Via unveils--and begins using-new hybrid buses.
Half-a-mil-plus busses with individual reading lights (because, apparently, the overhead lights just aren't enough), overhead storage, and--my personal favorite--reclining seats. All paid for with federal stimulus funds, which means that I hope my readers outside of SA enjoyed providing us with these!
I've been riding Via nearly my whole life--my mother took me home from the hospital on a bus, for cryin' out loud--and it is because of that long-term ridership that I reacted to this news with a shudder.
Reclining seats? On a city bus? And this seemed like a GOOD idea to someone? (Well several someones--whomever designed it, whomever greenlighted the design to be built, and of course the folks responsible for purchasing the bedamned things.)
There's not a whole lot of room on a city bus. For all that Via's president is claiming this to be akin to a "first class plane ride", it is going to have much more in common with coach.
I am intimately familiar with one of the routes these busses are going on, having ridden the 17/93/94 twice a day most weekdays since 2008. They are incredibly crowded during rush hour (to the extent that I added in a trolley ride to get the girls & I to the 17's first downtown stop in the afternoons in order to ensure us seats). Reclining seats means either you have someone's torso in your lap or--if they removed some seats to make room for the reclining ones--yet more people who either have to stand or wait 15 - 30 minutes for the next one.
I'd like to think people will be too polite to recline their seats onto the next person, but, again, I've ridden these busses. The 17 I routinely caught in the morning featured middle-aged women sitting sideways to take up two seats or purloining a second seat for their purses/bags, just so they wouldn't have to sit near the any of the great unwashed. And these are the "choice" riders Via is trying to capture more of. (And yes, I have asked people if they bought a second seat for their gear, and no I do not put my stuff in another seat--hell, I've been known to sit with my eight-year-old in my lap in order to open another seat on a really crowded bus.)
I want to like the idea of overhead bins. The idea has some merit for regular routes, but I'm not naive enough to think they will solve the taking-up-two-seats issue. (Or the "too stupid to close up their stroller" issue--and yes I've taken a stroller on a bus before, and yes I folded the damned thing before getting on, like you're supposed to.)
For years I have questioned whether Via's administration actually rides Via, and this cements to me (as if their clogged parking lot did not) that none of them do.