Daily bus rides are a part of my daily routine. It goes without saying that Shanghai buses have a tendency to be over-packed with people at rush hour. There are two bus routes that get me to work in the morning. Route 19 is fairly good and sometimes you even find sitting space, while Route 21 or Route 939 (they move on the same course) tend to be very crowded and I have to stand uncomfortably for 15 minutes.
As the city gradually turned its buses into self-paying vehicles 10 years ago, most buses in Shanghai are running without conductors to collect fees. The bus operators have faced the problem of receiving spurious coins as drivers are unable to judge what passengers throw into money-collecting boxes. They receive fake coins, false notes and tokens, which look like real coins. The only solution seems to be the improvement of local residents’ morals.
Many buses now have card readers to pay for the fare, which means you get to use a single card for bus, taxi, boat, train and subway. Fancier buses, however, employ a woman to sell tickets. She sits by the door, sells tickets, and announces stops (even though a speaker system announces it too). She also waves a small flag outside her window whenever the bus is about to stop, to warn bicycles not to drive between the curb and the bus on penalty of being squashed.
Shanghai buses occasionally change routes due to roadwork and construction. Sometimes, route details may change without notice! They are generally not informative enough for non seasoned passengers. It is a puzzle for me how these people designed the bus routes, while Route 21 takes such a long way, Route 100 only covers a short distance! An extended course of Route 19 brings much more passengers, making a happy ride something of the past.
Though they advocate a civilized atmosphere of caring for each other on buses, and even encourage passengers who give up their seats to seniors, disabled people or pregnant women, few local residents are willing to give up their seats to more needy passengers.
As buses in Shanghai are usually packed with people, pickpockets and lechers are not uncommon. For people with claustrophobia, don’t take the bus, for they have people shoving their way on or off while being packed in like sardines.
Sometimes, you will say that Shanghai’s bus services are lousy. Some drivers’ attitude is not good. Sometimes they purposely stop at a distance before the bus stop or after the bus stop. Sometimes they don’t even want to stop for you. Bus-mounted mobile TV and air-conditioning often give poor performances when you really need them!