Are You Too Sexy for the Bus?

Local entrepreneur and Capital Metro rider Vicki Flaugher wrote an interesting article about the social stigma that sometimes accompanies riding mass transit. She had been in a car accident that totaled her vehicle, and had decided to ride Capital Metro so she could save up for a Prius. Here’s an excerpt, behind the cut.

Little did I know, though, how much other people seemed to have negative ideas about riding the bus. My friends, even my new-age, modern-minded, vegetarian, recycling friends, all looked at me with pity in their eyes when I told them I was riding the bus.

For the first few weeks, they would offer me rides or tell me about some great deal of a car one of their neighbors had for sale, but after awhile that stopped. I felt a real disconnect from the socially conscious, energy efficient nirvana they talked about pursuing and how they acted about the actuality of it when a friend of theirs was living it.

Complete strangers were happy to fill the pity gap, though, as they saw me waiting at a bus stop. They would stop and offer me a ride because they just felt bad that a “nice woman” like me would be waiting for the bus. What’s that about? Do normal, cleanly dressed, law abiding, working people not ride the bus? The prejudice was obvious.

Flaugher goes on to challenge readers to examine their own prejudices when it comes to public transportation, just as she had to face her own. Some of the questions she raises: “Are you too sexy for the bus?” “In your mind, do I have to own a car to fit in?” “Do you think poorly of the people riding the bus?” “Are people who afford and use cars somehow held in higher esteem?”

The full article, including an audio version, can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Are You Too Sexy for the Bus?

  1. Don Dickson

    Welcome to my world, Vicki. People in this city look upon mass transit as some kind of government welfare program for poor folks who can’t afford car notes and insurance and gas.

    I cajoled two well-heeled friends into leaving their Mercedes SUV at my place and taking the bus with me to a UT football tailgate party earlier this year. When I suggested it, they looked at me like I had two heads. And while they were aboard the bus they looked like they were terrified of being beaten or pick-pocketed at any moment.

    At the completion of our trip, which was literally door-to-door and took about twelve minutes, the woman in my party tousled her hair and said “well…that wasn’t so bad at all.”

    But I’m sure she hasn’t been on another bus since.

    It always warms my heart to see women on the bus who are dressed for success, and guys in suits and ties. It’s a sight I don’t see nearly often enough in this town. For every one of those people I see, I see another dozen self-styled “environmentally-conscious” Austinites driving themselves to work in their SUVs.

    County Court at Law No. 1 Judge David Phillips rides the #1. I love seeing Judge Phillips riding to work.

  2. martin

    Yeah! Great article. I get the same looks and comments and questions about why I’m on the bus. I’m often in a tie and suit and ride to work everyday. We’ve got to get past this strange notion of having a car and it meaning you are successful. My wife and I rode our bikes to our family holiday dinner this weekend. We had so many offers of rides home afterwards (about 2 miles away) I wanted to say, “Really, no, I want to enjoy the ride home” (not that I don’t like my family, it was just such a beautiful weekend and who wants to be shuttled around in a box on wheels on a beautiful day?!). We did load up our presents, leftovers and all and peddled home and it was such a great way to get home after a big holiday meal.

  3. Don Dickson

    As I often explain it to my driving friends, not owning a car is its own form of freedom.

    I was listening to a bunch of my friends the other day complaining about the traffic on MoPac. And that’s when it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I was ON MoPac. Viva downtown! Viva transit!

  4. Don Dickson

    We can’t start our own new topics here, so let me try to ask a question in a topic-appropriate way:

    Is EVERYONE ON EARTH too sexy for the Dillo?

    The last three times I’ve ridden the N/S Dillo, there were a grand total of three other riders, two of whom were in CM driver uniforms. Does ANYONE ride it, or does it just go round-and-round all day?

    I can take the Dillo TO work but I cannot take it HOME from work. The route is silly. And the fuel being wasted is tragic.

