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"Another One Rides the Bus"
"Getting There Is Half the Fun"
- By Eric Funk

"Hey! I'm gonna sit by you! Another one rides the bus!"
-- "Weird Al" Yankovic

The mechanic sighed and looked the teen squarely in the eyes. "Sorry kid, your father's car will be in the shop for another two weeks. I know how much you are paying me. Those were dinosaur kicks that caused it to roll, after all." The youth began to panic. "But the giant ants will be attacking the next town if I can't get there tonight!"...

The hero looked over the rental form, and stopped at a box. "You want a $10,000 deposit? I want to rent a car, not buy it!" Unabashed, the clerk replied, "I'm sorry, but the last three you rented from other branches in this corporation were returned with bullet holes and broken windows."

Father put down his paper, and his voice took on its most serious tone, "I'm sorry son, I can't afford to get you another car until your birthday. I know it was destroyed saving the earth, but the government still won't acknowledge it. When we can replace it, the insurance will be $500/month extra just to you drive it because of the last two you lost. I would suggest you get a summer job to save up money." "Aww, but dad!" was the only reply...

"For the crimes of breaking and entering, destruction of public and private property, and vandalism, this court finds you guilty, however, because of the excellent character witness, and the fact that some lives were saved by your actions, this court reduces your sentence to a month less a day, followed by a year of community service. Your are to remain in the city, and your driver's license will be suspended until the community service is complete." Once the judge finished speaking, I smiled humbly knowing that I had paid a small price to stop the conspiracy from taking the lives of those school children.

"He's behind me. He's getting closer. I'm not safe, even in these crowded streets. Aha! What's that? A bus taking passengers? I jog along the sidewalk, running as the bus starts to leave, waving at the driver. The bus stops for me, and I carefully obscure the rear-view mirror as I pay. The driver accelerates quickly to get back on schedule. Two corners and twelve blocks later I get off, and am alone. For now..."

"So what is it this time? We're in a strange city with no one to call, and our car is out of gas! Does anyone have a credit card, or cash? No! What's this on the ground? A bus map?"

Adventurers tend to go through equipment rather quickly, and break the rules when they are too inconvenient. Some are underage or poor, but even ordinary Joes can use up the vehicle resources available to them.

Public transport is intended to operate on a schedule, providing a relatively efficient path for passengers to travel from one end to the other while keeping the vehicles at a basic level of occupancy. If planned out at least an hour, (or on a successful Area Knowledge (this city) roll and 30-skill minutes) ahead of time, then assume the passengers can travel at approximately 15-20mph in rush periods, or 25-30mph otherwise. This assumes transferring, traffic, and stopping at intermediate stops. For characters wanting to take their chances and run up to a bus stop, the following can be consulted:
* In a large city such as New York, some routes run every 5 minutes from 7-9am, and 4-6pm, or better, but are crowded near the city core, oftentimes packed full!
Roll 1d:
1 The characters arrive just as the vehicle is about to leave. Someone opens a door for them, and if they were being followed from a distance, that operative would not be able to make it aboard...
2-5 The next bus (with room) departs in 1d minutes
6 The party arrives as the vehicle pulls away. The next transport leaves in 3d minutes
* In smaller cities, or on secondary routes, or on major routes during the "normal" weekday traffic (9am-3pm), busses run at 10, 15, or even 20-minute intervals. Use the above table, but multiply times by 1d!
* During the night, or on weekends and holidays, or in rural areas, public transport becomes hard to come by, running at 30 or even 60 minute intervals. With the scarcity of routes, local characters will have a +1 to +3 bonus to Area Knowledge to remember bus routes, should they use them regularly.
Roll 1d:
1 The bus departs 1d minutes early! Unless the players mention that they try to arrive extra early, they get there only to see the desired transport pull away.
2-5 The bus arrives (and departs) 1d minutes late.
6 Trouble! The bus is 6d minutes late!
During Bad or Severe weather, add 1d and 2d minutes to all arrival times.

"So you are a motorbus. All bump and go and no concern for anyone."
-- Elisa Doolittle, My Fair Lady

Connection Problems
Please note that because a bus stop is along the route a certain bus takes is no guarantee that that bus will stop here. There is typically a sign next to the bench that indicates which routes stop at this location. Also note that buses may run several routes during the day, and sometimes the back and/or side signs are not updated. This means that the numbers on the bus that are seen as it speeds away are not necessarily the same as the route it's actually following, although this is not a problem on more modern busses with electronic signing (TL8+). The driver that one character fails a Fast-Talk roll against yesterday could be driving this route today. Routes change seasonally, and to accommodate new housing developments and malls (and the sudden collapse of large megacorps wink, wink). For characters who only occasionally use the bus, this is another monkey wrench GMs can throw in their best-laid plans.

It is a lucky patron that has both ends of their destination along a single route. Connecting between busses technically involves two waits (above), and possibly 3 rolls (One for the first bus' departure, one its arrival at the midpoint, and another for the second bus' departure). One last consideration for finding a bus is that in many cities (especially those with traffic and police air units) is that busses (and many emergency vehicles) may have their "serial" number painted in huge letters on the top of the vehicle, making it easy to identify them from the air. This aids supers, and people with spotters in high-rises and office complexes in tracking such vehicles through the busy streets.

