We hear reports that at least two Red Arrow buses are out of service due to fire damage. I have yet to confirm which buses are out, but it's only a matter of time before some trips at Red Arrow end up being missed.
Meanwhile, over the past few weeks, at least based on spot observations, service on the 104 has regressed yet again (as if it couldn't get any worse than it is now).
Two Sundays ago, the 5:05pm from 69 Street to West Chester (5374/4218 block) broke down on West Chester Pike at Providence Road. Naturally, no replacement was sent out, and passengers were forced to wait nearly an hour for the next bus. It wouldn't have been to much to ask to send a replacement out immediately, now would it?
Then, last Sunday, while I was making my way up to Bethlehem for the weekend (my girlfriend is living up there for now before moving back to the hellhole that is known as Pottstown), my travels could be categorized by saying "Break out the dancing bears."
West Chester's Super Sunday festival closed off Gay Street, which meant that the 104 would have to detour around the block party while heading back and forth to West Chester University. The detour used last year had buses operating from Chestnut and High Sts, then via Chestnut, New, High, and Market Streets en route to the university. Return trips would not serve New and Market, but instead would turn off of High onto Market. All things considered, it worked fairly well. This past Sunday, however, was a different story...
The 8:05am to 69 St (5309/4215 block) followed the outbound detour to the university, but the inbound detour apparently changed. Now, it seems, the 104s heading into 69 Street are now detouring via High and Price Sts, then via Price, Bradford Avenue, and Market St and on route to New and Market Sts when Gay St is closed. Naturally, there were no signs anywhere telling anybody along High between Price and Miner Sts where to board the buses (or at least there were none that I saw, nor were there any notices posted at 69 St or on the web site. Anyway, the bus pulled up to Market and High Streets 8 minutes late. We pulled into 69 St 13 minutes late, either because (a) the NABIs at Red Arrow are notoriously slow or (b) the driver was dogging it. It's probably a combination of both, but considering there's hardly anyone on the road at that time of the day on Sunday, I'd have to lean towards (b).
Anyway, getting my Philadelphia to Bethlehem bus ticket at the Greyhound terminal took longer than I would've liked (of course, if I had gotten to 69 St on time, this wouldn't be an issue). Anyway, my plan was to grab the 10:30am 55 from Olney towards Willow Grove Park mall so I could stop at the bank on the way to (if you'll pardon the expression) Doylestown. Naturally, I ended up missing the 10:30am by about 2 minutes. Fortunately, in the only part of the trip that seemed to go right at all, the 11:00am to Doylestown arrived close to schedule (maybe it was a couple minutes early), with 7240 (3506 block) running quite fast along PA 611. Say this much about the artics: the initial acceleration may be slower than the Volvos, but once you get them going, some of them can really fly. Thankfully, 7240 is one of those buses.
After buying my ticket for the 1:10pm Trans-Bridge bus to Bethlehem (the Bieber ticket was for later), I had lunch and waited at the train station for the bus to Bethlehem. I got there a few minutes before 1:00pm, thinking I'd have plenty of time to make it.
By 1:40pm, I called to find out where the bus was. Apparently, the driver stopped at the Shell Station at Main St and the US 202 freeway, but never bothered to get to the train station. After nearly an hour of trying to figure out how much a cab would cost to get to Quakertown, my girlfriend and her mom picked me up in Doylestown shortly after 3:00pm to get to Bethlehem (actually, Lower Saucon Township). By that time, I was able to listen to Kevin Millwood magically turn a 4-0 lead against the Atlanta Braves into a 6-4 deficit all in the course of one inning.
Fortunately, heading down to Philadelphia on Monday and returning to Bethlehem the same day wasn't half as bad as the previous day. The Trans-Bridge bus from Bethlehem to Doylestown actually stopped at the train station this time, so I wasn't as in as bad of shape as I would've thought.
Except that tresspasser got struck and killed at North Hills, shutting down the R5.
Fortunately, the 8:52am 55 from Doylestown to Olney (VOH 7244/3501 block) showed up, and I was able to get into the city without further problems (even though it seems like a longer trip when you're travelling down 611). After taking care of what I had to take care of, I returned on Bieber back to Bethlehem without any major problems.
Side note: I've never understood two things about bus service between Philadelphia and either the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton area or to Reading. (1) Why does it seem as though Trailways and Bieber always sends their oldest buses on the line run trips to Philadelphia, thus saving the newer buses for their New York trips (I had 497 to Bethlehem on Monday, and 511 returning to Philly yesterday - both late 1980s MCIs with stick shifts), and (2) why is there three times as much service from Reading and the Lehigh Valley to New York compared to Philadephia? I still don't think I'll ever understand it.
Anyway, that leads up to today's fun fiasco on the 104. The 4:05pm West Chester Express (3381/4240 block) got into West Chester nearly 15 minutes late. The regular operator of this trip (who I've known for nearly 8 years, and has always been up front with his passengers if there have ever been problems with his trips) was off today. Let's just say the substitute driver (who normally works trolleys and, according to a couple of moles at Red Arrow, practically has an attitude like a white-shirt) wasn't as forthcoming with the riders as the regular operator would be.
When I asked why she was so late getting into West Chester, she remarked, "Well, I'm not really late. I'm not late unless I leave West Chester late." Sounds like something taken out of the Richard Maloney/Joe O'Rourke School of Customer Dis-Service.
Of course, they assign 3381, which several operators say is one of the slowest buses in the entire depot. And, of course, they send it out to West Chester. Of course...