Unless you have a car or don't mind staying within a one-mile radius of campus for the next four years, chances are good you'll be taking AC Transit often during your time in Berkeley. And you should! Alameda County's bus system is, generally speaking, an efficient, easy way to get all around the East Bay, with lines running pretty much anywhere and everywhere you'd ever want to go (see ACTransit.org for a full map). That said, though, taking the bus is a skill, one that'll take you far in life if you let it. Here's how to ride AC Transit like a pro:
Do get to know NextBus.com, because it's basically your new best friend. AC Transit excels at many things — environmental friendliness, people-watching opportunities, facilitation of the what-do-you-think-this-substance-on-my-seat-is? game — but promptness is not necessarily one of them. Behold, the splendor that is NextBus, a website that tracks all of AC's buses in real time, providing you mostly-accurate predictions of when a given bus will arrive at a given stop. If you have a smartphone, it's got a pretty great mobile site as well. TECHNOLOGY, Y'ALL.
Don't be lazy. Yes, we know your Cal ID can get you on the bus for absolutely free, and that's an enticing proposition. But unless you're in a huge hurry or have some physical condition that keeps you from walking a few blocks, don't take the bus one or two stops. All that stopping and starting slows the bus down, all those extra bodies clog it up, and riding the bus three blocks is the surest way to get the stank-eye from locals. Berkeley is a beautiful walking city; embrace it.
Do pay attention to where you're going. Hey, streets be crazy sometimes! Even as a seasoned vet, it's still alarmingly easy to zone out and accidentally end up at a random strip mall in Hayward. (Spoiler alert: You do not want to accidentally end up at a random strip mall in Hayward.) Try to pay attention to the general direction you're going, with the help of a map if possible, and don't hesitate to ask the driver if you think you're headed the wrong way or have missed your stop.
Don't forget that you're in public. Sound travels weirdly well on the bus, and last night's frat party/acid trip/sex romp in the dorm kitchen is just as interesting to everyone else on the bus as it is to the friend sitting right next to you. If you don't want it to end up on Twitter, don't say it loudly (note: also a general life tip, come to think of it!)
Do thank your driver. Just like your mother taught you.
Don't expect to be able to study on the bus, because you will never be successful. If you can barely make yourself cram in the comfort and quietude of your own home or the library, you can be damn sure it's not going to happen when you're smooshed between two people on a plastic seat, both of whom are listening to music at ear-splitting levels, on a moving vehicle that stops and starts roughly every three minutes. Moments like this are why god made Angry Birds.
Don't be a jerk. Get up for anyone who looks like they need the seat more than you. No matter how hung over you are.
Don't be alarmed if and when some seriously crazy shit starts happening. In roughly fifteen years of riding AC Transit, I've seen, among other things, a grown man in a business suit sucking on a pacifier; a woman talking to her pet rabbit; a driver using Google Maps to navigate his route; people dressed as clowns, elves, mice, and more, not once on Halloween; several drug deals going down in broad daylight and in plain sight; not one but two flashmobs; a girl eating an entire roast chicken with her hands; and various other things that can't be printed in a newspaper, even this one. If you take AC Transit at all you're pretty much bound to see something bizarre enough to text all your friends about sooner or later. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
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