Your Field Trip…My Morning Commute

by admin on June 11, 2013

I’m a college student, and as rent is expensive closer to campus I choose to live a fair distance away from school and commute by bus each morning to go to class. This is normally uneventful, and people in my town tend to be polite on buses–for instance, people practically scramble to vacate their seats for the elderly, pregnant women, disabled people, and so on. However, one morning I encountered an odd situation and I’m not sure what to make of it in terms of etiquette violations.

I live right next to a middle school (or an elementary school, it’s hard to tell based on the appearance of the kids alone), and as I was standing at the bus stop near my house, I notice a veritable herd of kids being shepherded to the bus stop by a few teachers with clipboards. They were all clutching bus tickets, it seemed. I tried not to panic, but can anyone blame me for being apprehensive of children in large groups?

Anyway, the bus arrived a bit late and already nearly full with people on their way to work and school, but the teachers packed the kids on anyway. The driver seemed shocked as I was getting on (the kids were behind me), and I just turned and looked at them, wide-eyed, and shrugged at the driver to indicate that I, too, was confused. I managed to jam myself in an awkward place near the door so I could let people off but also get out of there quickly–I’m a bit claustrophobic, you see. The kids were a bit loud and obnoxious–sadly, the low standard of behavior for kids these days has desensitized me to some degree, so I don’t recall them being too bad. But the teachers were making no effort to show them how to act on public transit.

What bothered me the most was that the bus, being over capacity, had to pass by stops full of people needing to go places. Work, school, etc. As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t another bus trailing behind and the organization that runs the buses wasn’t given any sort of advance notice. Due to recent budget cuts, bus service has been scaled back, hence there are fewer times in the day when they can afford multiple buses on a route.

Once we arrived at the university, I slipped out of the bus quickly and saw the kids piling out behind me. I gathered that they were on a field trip to the university, perhaps for a tour. Was it really appropriate of them to commandeer the bus to basically use it as cheap field trip transportation? I understand that renting a school bus can be tricky and expensive, but the school district is pretty well funded. While I can conjecture that they could’ve afforded their own bus, I can’t say for sure, so I’m not certain what to think here. 0608-13

That’s an interesting dilemma and one I wouldn’t want to be caught in.  However, I’m not seeing how this school group on a field trip should be restricted from using public transportation.   Users of public transit have no inherent right or guarantee of  available space on the bus or train.  For example, the Washington DC subway system during a parade, holiday event or worse, a large political rally.   The system gets clogged fast and that means regular commuters have an additional challenge getting to and from work.   That also means this school group took the risk of not being able to fit them all on one bus but since the driver let them on, they were accorded every right as paying passengers.

How they behaved once on the bus is a different matter.

{ 110 comments… read them below or add one }

EchoGirl June 12, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I can definitely see both sides. My daycare/summer care used to take kids on the public buses every week (albeit to a place I really couldn’t have cared less about, but still it was nice to get out). On the other hand, I’m very dependent on transit and have been since I was 14 (basically, when I entered high school and they started giving out bus passes instead of school buses, and my parents decided that if I knew how to ride the bus that I could pretty much take care of getting myself around the city), and having a bus packed to the point where no one else can get on is more than a little annoying. Even though I always “leave one bus” (make sure there’s at least one bus to my destination after the one I intended to catch that would get me to work on time), I definitely understand the frustration of other people who the bus had to leave, especially if the buses didn’t run close together (it’s easy to leave one bus when there are buses to your destination 6 times an hour, as there are for my job, not so much if there’s only 1 or 2). My local bus system puts on X (extra) buses to cover portions of a route if the prime bus is filling up to the point where they’re likely to run out of space, so they would probably add an X bus to the route in question if they were called regarding something like a large group on a route that was usually crowded anyway, so yes, depending on area the idea of calling in advance might be a good one.

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Carol June 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm

As someone who lives in Washington and takes the subway on a daily basis, I find the comparison to our Metro system somewhat specious.

First, Washington is a tourist town, so we expect to see large groups on the subway and are prepared for them. We don’t know exactly where the OP lives and whether her public transit system deals with groups on a regular basis.

Second, Metro trains are at least six cars long and each car has three doors in it, so most groups figure out that they have to spread out along the platform and use more than one car. They don’t go in one car, and they don’t all funnel in/out through one door, as they would on the OP’s bus.

Third, guidebooks and travel experts (i.e., on the boards at Trip Advisor or Fodor’s) strongly encourage large groups not to travel before/after rush hour because it can be challenging for five chaperones to wrangle 60 eight graders through rush hour crowds. Word is out there among savvy trip planners to avoid rush hour if possible.

