A lot of folks in el Burque seem to think this isn’t a real city. I’ve got news for ’em: It is. And most of us would know, if we only took the bus. Riding the bus in this city is truly an urban experience. By bus you can get to many of this fine city’s best, and even priciest, eateries–an international experience—all the while avoiding road rage and high gas prices. You can shop for new and thrifty clothing and other items of collectable and artistic interest and see almost all of the music and theater you could want. Now I’m not saying the system is perfect or faster than driving. But, right now, many more Albuquerqueans could enjoy more of their leisure time on the bus safely and fairly conveniently, with less cost and stress to ourselves, our families and our environment. The 505 is not New York City, but it is a darn sight more exciting than Oklahoma City or El Paso (which are better comparisons, really, in terms of population)—no offense to our Southwest neighbors.Why do I know this scenario is possible? I actually take the bus just about everywhere, including work. This is not to say I never carpool or accept rides from friends going the same direction—especially when it is raining hard. I mean, please, my momma didn’t raise no fool. But I have visited friends and gone to parties as far away as Osuna and Bernalillo from my Downtown storefront. And, yes, for those of you who don’t mind getting there a few minutes before the bus arrives, there are schedules. Again, these aren’t perfect; they change every 3-6 months. But if you get a few schedules for regular routes and some for alternatives in case of foul weather or traffic, you’ll soon feel like a city dweller in your ability to get from The Range Café to Buffalo Exchange. You will, however, have to plan, call ABQRide during inclement weather, expect delays, dress appropriately, wear sturdy–but stylish–shoes, carry loose change and buy a bus pass. All the things we get to bitch and brag about when we’re in a big city. When we achieve awareness of our urbanity, we will become more aware of the beautiful ugliness that cities help us to navigate when we are in constant motion, shoulder to shoulder with our fellow urbanites.We will notice the pollution that helps our sunsets redden and the vast and diverse array of people who actually inhabit Albuquerque. One day, I actually heard five languages on the Central bus and enough conversations and family secrets to keep me writing poetry, fiction and drama for the next 42 years. It is marvelous, our city. All the writers who love bustling cities would be just as excited about this one if they road our buses more and bitched less. Some fine warm Saturday morning, you and your offspring can park and ride the Rapid Ride to the BioPark. Then, after an hour or two, you can get back on the Rapid Ride to Coronado Center just north of the Park & Ride at Uptown and Pan American. I, of course, am way to hippie-fied and marxista to go to the mall myself, but my teenage daughter can do it with a couple of friends in broad daylight and not have to drive; a far more dangerous plan, statistically, for teens. You say you’re afraid of drunk people? Quit whining and become one of them yourself sometime and you’ll be less likely to notice. Careful, though, rowdy drunks do not get to ride long because the bus drivers in our city don’t take no mess. The #766 Rapid Ride ran ’til 2 a.m. on weekends this past summer. A return to that schedule would mean quite a few more intoxicated passengers off the road. How do we make this happen, you ask?Ride the bus. The only way our bus service is going to improve in terms of scheduling, frequency and safety is if we “vote with our feet.” We don’t need another congested trafficky road blasted through another sacred monument. We need better public transportation, if for no other reason than to honor Rosa Parks, who also voted with her feet along with all the other folks in Montgomery who boycotted the bus system and the segregated businesses for 11 months back in the ’50s. Good public transport will bring Burque all the way into the 21 st century and, at the same time, get rid of our inferiority complex. Let’s ride the bus and join model cities everywhere where everyone of nearly every class rides the bus and subway trains (light rail is on the way) to eat Vietnamese food at Pho #1, see an art film at the Guild, shop at Off Broadway and have a scandalous dessert at Scalo’s. You can even take a shuttle, right now, to Santa Fe, Española and elsewhere for a mere $2. Don’t miss this opportunity. We’re already a city, see. If we use what we already have in place, we will have a better place in the future. And we can say to each other, like they do in Miami, Pittsburgh and D.C. in some fine dialect of North American English, Cubano Spanish or Mandarin Chinese, “Move it! I gotta catch a bus!”
Virginia Hampton is a cofounder of the performance and art space Out ch’Yonda.