How do I use the bus?

One of the main reasons people don't take the bus is the uncertainty of how it works.

After riding for the first time, most people are surprised at how easy and enjoyable the experience is. 

STEP 1: Figuring out what bus routes you need to get from point A to B

On the left side of every page on our website is the Google Transit Trip Planner box. It works just like searching for directions on Mapquest or Google Maps. Enter your starting address (home, for example) and then type in where you are going. Each field needs to include the town because COAST covers over a dozen communities. Choose the date and time you plan to make the trip. You can choose whether the time is when you need to arrive by, or when you would be leaving at the start of your trip. Finish by hitting "Get Directions."

Now planning your trip is easier than ever with your mobile device (Android phones, tablets, iPhones)

Besides using the Google Transit trip planner from our website, you can use the Maps (included with iPhone) or Google Maps (download for iPhone or Android) app to search for transit directions, too! Check your Android or iTunes App store for "transit directions" apps. Using transit directions apps or online applications take all of the challenge out of understanding our bus system, but be aware that sometimes their directions are not perfect and may instruct you to walk instead of taking a connecting bus, or be subject to other quirks that COAST is not in control of. Use these apps as a guide but understand that you will need to apply a little common sense to what you are looking at.

You can also look up the Schedules and Maps page, a numerical list of every route we have with descriptions of the towns and major stops served. Another option is the Routes by Town page, which shows every community we directly provide service to, along with the routes that are available in that town. Click on any route number for further details, including maps and bus stop listings. Bus stops are usually named for the street they are on and the next nearest side or cross street, or major business.

Do I have to drive my car to a bus stop?

Probably not; most routes have a bus stop every quarter-mile along their path, or at major street intersections. If you do live too far away from the nearest route to walk, you can either drive to a main location and park, or you can bicycle to the stop. There are bike racks on every bus. You can read more about that below.

If you're using our commuter express routes, the COAST Clipper Connection, you may have to drive to a park & ride location, which are specified on each route.

STEP 2: Plan your trip

Once you're used to using the bus, it becomes second nature. However, first most people need to learn to adjust from the convenience of being able to just walk out the door and get in their car. Once you find which bus route you need, and what times it arrives at  your destination, backtrack to find the time you get on. Make sure you give yourself time to get to the bus stop a few minutes before the bus comes by. 

Before you leave the house make sure you have everything you need - especially the cash or pass for the bus! Also remember to check the weather for the day and plan accordingly, especially if you have to walk a ways to or from the bus stop at either end of the trip.

STEP 3: Ride the bus!

You've figured out what bus route you need, where the stop near your house is, and what time the bus is coming. Head out to the bus stop - are you on the correct side of the road? Check the bus stop sign to see what direction the bus is headed - it says right next to the route number. While you're waiting, make sure you keep an eye out for the bus. Especially in the dark, drivers may have a hard time seeing someone waiting at the stop. It's helpful to have something reflective on; some people will wave their cell phone light or a small flashlight towards the bus as it approaches. As long as you're moving around a little bit and not standing right up against the pole or in the shelter, the driver will see you.

How do I know when to get off the bus?

If you don't know exactly where your stop is, the best thing to do is to tell the driver you're riding for the first time and where you are headed to. They can tell you some visual cues to watch for, or on less busy runs they may be able to let you know your stop is coming up. Also, either the bus operator or the automated system on the bus will announce major stops, timepoints, and transfer locations. You can use these announcements to track how close you are getting to your stop. 

How to signal to get off the bus

Press the yellow tape or pull the cord along the windows inside the bus. In the movies, you see people pull the cord on the train and it comes to a grinding halt, throwing people and stuff everywhere. This is not how real public transportation works! The cord or yellow tape in the bus sends a signal to the driver up front that someone wants to get off at the next stop. You should give the driver enough time to react and slow down for a safe stop - a good rule of thumb is to signal about one block in advance. 

If you're not sure where your stop is, always ask the driver.

