Night Riders

We’ve shifted gears for the past few rides and ridden after dark.  Part of the mission of this project is to ride as many bus lines as possible, and to ride at different times of day, from morning to night – because we imagined that very different people would ride the downtown bus at 5pm than those that ride at 11pm.  We imagined a slow shift from young professionals and the working class toward bar hoppers (maybe the same young professionals and workers, but with different attires and attitudes).  So, we went out on a Friday night and rode the bus through the heart of Benson, one of Omaha’s hip, young bar scenes.  We expected to be inundated with people riding to Krug Park, España, or the Beercade, and then riding home, rather than driving.

That was our expectation.  But another goal of this project is to keep an open mind, and remove any prejudices or preconceptions before we step foot on the bus.  We want to tell the story of who is actually there, not who we imagined would be there.  Our ride from Benson to downtown was a great ride – but we didn’t see a single bar hopper.  We interviewed a couple of high school juniors who rode the bus to find good spots to skateboard, and we interviewed a guy who was riding the bus to get to his night job.  Cool people – good interviews.  And smashed our preconceptions.

It does make me speculate on why we didn’t see bar hoppers.  Is it because people would rather drive, or get a ride after the bar than ride the bus?  Do they not know it’s an option?  Or is it because the route stops around 11pm, while the bars stay open until 2?  Which leads me to a whole train of thought, reminiscent of the old question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  In preparation for this project, I read some people complaining about the bus’ hours.  But, after seeing the skimpy ridership when we rode, I can understand why the bus doesn’t run late — they don’t have the riders to support 24 hour service.  So, would people ride the bus if it stayed running until after the bars close?  Maybe.  But how can the bus extend it’s hours without first having the ridership to justify the expense?  Everyone wants mass transit to serve their every need – but who is willing to pay for it?

This project is designed to tell people’s stories – not to become political, or try to critique the bus’ service OR the riders.  But, it’s also about our experience as first time bus riders.  And we’re experiencing different people than we thought we would, and it makes me curious as to why.  Why don’t we see the young bar hopper crowd on the bus?

Are you a bar hopper?  Do you ride the bus?  What do you think?

-Jameson Hooton

Hooton Images, Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Humanities Council, Omaha Creative Institute, Omaha Metro, bus, public transportation, night, bokeh, art, photography