Thank-You Note to a Bus Company That Receives Precious Few

IndyGo, bus, Indianapolis
Dear IndyGo,

Honesty up front: I wish you, the providers of public bus transportation for the city of Indianapolis, weren’t the beginning, the end, and the entirety of our city’s mass transit system, to use the term loosely. It’s not that I harbor a grudge toward you; I merely wish you weren’t our only option. The nearest IndyGo stop to our house is a mile-and-half walk, only one-third of which is paved with sidewalks. As I outlined in one of my earliest entries here on MCC, I’d dearly love to see Indianapolis install subway corridors, or even a light-rail system, as our family has seen in other, superior cities during our annual road trips. Alas, I’m not holding my breath waiting for this miracle to happen. I expect no resolution in my lifetime to the unceasing political sniping over who should pay for it, whose houses should we steamroll to make it happen, and how dare we take money out of the grubby paws of Big Fossil Fuel.

I accept that, unless we want to phone for a cab (ha ha ha ha no), you’re the only game in town. Sorry about your reputation, though. When you eliminated several routes a while back, it didn’t affect me directly, but I noticed the vituperative comments by Indianapolis Star commenters doubled in quantity and intensity. Detractors complain that your services aren’t 24/7, don’t cover every square block of town, don’t offer much in terms of directionality (y’know, “to downtown” and “from downtown” aren’t the only compass options existent), don’t move very quickly, and don’t arrive at a given stop like clockwork every five to ten minutes, as was the surprising sort of rapid bus service we experienced in our 2011 New York/New Jersey vacation. We truly had no idea that could be done.

Then again, New Jersey Transit charged us over three bucks per ride, per person, to go from our Weehawken hotel to the Port Authority in Manhattan each day. It was still cheaper than driving ourselves and parking in Manhattan, but induced a little sticker-shock when compared to IndyGo fares, which presently charge $1.75 for a full ride. If you charged over three dollars a ride, I’m guessing there would be riots. You might also be able to afford more bus coverage in the faraway areas of town, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.

Regardless of your shortcomings and issues, the important thing is this: today, you were there for me.

I awoke this morning to find a large puddle under my car’s engine. That’s never a happy omen to start one’s day. Still half-asleep and usually stubborn, I convinced myself it was random moisture and commenced driving anyway. Less than a block from home, I could tell the car wasn’t accelerating properly (revving futilely, moving intermittently) and detoured instead to the nearest auto mechanic garage, coaxing it those three uneasy miles from our home but in the opposite direction from my downtown employer. The tone in the manager’s voice told me that whatever the issue was, it wouldn’t be a quick fix-it job. Holing up in their waiting room would be a long, unwise exercise in poor time management.

As luck would have it, the only phone numbers I could remember were for people who weren’t in a position to pick me up and chauffeur me. The manager apologized for not having anyone available to offer me a ride, but his staffing was limited. I resigned myself to one of two options: walking the three miles home in nineteen-degree weather and spending the rest of my day in bed hypothermic and bitter; or walking down the nearest major road and praying for an IndyGo stop. I recalled vaguely that this particular road had minimal IndyGo service once upon a time for limited hours only. I dreaded the possibility that it might have been one of the discontinued routes.

To my relieved and already chilly surprise, the nearest intersection sported an official IndyGo stop sign, with the new design and fonts so I could tell it was a current stop and not an old sign for an obsolete route that no one bothered to remove. That meant I still had a chance of making it to work. Unfortunately, I had no bus schedule handy and no idea how long the wait would be, but I resolved to stay put and wait it out.

Twenty-five minutes later, pain and discomfort were telling me to surrender, fetch coffee from the restaurant across the street, give up on the day, and begin the debilitating trek home.

One minute after that, the next bus arrived. The wait was uncomfortable and nerve-wracking, but it was over at last. I had a comfy seat in a heated bus with a gregarious driver and peaceful passengers. I made it to work after all, albeit much later than I’d planned. A few of my customers appreciated my presence and assistance today, so that was nice.

It seems like such a little thing, but in that dark, arctic moment when the prospect of a deadly walk and a potentially deadlier car repair bill threatened me with intimidating challenges, the timely appearance of that bus meant the world to me. An actor in a trailer I saw for a movie I’ll never watch once said, “One of the most important things in life is showing up.” I still wish you were a cool subway system instead of a meager bus line, but thank you anyway for showing up for me. Thank you for continuing to exist even when it hasn’t been glamorous or even profitable, and thank you for remaining a viable option for thousands of Indianapolis residents who don’t own cars and/or who prize their independence from Big Fossil Fuel.

For what it’s worth, the car problem turned out to be a stupid split transmission fluid hose. That’s fixed now, so I theoretically won’t need your services again in the foreseeable future, but I’ll keep you in mind if unexpected calamity strikes once more.

If you could move the bus line just a mile closer to my house, I might be inclined to see you more often. I’ll even spot you that extra half-mile deficit.

Randall A. Golden
Infrequent customer

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