Attention Frugal Travelers: For exceptional savings, consider bus route #40.
A week ago today, Stephanie and our daughter Robin caught a flight from Hobby Airport. They took Uber to the airport. I was close behind in a Yellow Cab, which I booked with the zTrip app. I recounted our pre-dawn Yellow Cab vs. Uber shootout a few days ago.
While Stephanie had a plane to catch, I didn’t. I needed a way back home. I asked a few sleepy people where I could catch a METRO bus. I’ve traveled in and out of Hobby Airport for 40 years. The only buses I ever looked for were airport shuttle buses to take me to offsite parking lots.
Hiding in plain sight
To find the METRO bus that serves Hobby, just look for the blue awning. If you’re exiting the airport baggage area, it will be to your right. Officially, it’s Curb Zone 3 outside of Arrivals.
I’m lucky. The #40 route runs every 30 minutes and goes within six blocks of my home.
Even luckier, my timing was perfect. At 5:35, the bus was just arriving. I got on a nearly empty bus, swiped my Q card and took a seat. As a senior, I ride for 60 cents. The bus pulled out into the dark.
An early morning tour of Houston
Within minutes, we’re headed down Telephone Road, immortalized in song by Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle. Soon the bus is filling up: a woman with wet hair who looks lost but isn’t, a security guard ending his shift, restaurant workers headed to jobs downtown. It’s more talkative than I expect. Some regulars say hello to one another. These people are used to getting up early.
It’s January 20, inauguration day. Within a few hours, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. I wonder how the people on the bus voted. Did they vote? What do they think about our new president? What would he think of them?
A few folks exit at the Eastwood transit center. That’s where bus routes converge and people transfer to other bus routes. Within a few stops, all of the seats are full. By 6:19, we’re pulling into downtown. We go right by the George R. Brown Convention Center. When we arrive at Main Street, a dozen people get off to catch the light rail. I want to follow every one of them, see where they go and learn what they do.
As we head out of downtown, the bus is back to a handful of passengers. On Waugh, the bus driver stops at a convenience store; a restroom break, I assume. We pass a Starbucks. The drive-thru line is already 10 cars deep.
Service to downtown, the Heights and beyond
Soon, we’re in the Heights, where I live. It’s early, but the traffic is building. People are driving downtown, to the West Loop, the Energy Corridor, the Texas Medical Center—lots of places. I wonder if the bus goes near where they work.
I get off the bus at 6:47, an hour and 12-minute bus ride—all for 60 cents. What a bargain. And a nice morning adventure, to boot.
The sun is coming up during the 8-minute walk to our house. Joggers are out. I wheel my bag down the street, passing people walking dogs. Our dogs will be hungry by the time I get home. If they could talk, I’m sure they’d say: What took you so long? Why didn’t you drive?