Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Bus, The Bus, The Bus Is On Fire

Today's TTIV post is from our NJ Transit Bus Correspondent, Chintan. Buses sometimes go out of service, as do trains. However, when buses go out of service, it's a much more dramatic experience.

Here's something that doesn't happen every day. Well, for those who commute on NJ Transit, it does. But for everyone else, it may be surprising. A crowded bus catches fire, during rush hour. Everyone has to exit and wait for another bus while emergency vehicles attend to the stricken bus. 

Those who get caught in this situation are no doubt aware that this tragedy inevitably unfolds at a major merge point, or within a single, enclosed lane. Why have a burning bus if you can't maximize the disruption it causes?

It most recently happened on a busy Tuesday. I was lucky enough to have taken the early bus, and was past the point at which the bus on fire blocked everyone else.  

For the non New Jersey Transit Bus commuters, here's a little background for you.

To access the Port Authority Bus Station on 42nd Street, the buses enter Manhattan via the Lincoln Tunnel. The Port Authority of NY/NJ has graciously arranged for a single, extremely narrow lane to be used for buses only, known as the XBL (Express Bus Lane).  The XBL runs for several miles and has barriers on both sides, meaning that if a bus becomes disabled in the XBL, there is no detouring
for the buses behind it. They're screwed.

The XBL has three merge points: a) from the west, b) from the north, and c) from the south. These three merge points are all within 1000 feet of each other. If there's an incident at any merge point, you can guess the impact.

To give you a visual of this, please see the Google map to the right. TTIV Note: Can you understand this map? Neither can I. New Jersey roads confuse me to no end. So, I’ve provided the simplified crude drawing below.

The Tuesday incident happened after the south merge, so it impacted all buses behind the bus on fire. If you come from New Jersey, you were late that day.

That day I dodged a bullet, but another time I wasn't so lucky. I was on my way home, and the bus caught fire. As we exited the Lincoln tunnel, the bus jerked and the passengers started to smell smoke. About half a mile later, the smoke was getting so thick that the driver stopped the bus, opened the bus door, and yelled "EVERYONE OUT!" He proceeded to exit first. A stellar ship's captain. Quite the gentleman. He ran about 50 feet and motioned for the rest of us to get away. A brief two hours later, another bus picked us up and brought us home.

Moral of the story? Keep a granola bar in your bag in case your commuting vessel combusts. It may be a while. Oh, and sit in the front of the bus, as engine fires occur in the back. Just be careful of the driver trampling you as you exit.

Thanks Chintan for your contribution! If you'd like to contribute a guest blog post, let me know! You can write it, or tell me the story and I'll write it.

Happy and safe commuting, and may you encounter uncommon sense.

Share your commuting stories on the Facebook TTIV site, on Twitter, using hashtag #TTIV, or via email.

Sign up for the blog mailing list by entering your email address in the "Follow By E-Mail" box.

Twitter: @davidrtrainguy

Tell a friend!

SHARE! Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Email This Pin This Share on Google Plus Share on Tumblr SHARE!


  1. I'm sitting in the second row today.

    1. That guarantees a pain-free commute. Only when you're in the back will there be an engine fire.