Monday, November 3, 2008

is nothing sacred . . .

You've probably already heard about Tai Lam, the freshman at Blair High School who was gunned down and two other teenagers were severely injured on a Ride On bus in Long Branch while coming back from Downtown Silver Spring Saturday night. I'm still completely stunned by the incident - these kids didn't even know the gunman, and the police are suggesting it may have been gang-related. But I don't understand who would shoot a fourteen-year-old kid on a crowded bus.

I'd like to know what, if anything, Ride On can do (or already does) to promote a feeling of safety on their buses. Are there cameras? Is there an alarm or some sort of direct line to the police? I'm not sure what these kinds of measures would do to actually make the bus safer, but it would go a long way to increasing riders' feeling of security, especially in light of what happened last weekend.

Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Tai Lam. From the spectacular outpouring of support we've seen over the past two days, it's clear he was loved by many in the East County community.

1 comment:

Thomas Hardman said...

The Ride-On 48 bus has had a stop right in my front yard. That bus-stop was there even before Ride-On, when it was a Metrobus stop at the end of the line, back in the 1980s. I frequently rode that Metrobus, with no problems or complaints other than that the weight of the bus was a bit too much for the engineered capacity of the road. I never had complaints about the bus, or the riders.

Through the first half of the 1990s, I lived elsewhere. When I moved back home, the Ride-On had replaced the Metrobus and something had changed. I took my first ride on the 48 in early 1996. While the bus was reliable in terms of being on time, the riders had become a quite different sort from the people who rode the Metrobus. Most of the Metrobus riders were people commuting to their government jobs downtown; the Metrobus connected to the Silver Spring station. The Ride-On 48 connected between Wheaton and Rockville.

The Ride-On 48, not to put too fine a point on it, was the "slum run" bus for this part of MoCo. Aspen Hill, at the time, hadn't yet become the barrio that it is today, and the people boarding in Aspen Hill were a far different crew from those boarding in Viers Mill Village or Maryvale. Part of the run of the 48 passed the "ARC" ("Association of Retarded Citizens") and the MANNA charity food bank right next door. A lot of the riders boarding near there were also outpatients of one or another mental-healthcare and substance-abuse recovery programs.

To make matters worse, some citizen's association or another in Aspen Hill was up in arms over the County's "scattered site" group homes for people moving off of the streets (or out of the hospitals or jails) being sited here in Aspen Hill. Evidently the County preferred to set up such group homes here because of the affordability of properties here which were easily converted from their original single-family designs.

So, there was pretty much open class warfare on the Ride-On 48. I got fairly badly hurt a few times when "locals" evidently from the anti-group-homes group decided to ride the bus and harass people they decided were the "crazies" or "criminals" from riding the bus through good ol' Aspen Hill. One presumes that my many official complants are still on record somewhere. And evidently, some of the crazies and criminals decided that since Aspen Hill was against them, they were against people boarding the bus in Aspen Hill.

Eventually I just started walking everywhere and only ate one meal a day to save up the money to buy a used car. I lost about 30 pounds, but it was well worth it; I don't have to ride the freakin' "War Party bus".

What is important here is that I suffered for quite a while at the hands of bigots and criminals and then decided it was all I could take and stopped using that mode of transportation, because otherwise I just might lose it.

I am quite unusual in that I am a Marylander who is opposed to senseless violence. Most Marylanders I know of seem to believe that senseless violence is the preferred solution to all problems, provided you have enough friends to alibi you, or can develop means of assault that the law can't easily prosecute.

I'm quite certain that the "bus culture" in the area is one of sullen loathing and reasonable suspicion that anyone sitting down behind you will start messing with you much to the amusement of everyone else looking on from behind.

Most people, obviously, continue to ride the buses or they would be out of business. But quite a lot of people simply endure as best they can and then use alternative means.

And at least one, as we see in the news, decided that if anyone dissed them on the bus, someone was getting shot.

This is lamentable, what people should do is to do as I did, suffer and endure until alternative means can be secured. (I keep two cars tagged and in running order just so that if one dies, I don't have to ride the bus while it's being repaired.)

It's just wrong to open fire on the Ride-On, just because the County is a little bit slow in getting cameras in all of the Ride-On buses. In the ones with the cameras, it's pretty hard to diss someone and not wind up getting filmed doing it, which makes it successfully prosecutable.

The right thing to do is to simply not get on any Ride-On that doesn't have the cameras and the rapid "cop-call" radio link. But if you do find yourself on a Ride-On and see someone fucking with someone else, you might want to be quick to loudly point out that someone needs to stop dissing someone else, because you don't want to be the one who gets accidentally shot when someone gets tired of assholes running rampant on public transportation.

I might mention in conclusion that perhaps some enlightenment may be gleaned by the discerning reader, as to why I simply won't stand for any form of Urban Planning that is too dependent on public transportation/mass transit. The tendency is for government to think that all they need to do is buy and fuel the buses/trains and watch the money roll in. Actually, for each bus, you need to have one full-time cop or all that happens is that assholes drive the non-violent off of the bus, or drive the violent to violence.