Playing 4D chess with bus seats

SFU student makes a strategic plan to get a bus seat

Illustration of a person chasing after a bus.
ILLUSTRATION: Angela Shen / The Peak

By: Emily Huang, SFU Student and Professional Transit User

Waking up early is overrated. Self-care is important! Unfortunately, the limited amount of bus seats, and genetics have cursed my height so I will get thrown around more easily. The bus seats and my height aren’t the boss of me, and I will perish on this hill to defend the honour of that statement. After a few days of playing four-dimensional chess, I have managed to beat the bus bot on medium difficulty with a game-changing hack — having Lougheed Town Center as the closest station to home. Let me explain my big brain strategy.

Two bus routes and three train routes. That’s all I need to be able to wake up forty minutes before class. The walk to the station is the most crucial part of the commute — it’s important that I’m not too slow, but given the number of train lines I get to choose from, I am allowed a five-minute leeway. One trick I like to use is to download songs that are at least 130 bpm so I can trick my body into becoming Sonic the Hedgehog. I add them to my don’t-be-late playlist before beginning my daily journey to the school on top of a mountain. 

Once I reach the station, I take a quick glance at the monitor showing the train arrivals. I methodically calculate three routes: the 143 from Burquitlam, the 145 from Production, and the mysterious VCC-Clark secret — which I will disclose later. The advantage of taking the 143 bus from Burquitlam Station is that there is a higher chance of getting a seat than if I took the 145 bus from Production Station. Because the train has less carriages, be prepared to run towards the front of the very first carriage. “Why so?” I hear you ask. Why, my bus-taking Watson, the staircase leading to the exit of Burquitlam Station is closest to the front of the first carriage. Getting downstairs faster than everyone else on that train increases your odds of getting a seat in the bus. It’s a competition, remember?

The standard route involves the 145 bus line. Standing near the hind doors in the third carriage or the front doors of the fourth carriage of the Production Way University train grants the nearest access to the stairs leading to the exit. It is important I keep a quick pace during my descent, because everyone else has the same goal in mind — getting that sweet, sweet seat and taking a fat ten-minute nap. One drawback of this route is that the Expo line train has much longer intervals between trains. I cannot guarantee that it would be the most foolproof route, but that’s where the emergency third route comes into play! Instead of taking the Production Way University train, take the VCC-Clark train. Trust me, it’ll work in a pinch. Since Millennium line trains have less carriages than the Expo line trains, make sure to stand at the furthest end of the carriage. The process after stepping out of the train remains the same: hurry. Cartwheel to the front of that line if you have to. I recommend the middle doors, but if you enjoy a challenge, the front doors will be ample. 

All that’s left is to enjoy the fruits of my hard work: that mildly uncomfortable upholstered seat and getting to scroll on my phone without having to worry about splatting around and accidentally showing someone my fanart-filled timeline. Once I reach the campus, I thank the bus driver for the enjoyable ride and take a deep, victorious breath of the fresh mountain air. Once I reach the lecture hall, my mood  always sours at the lack of seats near the charging ports. Unfortunately, I no longer have the brain juice to play four-dimensional chess with the world.