How to Ride the Bus

Bus services in the Waterloo region are operated by Grand River Transit. Students (but not post-doctoral fellows or faculty) get unlimited free bus rides using their WatCards. Riding the bus is very simple, but newcomers to the region may be unfamiliar with some of the specific social contracts that they are expected to follow while riding.

Basic Instructions

In order to use the bus to travel from one place to another, the minimum things you must do are what you would expect if you have ever taken a bus before:
  1. Wait at a bus stop. Make sure that you obviously intend to board (e.g., exit the bus shelter to stand at the bus stop sign and look at the bus as it approaches). High-traffic bus stops have LED tickers that display the time until buses arrive.
  2. Get on the bus. Boop Tap your WatCard on the boop pad card reader and take a seat.
  3. To request the next stop, pull the yellow cord running along the windows or press a red "stop" button on one of the internal poles, if available. When the "stop requested" light is on, a stop has already been requested and thus there is no need to signal again.
  4. Exit via the rear door, unless there is a good reason not to (see below). Buses in Waterloo have two types of doors: "wave to open" and "push to open". In both cases, the door cannot be opened unless the green light above the door is on. This green light will turn on for a few seconds after the bus stops. If the green light has already turned off again then the bus driver is preparing to leave, and so you should yell at them to open the back door if you still want to get off the bus.
    1. The "wave to open" doors have a large circular green sticker in the middle of the door. These doors are operated by a very bad computer vision system. Wave your hand very close to the door, or just push on the green sticker (even though it says not to).
    2. The "push to open" doors have vertical yellow strips running along the doors. Push on the yellow strips to open it. Waving at this type of door will do nothing except make you look silly.

Social Conventions

The basic instructions above are enough to get you to your destination, but if you don't follow the social conventions then you might make people angry at you. Follow these tips to avoid the ire.
  1. If you are sitting on the corridor side of a two-person seating row, make sure you are aware when the other person wants to get off the bus. If you notice them attentively picking up their baggage as the bus is approaching a stop, this is a social signal that they would like to leave. You should stand up to let them exit and then quickly sit back down.
  2. Do not sit in the priority seating area unless you qualify as one of the priority classes or the bus is completely full (hint: if the bus is full, the seats will not be available anyway). If you do unintentionally find yourself in one of these seats, you should preemptively give it up as soon as somebody who needs them boards the bus (they may be too shy to ask explicitly).
  3. If you are going to use the priority seating area, make sure that the seats are lowered. There is a yellow handle that you have to pull out and then fold down. Don't stand in the space where the seats would fold down into.
  4. After you get on the bus, it will start to move. If you are not seated, make sure that you are holding onto something at all times (i.e., either the overhead handles, the poles, or the seat handles). Otherwise, the bus will start to move unexpectedly while you are trying to find a seat and you may lose your balance.
  5. Always exit by the rear door when possible. If you exit by the front door, you are delaying the bus by blocking the people that want to board. The only real exception to this rule is during the winter when the back door opens into a snow bank while the front door opens into a cleared surface. In that context, use the front door to lower the risk of injury.
  6. If there is nowhere to sit, you'll have to stand. Move as far back as possible. Do not stop in front of the back door and stand there; you block the corridor and halve the standing capacity of the bus. If you do this, the bus driver will either literally yell at you to move back, or they will play the passive aggressive "move back" chime, alerting the entire bus to your transgression. Do not wait for this to happen. Move to the far back of the bus and stand in the middle of the upper level.
  7. The back doors on some buses close after a short amount of time, even if people are still exiting. Always hold the door open while you exit the bus in order to prevent the door from closing on people behind you. If the door is about to close on you, force it back open. Once it fully closes it will lock and you'll have to ask the bus driver to re-open it.
  8. You can put your bicycle on the front of the bus before boarding if you want to take it with you. If you do this, don't forget to take it with you when you leave!
  9. Stay off of your phone until you are either in a seat or have found a place to stand. If you are standing, briefly stop using your phone every time the bus stops in order to be aware of your surroundings. You may be blocking some people that need to enter or exit. This can occur in any standing location.
  10. If the bus is crowded and you are standing, take off your backpack and hold it. Otherwise you will inevitably slap people in the face with it without knowing that it is happening.
  11. If you are seated, do not put your backpack on the adjacent seat unless you know that there are pairs of seats still available. Do not reserve a seat while each row has at least one person. Again, if you are on your phone or otherwise visually distracted, make sure you re-assess the situation during each bus stop. Alternatively, just always keep your backpack on your lap or in front of your legs if there is room and then you won't need to constantly check to see if you are being rude.
  12. If you are listening to headphones, make sure that the person sitting next to you cannot hear what you are listening to. If they can, then get a better pair of headphones or risk violating the "no radios" rule.
Topic revision: r1 - 2018-10-24 - NikolasUnger
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