Fourth, if a big group does enter a Metro station and looks like it has the potential to add to an already crowded situation. On Sunday, I witnessed Metro police dealing with large group at the L’Enfant station that appeared to be heading to/from the airport (they all had luggage, usually one rolling suitcase each) at the same time large crowds using the station to change to the Green Line and head to the Washington Nationals baseball game. Trains going to the game are packed, and there was no way a group of 20-30 people with suitcases was going to be able to squeeze on the trains easily. I don’t know it ended up, but the take-away is that Metro appeared to be trying to take active steps to held everyone get to their destination that day. There was no such effort to address the issue the OP encountered, where the bus was so crowed that it had to skip stops.

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Anonymous June 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm

>>“I’m a college student.” Well that says it right there. College students very much need to assert their adulthood by looking down their nose at anyone younger than they. Look OP, they’re taking a public bus to a destination to further their education, as are you. I’m sure when you get on a bus with a half-dozen immature, entitled coeds like yourself, the actual adults groan and bemoan your behavior as well. Perspective, dear: gain some. Or get a bike.<<

Whoa, harsh. First of all, there's no maximum age to be enrolled in college or university–in fact, there are more mature students these days than ever. I know this, because I've lived and studied among them myself. Second, I've never seen a college or university student misbehaving on a public bus. From what I've seen, they (or we, since I've been there too) get on, and just sit or stand quietly throughout the ride, usually listening to music on headphones. I don't see how this would be considered rude behaviour by the "actual adults," which is a rather amorphous cut-off, because I knew a guy who was doing his PhD at the age of 57. I'm much younger than that, but I'm finished with university, for now. By your logic, that would mean I'm an "actual adult," and he isn't. Also, if I were to decide to do another degree later on, would that strip me of my "actual adult" status?

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heathert June 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Why in heck didn’t the teachers take the kids wherever they were going after people heading to work left? I’m sure arrangements to avoid this could’ve been made. What would they have done if they couldn’t have gotten all the kids on? They may be part of the “public” but they certainly didn’t endear themselves to anyone and it certainly could’ve been a safety issue.

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Amber June 12, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Quick comment to anonymous responding to me: if the situation isn’t about “kids these days”, then the OP should have refrained from using the most over used comment re:childhood behavior ever produced. Usually when people point back to an earlier time in history as more gentle and filled with well-behaved children, they’re either misinformed about history or remembering their own, individual childhood – a childhood presumably filled with well-executed discipline.

OP may complain all they wish about loud obnoxious children without running to the cliche trough.

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jessica June 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I have to disagree with the admin here. The school district should have contacted the bus company in advance to notify them of the large group. To take over an entire city bus puts many others out of a possible seat. This is hardly the same as being unfortunate and trying to board a full bus during a busy day/time. They knew this in ADVANCE thus should have taken the appropriate steps to mitigate the inconvenience for others.

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The Elf June 13, 2013 at 6:43 am

Carol, glad to see Metro taking a proactive stance regarding crowding on their system – for once.

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Anonymous June 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

>>Quick comment to anonymous responding to me: if the situation isn’t about “kids these days”, then the OP should have refrained from using the most over used comment re:childhood behavior ever produced.<<

I took the OP's comment not as blaming the kids themselves, but their teachers/parents/other adults in their lives, for not holding them to a higher standard of behaviour.

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Janet Marie July 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I live in an area of the USA where public transport is not plentiful. But I have been to places like New York City, Chicago, London, etc (and their suburbs) where the public transport options are far better but they are larger cities. Only 1 time when I was in London when I was getting a bus to a train station in London (similar in a few other European locations) did a large group of students get on but the bus was not overfilled, and they had school bags so they were on their way to school – most were generally well behaved even if some talked a bit loud at times. Regardless of location, students should be mindful of volume of voices, be considerate of other passengers etc – same applies to adults too.

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Vicki Cole September 13, 2014 at 6:16 pm

I live in a fairly large city, and several years ago the school department decided to cut costs by discontinuing school bus transportation for high school students. Instead, they provided discounted bus passes to the students. As it happened, the bus I normally took to work passed right by one of the high schools – meaning that it was usually packed with high school students, especially after it left a central transportation station. Did the kids sometimes get a little bit loud and obnoxious? Of course they did – they were teenagers. (That’s not a shot at teens, by the way – I know I had my own loud and obnoxious moments as a teenager as well!) But most of the adults that to0k the bus on a regular basis didn’t have an issue with the kids, because they were used to them being there. If I was having a day that I really didn’t feel like putting up with the crowded bus, I would take an earlier bus. One of the ONLY times there was a real issue on the bus was when there were several young men who got on at the station that were not only loud, but were using inappropriate language. When the bus was stopped at a traffic light while leaving the station, the driver warned them that if they didn’t settle down, he would put them off the bus. The noise and language continued – so after the bus turned onto the street where the school was (but about 10 blocks away), the driver stopped the bus, walked back to where the kids were sitting, pointed at several of them and told them to get off the bus. When they started to argue with him, he said that the bus wasn’t going anywhere until they got off. This led to OTHER students, who were concerned about being late to school, pressuring the boys to do what the driver said. Needless to say, that was one VERY popular driver!

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