"But this is Sat'rday evn'n. E'ry third bus from central station goes to the bus'ness district instead of the mall. Line 14 don't run at all. Line 15 instead goes straight west. It's been that way since, oh, the summer of naught-five, or was it the winter of naught-four?"

The Bus Stops Here
One of the most popular bus stop fixtures is a bus bench. It is popular because it is inexpensive, often with a concrete base, wooden seat, and plywood backboard. This backboard is often rented as advertising space. The downside is that the waiting passengers are exposed to the elements. The backboard, being an inch of plywood, offers DR6, 30HP (p. B125 for details). Some of the next most fixtures are the bus shacks and lean-tos - unpowered structures that offer minimal protection from the elements. Some have doors, while others have only three walls. Most shacks have some form of seating inside. Light metal and Plexiglas(tm) walls may offer DR1 to DR5 against attacks.

Boarded Up
Some transit networks allow the patrons to "validate" their own tickets at special terminals of the transit network (sometimes on platforms, others within vehicles). This honor system allows the patron to use the network for anywhere from one to two hours (depending on the city), if they hold onto this stub. If the vehicles are packed (such as during rush hour), it may be difficult for police officers to check tickets while onboard the vehicle. The fine could be up to 50 to 100 times the cost of the fare. A quick rule is to roll 2d and on 11 or 12, the PCs will be asked to produce "proof of fare" during the ride, or as they exit. While on a well-illuminated vehicle, and the officer walks forward through the vehicle, and his partner watches from one end, there is little room to hide. If it is relevant, Vision rolls for Beat Officers are made on a roll of 11 (see p. CO 45), but they are attentive. While exiting, the officers will stake out a platform where there is only one exit route. A distraction while someone makes leap over a fence/rail may be necessary.

Sitting Down
Any social or luck-related (dis)advantage should be played to its fullest extent to contrast the party members. Unlucky PCs should worry about a passenger of the worst sort (in the eyes of that character) sitting down next to (or in the next seat to) them. Passengers with negative-valued appearance will note that other passengers will keep a proportional distance away. Lucky persons may find currency wedged in the seat they sit in, or be offered an honest deal by a stranger, meet an old friend, or the like. If Dr. Amazing should step on a bus while in full costume, she may be swamped by fans before she can pay her fare.

Additionally, this may be a time for the GM to present Plot hooks and Red Herrings in the form of advertisements. Many transit companies rent the space on the outside of busses and the space above the inside windows. One method may involve the "What Happened Today?" (link to table by Matt Rigsby, and turn it into an ad. A roll of "Fugitive" could be a wanted poster, "Nosy Official" may be a Crime Stoppers poster. If nothing logical springs to mind, it could be an ad for a local theater group doing a play on it.

When a bus breaks down, a replacement would be sent from the garage if it would arrive at least ten to fifteen minutes before the next scheduled bus. Otherwise the passengers will be let off at the next stop, if possible, and asked to wait.

Rules of the Road
In many cities, mass transit vehicles can enjoy a special lane to themselves during rush hour (or all day). In some intersections, buses even get a special "Priority" signal that lets them act for five to ten seconds before everyone else in the intersection. TL8 may bring transponders onboard busses to allow the traffic system to display the "Priority" signal whenever a bus approaches, not simply every cycle.

The exact qualifications required vary from city to city, country to country, but here is a basic constant in western countries:

The job requires a grade 10 to 12 education, and the applicant must hold an appropriate driver's license to operate large passenger vehicles before training is complete. A background check should not reveal any criminal record or traffic violations. Training is full time for 1-2 months, and teaches driving techniques as well as public relations skills. For the following 1-2 months, the trainee will work with an experienced mentor who will help them learn the practical details of the job. The duration of orientation varies based on the prior experience and aptitude of the student.
In GURPS terms, the student learns approximately 2cp of skills per month, to be distributed among Area Knowledge (the city), Driving(Heavy Wheeled), Diplomacy, and Fast-Talk. Exceptional applicants should have IQ at 11+ and DX at 12+.

Student at the end of training
IQ 10[0], DX 10[0]
Driving(Heavy Wheeled)-11 [4], Area Knowledge(this city)-11 [2], Electronics Operation(Communication)/TL-8 [1/2], Diplomacy-8 [1], and 1/2 cp in improving above skills or adding other appropriate social skills.

Experienced Driver of 20 Years
IQ 11[10], DX 13[30]
Driving(Heavy Wheeled)-15 [8], Area Knowledge(this city)-14 [6], Electronics Operation (Communication)/TL-10 [1], Diplomacy-13 [8], and 20 cp in improving above skills, adding other appropriate social skills, and perhaps advantages like Combat Reflexes, Empathy, or Daredevil in addition to the points granted by some disadvantages, such as Bad Sight(Correctable), Callous, Loner, Curious, Incurious, and/or Chummy.