    I for one am not too sexy to take the Dillo….one way at least. :-/

  5. vindobonensis

    Great Post!

    Yes, of course I’ve had negative comments about riding the bus. I grew up in a city where mass transit was the standard mode of transportation for most people, because it would be too stressful and time consuming to use a car there instead.

    Granted, there are real differences in mass transit between there and here. There, we had many more mass transit options than in Austin – various forms of light and hard rail, subway, buses. The people riding there roughly represent the general public. In Austin, we have limited opportunity for mass transit and I think the ridership represents only a few specific segments of the public.

  6. metro man

    One reason suits are a rarity on metro is because some of metro trainees scare them away with their negative attitudes and less than warranted lack of interpersonal skills that are offensive to these types of passengers. Metro, like the city of Austin is on the brink of change. How sexy can that be? Very sexy if it is done right. There is an allure to convince newer generations seeking the cmta experience ala going green and there may be something there to expand upon and nurture for a win-win on all levels. And then there are those passengers and inexperienced drivers still stuck in a rut almost marinating in a green muck of sexy envy going nowhere. Instead of ignoring them or browbeating or mistreating these folks, why don’t we allow them to be cmta ambassadors of the cmta green effort and the sexy themes within will blossom. Incidentally, the real sexy challenge is to get CMTA to address their foibles without offending any more sexy and nonsexy patrons, otherwise that reoccuring CMTA reputation stain will only continue to embarass everyone. Believe me, having an oozing sore on your lips for everyone to cringe about is not a pretty CMTA sight. Fortunately, Metro, like many ugly ducklings, is evolving, hopefully for the better. For now, most especially grievous is when drivers retaliate against passengers who constructively criticize but wind up being retaliated against. Discriminatorily substandard is what one passenger described it as. While yet another claimed that blogs of this nature were used to downplay the real problems that need to be addressed by utilizing both drivers and passengers as agents provocateur to harass disgruntled or vocally expressive passengers while also utilizing hired gun publicists for damage control like in blogs by undermining real incidents or status of negative bus rider experiences in the public eye during this awkward expansion stage. If CMTA has the courtesy and courage not to downplay the truth of this blog.[which is going global on real blogs]then maybe that will be an indication of where CMTA is coming from. As we all know the sexy and even nonsexy truth, will set us all free for not necessarily a utopian CMTA experience but at least a pleasantly sexy one that attracts from all stratus levels without regard to status, income levels,etc. Let’s attract sexy passengers to metro not only for its outer beauty [beautiful transportation programs, routes, machinery, etc.,] but preferably for its inner beauty[treating clients humanely, no retaliation, good interaction with patrons, etc.] towards attracting the best and sexiest Austin has to offer. I’m not too sexy for the bus, but is CMTA ready to handle the unsexy truth when it looks in the reflections offered by its sexy and nonsexy patrons? If so, this is the day when CMTA can truthfully say CMTA is internationally uber-sexy.

  7. John Mayson

    Some things never change. When I was about 13 or so I discovered our local bus service and loved the fact I could get almost anywhere I wanted to go for a quarter (this was around 1982). I would tell friends and they all turned out their noses and said, “You ride… the BUS?” I only got one other friend hooked on it with me.

    It was no different when I lived in Atlanta. The subway was cool, the buses weren’t.

    If I worked downtown I would take the bus, there’s no question about it. I’ve tried to get my family to use it for events downtown and I get the “you have GOT to be kidding me?” looks.

    Oh well. Thankfully I live close enough to work where I can ride my bike. But I wouldn’t think twice about hopping on the bus.

  8. yawnmoth

    Bus riders should take solace from the fact that, at the end of the day, they’ll have more disposable income than their non bus riding counter parts. Though people may laugh at your expense, now, give it a while, and it’ll be you who has the last laugh as they struggle to make their car payment for the month, pay for that expensive repair without which the car won’t run, etc.

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