It’s hard to find a committed bus commuter in Malta. Our crazy car culture, coupled with a notoriously problematic transport system, have created a situation where only a select number of people opt to use the bus for a long period of time.
Well, as a member of that rare breed, here are a few things that I’ve noticed cropping up again and again during my long and winding journeys on the much-talked about turquoise behemoths we’ve taken to calling the Maltese buses.
1. Distance is relative
The great thing about catching a bus in Malta? You can rest assured that it would take you roughly the same time to get from one place to another, no matter where you’re going. The catch? By ‘same time’, we mean roughly one hour.
2. Traffic is the real enemy
Sure, some routes could be planned better, and some localities remain under-served. But on the whole it looks as though the seemingly endless series of overhauls to the bus service post-Arriva did some good in the long run. They tend to run on schedule now, and the tallinja app helps. Thing is, buses are still vehicles, and vehicles do one thing above all: get stuck in traffic.
3. Tourist season is the worst
Confused, loud and numerous are the best three words to describe tourists on Maltese buses. Certain routes (like Sliema-Valletta) become practically inaccessible during the summer. We don’t want to hate you guys, but the system makes it so hard…
4. The smartphone is the new boombox
Seemingly allergic to headphones and determined to blare out their music selection to anybody within earshot, these local offenders are far, far worse than any nuisance tourists can manage. They congregate at the back of buses in the same spirit of a cockroach nest.
5. If you ask for route advice on the bus, we will hate you
I know this isn’t fair, but think of it as genteel road rage. I get that decades of terrible service have made you suspicious about any information provided by Transport Malta. But if you get on the bus only to ask a bunch of questions to the driver and delay our trip by another ten minutes, we will all hate you. All of us.
6. That fucking red light…
I don’t just mean any red light, though those are annoying no matter what vehicle you’re in. While we’re on the subject of impotent frustration, I’d like to talk about the pelican light right by the Granaries in Floriana. Imagine you’re running late for a meeting in Valletta. Or worse, you’ll need to change buses at the Terminus are already running late. The bus pulls up past the ‘Mall’ and you’re thinking you might just make it in time after all. But then, that red light flares up to dash all your hopes and ruin your schedule.
7. The AC is great… in July
The one golden promise ushered in by Arriva this is still yielding fruit is airconditioning on buses. But the Maltese tendency to overdo it bears its ugly head here too. Come summer, buses are ridiculously freezing most of the time. It’s a move that’s just about justified in July or August, and a recipe for illness any other time of the year.
8. When the lost generation… is you
If you’re getting on the bus and are between the ages of 20 and 45, chances are you’ll be a rare breed. As a general rule – and apart from tourists – buses tends to be used by students or the elderly. If nothing else, it’s fun to witness such a generational clash in one place.