22 November 2010


I have spent the past year riding buses in Tbilisi. At first I was excited by the system, which is fairly extensive, and seemed convenient at the time. I liked not having to drive and being able to read more. Now that I have ridden an average of 5 buses per day (on working days), I am exhausted and sick of buses. Although I can can get almost anywhere in the city, it is not uncommon for me to wedge myself precariously between the automatic door and a handrail.

The worst was a daily bus I took 30 minutes outside the city to reach some students for extended lessons this past summer. At 930, the temperature was already 100 F outside, and even hotter in the bus. Due to a shortages of buses on this highly demanded route, every bus was always packed, with barely any standing room. The problem was that this bus drove up a huge hill at high speeds and small stopping distances. All of the standing passengers were knocked around, trying to cling to the little bit of handrail they could reach. The bus was primarily used by nannies and other domestic workers headed to the wealthy families' summer homes. Heading back to Tbilisi in the evening was much the same.

But now...the bus routes have been changed. While some in the center of the city remained similar, all routes have been shortened to allow for the replacement of big breaking-down buses with smaller, newer buses primarily provided by the Japanese government. There are pros and cons:

-Better running buses
-Easier for ticket-checkers to demand everyone has a ticket at the main stop between our place and the center.

That's it. Now for Cons:
-No one knows the bus routes (including me! This is the one and only thing I was an expert in in Tbilisi! People used to seek out my knowledge because I knew so many bus routes. Now I feel useless.)
-It is nearly impossible for us to go into the center by bus without buying two tickets
-Buses are more crowded with only one major transfer spot and smaller vehicles
-More people asking the driver at each stop where the bus goes, thereby slowing down the route
-Disproportionately affects the people who live in the southern part of the city and must transfer 
-More disgruntled passengers (including me!)

So, we tried to switch to taking Mashrutki, which are sometimes faster, but they were already crowded before. Now they are super-crowded and we always have to stand and hold onto whatever we can find in this 18 passenger van, rocketing down the street.

When we can, we walk into the center and take a bus 3 stops to get to the library where we spend most days working. Even that seems like a waste some days, so perhaps we'll walk more. While that is good for us exercise-wise, with fast approaching graduate school deadlines, online-time is of the essence.

Starting to get REALLY excited about coming home on January 5th...

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