 15 people in it (this route runs every 45 minutes on Sundays). I was excited to see that the buses had automatic stop announcements, though only at major areas. They also announce news about things like route changes. Interestingly, the announcements are first recited in English, then a Creole language. Something I liked was that they actually said what buses you can transfer to at each stop - here in Boston, all you get is the cryptic message of "Bus Connection."

We got to the Central Bus Terminal in no time, and everyone cleared out (so much for Sunshine Plaza). The driver also got out, but it seems that the bus always lays over at the terminal for five minutes. Now our destination was the Tri-Rail station, and both the 22 and the 81 were at the terminal and were going to the station. My mother wanted to take the 81 because it left five minutes earlier, but I wanted to take the 22 because it was a newer bus model than the 11. I ended up winning the argument, and man, the bus was nice.

Sorry, 81. I will say this: that's the most stylized "via" I've ever seen!
Even the 22's door is amazing!
We found out upon getting on that the driver on the 11 had cheated us. It only costs 85 cents for students (random amount, but a discount is a discount)! We only had to pay $2.60! Luckily we spent the right amount of money for the 22. As we settled in, I realized I hadn't even checked the Tri-Rail schedule to see when the next train was. Bad idea - the next train was in five minutes. Boy, did my mother get mad. We didn't make it, obviously (it followed the same route as the FL1), and had to wait an hour for the next train. I was happy, though, that I got to try out the ingenious back door. Rather than shouting out "Back door!" to the driver, you can just push the yellow tape to open it up. Simply amazing.

A much better interior view. The bus had some other riders besides these, I was just one of the first people on.
The 22, like the 11, goes much further than the section we took. It's a little less extreme this time; it runs about 12 miles from the Central Bus Terminal to "Sawgrass Mills," which is - what else? - a mall. It wasn't too crowded, maybe about 10 people. One other person got off at the Tri-Rail and had to wait.

The 22 at the Tri-Rail station.
The wait at the Tri-Rail station was really really boring. Looking back at it now, it didn't take so long, but it felt like it took forever, especially since neither of us had books. Eventually, the train did come, and it was actually different from the one we took to Fort Lauderdale. It wasn't drastic, but the seats were a little taller and thinner here. Evidently they were more comfortable, too, as I found myself falling asleep on the ride. It was much less crowded this time around, and probably set the example for what Sunday traffic usually looks like.

This was on the upper deck, of course.
Our train leaving Delray Beach Station. You can see the vast expanse of nothingness ahead of the train.
Once we got to Delray, it was only a short wait before a trolley came. I had wanted to take Palm Tran bus 80, but it drops you off fairly far away from where we were staying - it doesn't even run on Sundays. I just wanted to take a Palm Tran bus to see what it was like, but all I have is this picture taken from the Tri-Rail:

This is Palm Tran bus 2, but you can't really tell.
The trolley was not a very pleasant ride. It started out alright - it was only us and another guy - but soon the driver asked the guy sitting in the back to close the window. He said he couldn't do it. "Why don't you just come back here and do it yourself?" were his exact words. Eventually the driver turned off of Atlantic Ave so he could stop the bus without disrupting traffic. He was actually going to go back there and close the window, but the guy managed to do it himself. As the driver navigated back to Atlantic Ave, the guy spent the rest of the ride shouting loudly about how he was able to close the window.

Okay, so this next one may feel a bit unnecessary, and it probably is. But I'm including it anyway, even though I'm not entirely sure of even what the route is. I'm talking about the Avis shuttle bus, a simple link between the Avis rental car parking lots and West Palm Beach Airport. I really don't have that much to say about it. I just have a bunch of random tidbits:

  • The driver helps you out with your luggage. There are also racks for them, which is nice.
  • Buses run frequently, and they're free.
  • When going to the rental place, you tell the driver what space your car is parked in. You literally get dropped off right in front of it - when we were going there, he let the other two people on the bus get off, then literally drove a few feet and opened the doors again for us.
  • I can't remember the route, but it's very twisty.
  • When entering the rental car place, there are ominous "bus only" signs. If a car tries to go in, spikes cause significant tire damage.
  • Overall, a convenient ride.

The bus at the airport.
The interior - I think the seats are too comfy for a 5 minute ride.
And finally, the Atlanta Plane Train. This one may feel unnecessary as I only took this airport shuttle two stops, and...well, it's an airport shuttle. But considering that I went to the effort of taking pictures inside a really crowded train with a bunch of luggage, unable to hold on to anything with our plane departing in 20 minutes - well, I'm definitely gonna write about it. The Plane Train is an automatic (driver-less) people-mover serving the different terminals of Atlanta Airport (Hartsfield-Jackson). It's the only way to get around the terminals, but luckily trains run every minute or even less. Of course, when you're given a 20 minute layover between flights, it can be a little frustrating to have to use it, but I usually enjoy riding it.

It's so crowded!
Being the most used airport people-mover system (according to the Wikipedia page, anyway), the train was of course quite crowded. This made taking pictures very hard, considering I had to "train-surf" without falling into anyone. The above photo is the result. Anyway, the route is entirely underground, and it has eight stations in all. I said in my post about the Orlando Airport Shuttle that it uses the same rolling stock as the Atlanta Plane Train, but according to Wikipedia, it doesn't. The Plane Train also features automatic announcements, which from 2006-2012 were apparently voiced by Susan Bennett, otherwise known as Siri (again, according to Wikipedia). I don't know why they got rid of her, but I do know that the Plane Train is a useful, frequent, well-used shuttle in the world's busiest airport.

It's a blurry picture because we were scurrying up the escalator.
These screens at each station tell you where the train is going.

1 comment:

  1. The Avis shuttle reminds me of the Massport shuttles at Logan...

    ReplyDelete

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