Monday, August 27, 2007


I got really irritated today after about the 5th or 6th time this scam was run on me today. Seems people think nothing of teaching their children to lie, cheat and steal. They even make them DO it!

I've been driving the 11 lately. This scam seems quite common on this line.

I was driving up 4th avenue and saw a lady with a baby in a stroller and a couple older kids waiting for a bus to come in the opposite direction. Then one of the kids ran across the street and stood on the corner for me to pick him up. He got on and put in his 50 cent kid fare and asked for a transfer. I knew what was up, as I've seen it numerous times just today. I asked him if he was staying on the bus. A look of guilt and panic washed over his face as he lied and said "yes". He got off on the next corner, pretending to see a friend of his. I watched as he ran back down the street to give the transfer to his mom. No doubt she was going to use it for herself and not pay for any of the kids. I called the control center as I had had enough of this particular scam for one day. They were going to notify the bus heading in the thieves direction and also notify the transit police of this latest scam.

Earlier, on the other side of town, I had a kid get on and put in the 50 cents and ask for a transfer. She jumped off the bus as soon as I handed it to her. She gave it to a lady who then got on the bus and tried to tell me the last 50 cents on her stored value card was for the kid with her and she was going to use the transfer. I explained that the transfer said "reduced" on it, meaning that was a kid fare and she'd have to pay a full fare for herself. The "kid" she wanted to use the other card for looked about 15-16 years old. She 'fessed up and told me the little kid that just got off gave her the transfer and I told her that was illegal. She got off the bus.

I had a teenager today also try to ask me for a transfer on the way off the bus. I told him he paid with one so if he wanted one from me he'd have to pay another fare. He claimed he paid with a token. I told him I hadn't been paid with a token the entire trip. He seemed surprised I busted him and just got off the bus.

I think it's time to do like Chicago away with transfers. One set price per ride. Make it $1 per mobility or senior/kid fares, everyone pays the same thing. With gas at $3 per gallon, it is still a heck of a good deal. If they wanted to use stored value cards, sell them with a free ride or two per card. It would cut out a lot of fraud.

It would also stop people from using their kids as pawns to commit crime (fare evasion) for them. That, in itself, is priceless.

Friday, August 17, 2007


What is up with the new bus shelters??? They put these stripes angled across the glass from top to bottom that make it very hard to see if there is someone in the shelter. I've missed a couple people because of this. It is especially hard if they are on the opposite side of the shelter. It's tough to see through all those stripes, especially when it is raining hard. I think instead of calling them bus shelters, they should call them "Rider Hiders".

From what I've heard, they are supposed to be graffiti resistant. It's not working. Now the graffiti is just bigger and bolder colored. I also heard they are supposed to be harder to break. Apparently, not hard enough. I've seen more than a few shattered all over the sidewalk.

I'm really not looking forward to spotting people in these rider hiders in the winter. The glass is kind of white. Great if you want to match the snow. Not great if you actually would like to see people waiting for you to pick them up.

Whoever came up with this is probably the same person that decided to put the head-to-toe advertisements on the side of the shelter. Then his co-worker came up with the fantastic idea to put a bench for passengers to sit hiding, I mean waiting on the other side of the shelter so the driver would be SURE not to see them until it was too late. Ever heard "makes a better door than a window"?


I haven't done the 21 down Lake Street in a while. Can't say that I missed it. This past week I've been back on the 21. Luckily, I was doing it pretty early in the morning. The real troublemakers don't seem to get out until later.

It is odd how certain routes, like the 21 and the 5, seem to just have far more scamming people than other routes. Some routes, you may get a couple scammers a week. Others, maybe once a day. The 21 you are pretty much guaranteed at least one every couple hours. Usually, it's someone that is using mobility transfers from the light rail that doesn't have the required ID to use them. They make it so easy to cheat the system when you can just walk up to a machine and choose your fare. Never mind that it is actually a FELONY to pay mobility fare without the proper ID. That's right. Three years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. If they actually prosecuted this crime, we'd have a heck of a lot fewer riders and they'd have to build more prisons!

I had a couple just yesterday that must wake up out of bed scamming. I pulled into the Uptown Station and as I passed a bus already parked there I noticed it had cleaning towels rubber-banded over the entire top of the farebox. Obviously, his farebox broke so he was giving free rides. I no more than stopped my bus and a couple was at my door. The woman tried to tell me that they needed transfers because the other guys' farebox was broken. I told them to just pay the next bus. She tried to tell me that they paid the broken farebox but didn't get a transfer. I KNEW she was lying...though there was a tiny chance they may have been the ones that paid their fares when the transfers jammed. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, yet not ready to fall for a scam at 5:30 in the morning, I told her I'd talk to the other driver. As I went into the transit station, I saw the two scammers running away across the street. I told the other driver what happened. He confirmed they had gotten a free ride and he seemed impressed at how I handled it. He even said, "That was SMART!"

