The swirling debate over mass transit can feel like it's happening a world away from the actual Asheville Transit Center, where regular bus riders quietly go about their daily lives. For most of them, taking the bus isn't about striving not to drive as much as striving to get where they need to go by the only means at their disposal.
Mountain Xpress recently spoke with several longtime bus riders concerning what they like about the current system and what they think should be improved. A common complaint was the frequency and dependability of bus service.
"I wish they would run on holidays and Sundays," said David Barnard. "And I wish they were more dependable."
Those complaints didn't sit well with bus driver Jaboo Jackson.
"The only thing I hear is, 'These buses are always late, these buses are this, or these buses are that,'" he said. "I'm tired of hearing it."
Here are some more thoughts and concerns from Jackson and others, expressed on a recent afternoon as they waited at the station:
"We've been getting dogged in the media, and I'm sick and tired of it." Asheville bus driver Jaboo Jackson weighs in on local reaction to the April 17 bus crash:
"People are quick to jump whenever there's an accident, about us. But I don't see the papers, the media in general, I don't ever see them saying anything about the accidents that we avoid. We avoid accidents everyday. But I don't ever hear anyone coming and saying, 'Man, these bus drivers really are safe bus drivers.' Because we really are. This is a safe system. …
A lot of us are more than just a bus driver. We're these peoples' friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles — a lot of people sit down and talk to us because we listen. We may give them advice, stuff like that. … But I don't ever see anybody saying anything about our caring side, how we put people first. I don't hear none of that."
"I appreciate the bus system because I don't want to feel like I have to be at the mercy of my friends," says Nancy Perez.
"It's a good transit system. … But [in Hampton, VA] buses always ran on holidays and on Sundays until 8 p.m.," says Vincent Davis, who moved here from Virginia last year. "This is the first place I've ever been where there aren't any buses running on Sundays."
Growing up on the bus: Adam Crennan's been riding Asheville's busses for 14 years. What does he think of the new art on the buses? "It wouldn't be my idea, but it's all right."