Last words
A large number of cities legally prohibit smoking, eating or drinking while on transit property and vehicles, but the level of enforcement varies. Some cities have a one fare, one ride policy, while others allow one to ride on any transit vehicle for up to 90 minutes after a fare is paid. Tantalize the party as they turn the corner and see the bus they seek passing by, or find that the person they're after gets on and it heads away from them (and the characters know the next bus won't come around for a quarter of an hour!)
Many cities have areas that are off-limits to cars: London has even closed its whole downtown core to the privately owned cars! Hacking into electronic bus signage, and using bus transponders may be tools of espionage characters.

Adventure Seeds

Other Suggestions for Integration
Handouts may include bus maps, schedules, tickets, passes, and transfers. Many major cities have an online resource where one can download transit maps and schedules.


Below are two Sample busses designed with Vehicles Lite rules using GURPS Vehicle Builder.) ). Any comments within parentheses "()" represent the "real world" term to describe the GURPS name.

TL7 New Flyer 40-foot Low-floor Urban Transit Bus Model D40LF

Subassemblies: Vehicle +5, Body +5, Wheels +3.

P&P: 205-kW Diesel Engine (turbo/super charger, short term access), 200-kW Wheeled Drivetrain (short term access), 8,000-kWs Lead Acid Battery #1, 8,000-kWs Lead Acid Battery #2.

Fuel: 107 gal Diesel Fuel (fire 9), 107 gal standard Fuel Tank (fire modifier 0).

Occupancy: roomy Crew Station (improved access, airbag), ten normal Passenger Seat (folding for wheelchair space)s (improved access, folding seat), 20 cramped passenger standing room locations, 29 normal Passenger Seats, 40-man Environmental Control System.

Armor F RL B T U
All 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5

Body: Sound System; medium range Radio Communicator (30-mile range); LLTV (Security Camera) (magnification x1); Cargo (Wheelchair) Ramp.

Size: [LxWxH] 40.4 x 10.1 x 5.05 Payload: 12,642 lbs. Lwt: 34,102 lbs.
Volume: 2,055 cf Maint: 154 Hrs (0.623 man-hrs./day) Price: $269,580
HT: 13 HP: 1,500 [Body], 100 each [6x Wheels].
Ground Performance: Motive Power 200-kW, Top Speed 60 mph, gAcc 3 mph/s, gDec 15 mph/s, gMR 0.75, gSR 5, Ground Pressure 8,526 lbs./sf, Off Road Speed 10 mph.

Design Notes:
TL7 medium frame very cheap materials [Vehicle].
TL7 DR 5 cheap metal [Vehicle].
Operating Duration: 14 H 54 M 46 S.
Payload Cost: $128
Vehicle Features: mechanical controls, no streamlining, finely made.
Volume: 1,868 cf [Body], 187 cf [Wheels].
Area: 1,000 sf [Body], 200 sf [Wheels].

TL7 Bluebird-LTC40 Touring Bus

Subassemblies: Vehicle +5, Body +5, Wheels +3.

P&P: 335-kW Diesel Engine (turbo/super charger, short term access), 330-kW Wheeled Drivetrain (short term access), 8,000-kWs Lead Acid Battery #1, 8,000-kWs Lead Acid Battery #2.

Fuel: 175 gal Diesel Fuel (fire 9), 82.5 gal standard Fuel Tank #1 (fire modifier 0), 82.5 gal standard Fuel Tank # 2 (fire modifier 0).

Occupancy: roomy Crew Station (improved access, airbag), 20 roomy Passenger Seat (by Window)s, 20 roomy Passenger Seat (Aisle)s (improved access), roomy Passenger Seat (Toilet) (improved access), cramped passenger standing room location [None], 45-man Environmental Control System, 120-cf Cargo (Interior Racks), 300-cf Cargo (Exterior Access).

Armor F RL B T U
All 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5

Body: GPS; three Sound System (VCR)s; Radar (Rear Collision Warning Sensor) (scan 5, 0.01-mile range; surface search, no targeting, low-res imaging); Sound System (overhead public address); LLTV (rear camera) (magnification x1); LLTV (Security Camera) (magnification x1); long range Radio Communicator (CB radio) (300-mile range).

Size: [LxWxH] 45.6 x 11.4 x 5.7 Payload: 17,850 lbs. Lwt: 44,669 lbs.
Volume: 2,967 cf Maint: 135 Hrs (0.709 man-hrs./day) Price: $349,060
HT: 13 HP: 1,800 [Body], 125 each [6x Wheels].
Ground Performance: Motive Power 330-kW, Top Speed 70 mph, gAcc 3 mph/s, gDec 15 mph/s, gMR 0.75, gSR 5, Ground Pressure 8,934 lbs./sf, Off Road Speed 10 mph.

Design Notes:
TL7 medium frame very cheap materials [Vehicle].
TL7 DR 5 cheap metal [Vehicle].
Operating Duration: 14 H 4 M 21 S.
Payload Cost: $210
Vehicle Features: mechanical controls, no streamlining, finely made.
Volume: 2,679 cf [Body], 268 cf [Wheels].
Area: 1,200 sf [Body], 250 sf [Wheels].

© June 2003 by Eric Funk

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