Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Triangle Transit for Complete Nubs

With a title like that, it’s only fair to explain that I am writing this article because when I was a Compete Nub in this area, I very much would have appreciated the opportunity to read this article or one like it. There’s a first time for everything, and if you can’t do adequate research because information just simply doesn’t exist, then being a nub isn’t your own fault.

This article is a supplement to the GoTriangle websites, not a substitute for reading what’s already there. Do your own research.

If you’ve already ridden on buses, this article will be pretty boring. If you spot any mistakes, let me know.

Park and Ride

Park and Ride is a pretty handy concept in an area like Raleigh. You literally drive your car to the Park and Ride you need and catch the next bus. Parking there is free.

I use the Sertoma Arts Center and unfortunately both the signs and the information available online is inaccurate for this site. The information on line will kind of get you to the right parking lot, but the signs themselves are horribly incorrect. You can’t take the Millbrook entrance to Shelley Lake to get to the Park and Ride. You have to go into the Sertoma Arts Center, take the first available left, drive to the second entrance, and drive all the way back. On your left hand side facing opposite the Sertoma entrance road, there’s a sign for the TTA 201 bus route. That’s the only route that picks up from that location.

Make sure you pay close attention to which bus routes serve what or you’ll likely end up stranded somewhere.

Stopping the Bus

Some buses (possibly all?) have certain stops where they only stop if it’s requested. Old buses have a nice cord to pull on. Raleigh’s newer buses have a different system that really isn’t that obvious. There are tiny little signs on either side of the front end of the bus to explain it, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t find it.

It’s a black, rubbery strip that runs along the length of the bus on the side of the top consoles. Press the button far enough in advance that the driver can easily stop in time. If you can estimate 500 feet, I’d try that distance.

Regional Pass

The 30 day regional pass is pretty nice. You can use every bus system in the area (except the Express Buses) with one low fee. The problem comes into play if you’re like me and can really only use a particular TTA route. If I was only using Raleigh buses, I could get a month long pass for 33 USD (after electronic handling fee). However, there is no discount for only using TTA buses. It costs me 65 USD (after fees) for 30 days of regional pass.

One of the awesome things about transit in this area is that you can order the tickets online and they’ll be mailed in 1-2 business days. I’ve looked into public transportation in other regions, and this sort of turn around time seems to be a rare exception. Other places may make you wait as many as three weeks. I ordered mine Sunday, and I was out of town so I don’t know what day they came in. However, they were post marked for Monday, so they probably arrived Tuesday. Super shiny.

The 30 days on this regional pass starts on the first day you use it. You could order yours today and not use until two weeks from now and your 30 days would count from the date two weeks from now, not from now. When you put your card in for the first time, the machine will print the start date and end date on the back of it.

The website says to swipe your regional pass through the swipe thing. In my experience, the swipe thing doesn’t work for that and you can just put your card into the fare card slot.

Buying Tickets On The Bus

There’s decent information on GoTriangle about buying your tickets on the bus. The only thing I have to add is that the bus uses a vending machine cash reader. If the soda machine won’t take your cash, I doubt the bus will. Bring pretty paper or buy ahead of time.


The Triangle Transit sites all say that you should arrive 10 minutes early. That’s probably a good idea in general. North Carolinians seem to count “five minutes late” as “just about on time.” There’s a time and a place for that, but the bus driver doesn’t know you’re just two minutes away. He or she only knows you’re not there, and he or she is going to drive off.

That said, once you understand how punctuality works in a world based on accurate clocks, you’ll probably notice your bus is 4-6 minutes late every time. I’ve never seen a bus in Raleigh arrive early. If you have actually seen the bus sign and you can arrive at a specific time, then five minutes early is probably good enough.

Other Stuff

Oddly, the best way to get answers about things that their sites don’t cover is to ask on their Facebook page. I got answers to my questions within 24 hours. I will warn you that the answers were somewhat incomplete, but you also get a chance to see what other people have been asking about. I used some of the information that other people had received in order to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge. A lot of that ended up here.

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P.S. Did you know that you can hire me to make lousy graphics like those above for a mere 60,000/yr USD? Well-written guides like this come free with the deal!

In all seriousness, though, sorry about the graphics. I tried.

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