I also had the other typical scams... I just got out of jail so I need a free ride. I lost my transfer so I want a free ride AND another transfer. My transfer is about to expire so I need you to give me another one. I don't have change for this larger bill. (Never mind that Lake Street has shops and stores all the way up and down both sides of the street for miles!) My girlfriend/boyfriend kicked me out and I just need this free ride and life will be great again. They just get better and better.

I don't know why any driver with any seniority chooses to drive Lake Street. I don't mind it for a break from the duller routes, but I'd go nuts dealing with people trying to scam me every day. I'd have to check the mirror after work every day... just to make sure it didn't say "SUCKER" across my forehead!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I picked up a Mexican woman on Nicollet Mall close to rush hour. She got on and put in a U of M bus pass. When it came back out, I took it and showed her the picture of a guy named Carlos on the back and said "That's not you." She claimed it was her son. I explained that it was illegal to use another persons' pass...that's why their picture is on it. She put her hand out wanting the pass back. I told her I had to turn it in to lost and found since it was not hers and we had to assume it was lost or stolen. Again, she said it was her sons' pass. I told her he could bring some ID to lost and found but he may not get it back since he allowed someone else to use it. She got mad and got on her cell phone. I heard her ask for Carlos and she spoke in spanish to someone on the phone. Then she tried to hand me the phone. I told her I was driving a bus and could not talk on the phone. She said she was going to call the police. I told her to call whoever she wanted to, but the pass was going to lost and found. She called the police and again handed me the phone. I again explained that I was driving the bus and was not willing or able to talk on the phone while I was driving a bus full of people. She finished that call and apparently called Carlos back. She said something to me with a kind of "you're gonna get it" smirk on her face. I know enough spanish to hear her say she was getting off at 25th street and 3rd avenue. When I got there there was this very large guy who looked kind of Samoan standing at the bus stop. The Mexican lady got that smirk on her face again as I pulled up to the stop. I pulled way past the big guy and opened the door. The lady got off and stood there as the big dude was walking up along the side of the bus. I saw him in the mirror and decided it was a good time to leave. Ever see a bus peel out?

After I drove away, the Control Center called me. I hadn't called them because we were told not to call unless it was a "priority" call. Due to the I35W bridge collapse, the Control Center has been very busy. Seems 911 called them. I told Control the situation and they said I handled it well and correctly. I guess 911 thought I hadn't given her a transfer. I told Control that after I took the card and told her it wasn't a valid fare, she did pay a cash fare and I gave her a transfer. I said I had the card and would be turning it in to lost and found. I also asked if there was any way we could be sure the card was not given back, seeing as the owner let an unauthorized person use his card. Control told me to put a note along with it that the card was used fraudulently and not to give it back. That is exactly what I did. It may seem petty, but if it helps keep another driver from going through this drama in front of all the other passengers or from getting beat up by a big dude waiting at the bus stop, I feel I did exactly what needed to be done.

I guess I achieved another first. I had a passenger call the police...on ME!! Hopefully, that's a first and last!


The day after the bridge collapse, traffic was a nightmare in a many areas. A lot of buses were running late. I was one of the luck ones that was pretty much on time. As I was finishing my last trip and looking forward to going home, the Control Center called me. They asked if I'd fill in one trip to downtown on the 18. Feeling a little guilty for not being of any help in the recent disaster, I felt this was the least I could do so I said I would.

All was going well until I got to Lake street. This loser with the long white gangster T-shirt got on and was trying to put a very worn and wrinkled transfer into the farebox. I looked at it and told him "This transfer is 3 days old. It's no good." He plopped into the peanut seat and said "Ma'am, I need a courtesy ride. I'm from New Orleans and I just got out of the hospital 'cuz I had a heart attack." ???????????What?????????? First of all, there is no such thing as a courtesy ride. Second, what does where you're from have to do with paying your fare? Third, I don't believe for a second that he just got out of the hospital and/or had a heart attack. Anyway, I held my comments to myself (for a change) and thought "I just need to go about 27 more blocks and I can go home." I decided to just ignore him. This worked fine...for a while. He was talking loudly to other passengers about how he is an OG (Original Gangster) and he's with the GD's (Gangster Disciples). He asked one guy sitting with his girlfriend who he ran with and the guy said "G-O-D" The loser took a second to try and figure out who that gang was and finally realized what the guy was saying when other people on the bus backed him up with "You tell him" and "You with the right one there, man."