Note that you cannot simply get off anywhere. The drivers will only drop you off at a designated bus stop, for safety. During the winter, we allow a little more adjustment for bus stops when there are snowbanks that make areas more dangerous.

The "What If" Game

Many people don't use the bus because of the "what if" scenario- 
What if...

  • ...I miss the bus? Unfortunately, this can happen if you're late to the stop - chronically late people beware! Better safe than sorry - head out to the stop with time to spare. 
  • ...the bus is late and I get to work late? This is rare - although our buses may get a couple of minutes behind schedule here or there, we are generally good about keeping our service on time. If you plan on taking a run that gets you to work exactly at the time you need to be there, it might be better to take the run before that and bring breakfast or a crossword with you. Sometimes things can happen beyond our control, such as a traffic accident or bad weather, that may delay the bus.
  • ...I have an emergency during the middle of the day and have to get home? We encourage people to consider how many times a year you actually have to go home for a real emergency. If it rarely happens, it's probably safe to take the bus. Is there anyone at work who could give you a ride home? Remember that using the bus doesn't mean you can't take your car again sometimes if you know in advance there might be a reason for you to leave work early.

Things to Know About Our Buses

Besides knowing how to get on and off the bus, there are a few more tips or rules you should know.

Baby strollers: Strollers are allowed on board the bus. However, it is best if you plan to carry your child when boarding, exiting, and on your lap during the ride. Strollers should be folded up and tucked in between or underneath seats. Strollers cannot be left in the aisle or in the doorway. This is very important for safety, and we ask that you plan ahead.

Children under 12 may not ride unaccompanied. Children under 5 ride free.

Bicycles: Every COAST bus is equipped with a bike rack capable of carrying at least 2 standard bicycles. Newer buses may carry up to 3 bikes and are found on most regular COAST routes. Rack space is available on a first-come, first-served basis only. If the rack is full, you will not be able to bring your bike on board the bus. Please bring a lock with you in case you need to lock your bike.

Large packages / groceries: Many people use the bus to do their grocery shopping. Please keep your shopping to what you can reasonably carry on and off the bus in one trip. Some customers use small rolling carts for their groceries, which is also fine but must be able to fit between seats. Like strollers, grocery carts or bags cannot be in the aisle or blocking a doorway.

Food and drink: We ask that you refrain from eating on board the bus. If you have a beverage, it must have a lid on it. This is important to help us keep buses clean and presentable for the 14+ years they are in service. If you do spill anything on the bus, please be courteous and notify the driver so it can be cleaned. 

Animals: Animals providing a service to someone with a disability are welcome on board. Guide dogs must lie on the floor under the legs of the owner. Non-service animals are only allowed on if properly crated or in a carrier. Operators have the right to use their judgment on the road if an animal (not providing a service) is not properly crated for the trip. Fish and other creatures in water are not allowed.

Smoking: Smoking is prohibited. This includes e-cigarettes and anything else that gives the appearance or perception that you are smoking. 

Consumption of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. If you are bringing alcohol home as part of your groceries, that is acceptable as long as the drinks stay closed for the entirety of the ride. Illegal substances continue to be illegal when on board our buses. Any persons involved in using or distributing drugs on board a bus can expect to find a police officer waiting for them at the next bus stop.

Clothing: Shirt, shoes, and everything in between are required.

Behavior: We expect the bus to be a pleasant and friendly community environment.

  • Please treat others respectfully, including whoever is on the other end of your cell phone call. This includes speaking at a normal volume 
  • Swearing and profanity is unnecessary. Operators will ask you to quiet down if you are being disruptive or rude.
  • Public drunkenness is not allowed. If you've "had a few too many" before getting on board, the operator reserves the right to refuse you a ride. If you seem stable and calm, you will be allowed on - if you are at risk of getting sick or acting inappropriately, you will not.
  • Common sense is key - please be courteous so we can all get home safe and sound.
  • For more details, please see our Passenger Guide.