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Alhambra, through the eyes of a city bus driver

  • The Alhambra City Transit bus. Photo by Daniel Flores.

  • Inside the ACT bus at 5:42 p.m. Photo by Daniel Flores

Location

Alhambra , CA United States

Take the ACT, beat the heat.

That’s the unofficial motto for Alhambra City Transit. For only 25 cents a ride, the ACT buses can take customers all around Alhambra. The buses, which can accommodate passengers with special needs, are scheduled to arrive every 20 minutes at various stops in town. The Blue Line and Green Line are two bus routes that patrons can choose from.

According to the ACT bus drivers, the Blue Line — in service only on weekdays — is more work and school oriented. Its first passengers board at a bus stop at Cal State LA at 6:30 a.m. where people from other cities are dropped off at a nearby transit link. The morning run of the Blue Line ends at 8:30 a.m., going in service again at 2:30 to 7 p.m. During the summer, the Blue Line is near empty in the afternoon, enabling passengers to enjoy the scenic, quiet ride for themselves.

The Green Line transports cliques of older Asian folks, teenagers, people buying groceries and just about everybody else. This line passes by a variety of businesses, from Wendy’s to Jack in the Box on Valley Boulevard, going down Fremont Avenue to Main Street, passing by Almansor Park on its circle back. People returning from a day of being out and about can rest once on the bus — just make sure not to miss your stop.

Alex Hernandez, 64, is a bus driver who has been working for the ACT for the past three and a half years. He is a Monterey Park resident.

Alex wakes up at 3:45 every morning, even on his days off. When he does work, he heads to the city yard around 6 a.m. to pick up his bus, his favorite being BlueBird #19 because it is an older model that steers the best, according to Alex. Before leaving to pick up passengers, the ACT bus drivers check their vehicles to ensure that everything works and is in order.

“Bringing safety to riders is number one priority, no matter what,” Alex says.

Alex mentions that picking up passengers on time is a priority. Given Alhambra’s traffic situation, the ACT bus is not always on the dot.

“Once you get to Fremont Avenue, you open a can of patience,” Alex says. To ensure that the bus is on schedule as much as possible, it is best to secure all carry-ons and to have your quarter out before boarding.

Being friendly to all who board is another priority of Alex. Upon entering the bus, he will greet passengers in nine different languages — though he is only fluent in English and Spanish. People being different is not what matters. “It’s what you got in your heart that counts,” Alex says.

After sitting down with Alex for some time on his day off, he left me with his positive perspective. Always be kind to people no matter what, he says. At times, bus drivers are cussed out by passengers, whether it be for being late or missing a stop accidentally – all the bus drivers can say is “thank you.”

“If someone is gonna yell at you, they must be having problems at home — if something happens at home, leave it aside,” Alex says. “If you bring your problem to school, work or the bus, it makes it worse. Once you leave your home, no one is going to yell at you, you’re not going to be stressful anymore, so why take it out on somebody else?”

A lot of bus drivers have left the ACT over the years, whether it be for more money or getting bored going around in circles, according to Alex. There are 12 different bus drivers as of now; they wear grey shirts and black pants as their uniform.

“I love to drive, I like to be outdoors, I get to see everything,” Alex says, “Being in an office is boring to me, you just sit there in a little square. I didn’t like it because I had to wear a tie — I don’t have a tie anymore.”

These Blue Bird, air conditioned city buses may not be able to leave you at the doors of your destination. However, they will certainly leave you a lot closer, and a lot less fatigued at where you need to be.

“We are like Uber; we just take longer,” Alex says proudly.

Check out the City of Alhambra’s website for route information.

Daniel Flores is an Alhambra Source summer intern and a rising junior at Alhambra High School.

Independent journalism is a bedrock of democracy--and it's in crisis. Here at the Alhambra Source, we're committed to covering the local stories that matter most to you. We don’t have advertisers and we don’t have pay walls, but we do have bills. You read to the end of this story. That's great. But this kind of journalism will end without public support. Join us! Support the work and the democratic values it serves. Donate now!

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