Then his focus shifted to me. I knew I couldn't hide for long. He said "Hey, bus driver, are you married." I pretended not to hear him. He repeated it again. I realized I couldn't keep ignoring him so I told him that was not his business. He asked me for my phone number. I told him that was not his business either. He said " I just want your number so I can call and take you out to eat or something." I couldn't help myself. I said "You can't even pay your fare. How are you going to take me out to eat?" He smiled and said "Don't worry, I can take you out to eat." I turned and looked him right in the eyes and said "No, thanks. I don't go out with gang bangers." He laughed and acted like he didn't know what I was talking about. I told him I was sitting 3 feet from him and heard the whole conversation. He started in "Man, I'm in my 40's..." I cut him off. "Exactly, don't you think it's about time to try something else? Maybe you should get with that other guys 'gang'. Maybe you'd get somewhere." People on the bus snickered. Some laughed out loud. The guy in the G-O-D gang said "You tell him, driver!" The loser himself seemed shocked but couldn't help but laugh. He smiled and said "I like you. You challenge me." I wanted to tell him maybe he should challenge himself a little and try and get a life but decided I'd better not push my luck.

He got off a few blocks later. It just left me thinking "Why do I attract such losers?" There's only one answer. I am a living, breathing loser magnet!!


What a terrible sight. I went to view the bridge collapse and it brought a new insight to the term "shock and awe". It is surreal to see a bridge that I have often traveled just gone. The exit ramp I used many times was strangely pointing slightly up in the air instead of having its normal down slope. The hundreds of other people walking around looking at the eerie sight and the satellite trucks and police should have made the area so noisy but it was strangely quiet. One guy was sitting in a grassy area singing and playing a guitar. He seemed out of place yet was a comforting distraction. Please say a prayer for those that are still missing and their family and friends.

I was driving the 11 route when we got the text message on the bus stating that the I35W bridge collapsed in the area of Washington avenue. I thought they meant the smaller bridge near Bobby and Steves gas station. Still, I thought "Oh no, the Twins game is starting in about an hour. I bet there were a lot of people on that bridge." Later we got a message that it was the bridge in the area of Washington avenue and 4th street SE...I couldn't picture that in my head. It wasn't until I pulled in that I knew it was the LONG bridge and it had collapsed into the Mississippi river! I was too shocked to cry.

Just before the text messages started coming on the bus, I was going up University avenue into Columbia Heights. There were lights and sirens headed toward downtown. I thought it was strange. One was a Ramsey County Sheriff car. I remember thinking "What is he doing in Hennepin County? Must be a heck of a car chase going on." After I got the messages and was headed back on my return trip into downtown, the action around me was scary. There were so many emergency vehicles of all kinds from all over the Twin Cities and suburban areas screaming toward the downed bridge, I lost count of how many there were. I was driving the bus and the traffic was thick. We were stuck in the middle of the Hennepin avenue bridge. I'm sure I wasn't the only one playing the bridge falling scenario over in my head at that time. Where would we land? What could I do to help everyone survive? I breathed a small sigh of relief when we were over the bridge.

When I got off work I called my mother in Wisconsin. I had spoken to her earlier in the day, but thought she may see this on the news and didn't want her to worry about me. She seemed relieved to hear from me. My brother in Texas had already called her when he saw it on CNN news. She had completed her head count of family here so I'm sure she felt a little more at ease. She asked where I was when it happened and I let her know I was not near the area. The scary part is, the route I was doing pulls back into the garage over that bridge when the last trip leaves you on that side of town. Luckily, that wasn't the case for me. I told my mom to say a little prayer for those affected by this disaster. We always kid her about her direct line to God. Seriously, when she prays things happen. I couldn't help but call and tease her the next day. I told her when I went to bed that night, the news had confirmed 9 people dead. The next morning there were only 4 !! I told Mom she helped bring 5 people back to life!! Hey, a little humor is a good thing in a time like this.

Seriously though, I would ask everyone...whatever your religion is, please pray for all those directly affected by this nightmare. When all is said and done, it is merely an inconvenience to most of us here in Minneapolis. However, some people have lost family members and, worse yet, some people are still missing family members. Keep them all in your prayers. If you want to do even more, I would suggest to everyone who is able to give either blood or money to the American Red Cross. They were on site very quickly and are still helping those who need it and all the rescuers that are still working in the river. I think they are a very reputable organization that steps up to the plate quickly and efficiently when there is a crisis like this.

Thank you all for your prayers and support in this very difficult time.
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