ABOARD THE PRIDE BUS - The 8:48 a.m. bus to Reno was more a pleasant field trip than a dreaded commute.
"No more road rage," said retiree Barney Grigg as the white-and-blue PRIDE bus cruised through Washoe City. "I saw an adobe building I've never seen before."
Grigg and neighbor Tom Whittingham also studied the mass of black on the western slopes of Reno, where the Arrowcreek Fire recently threatened newer developments.
"You can see one leg (of fire) went up the mountain," Grigg said.
Barney and Mary Grigg and Whittingham were among 18 passengers making the mid-morning ride Monday to Reno on the first day of service for Public Rural Ride, a state and Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission transit service linking Carson City and Reno.
PRIDE, as the service is called, is designed for commuters but Day One had more riders later in the morning than during the commute hours. The Reno-to-Carson bus at 9:50 a.m. carried 37 passengers, while the buses before 8 a.m. typically carried four to seven people in both directions.
In the morning, PRIDE carried 61 passengers to Reno, and 47 people made the ride to Carson City.
"This is really more than we were expecting," said Nancy Pearl, the Washoe RTC marketing director. "For the first day, we were pleased."
PRIDE rides are free until Aug. 25. After that, the Carson-Reno ride will cost $3 one-way for adults, $1.50 for seniors and $2 for youths. PRIDE runs Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. out of Carson City and from 4:50 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. out of Reno.
Pearl expects commuter ridership will exceed mid-day rides once summer vacations wrap up.
"We're doing free service right now," she said. "My feeling is after Labor Day we'll get a much better sense of what the regular ridership will be."
Bill Reinhard, administrative services officer for the secretary of state, plans to commute via PRIDE on a daily basis. Instead of dealing with traffic Monday, Reinhard sat back in the bus and read an article in "Classics of Public Administration."
"It's going to add an hour and a half to my study time every day," said Reinhard, who is working on his Ph.D.
Throughout the morning, the PRIDE buses hit the marks on their published timetables. Reinhard left home at his usual time at a quarter to 7, got to the Meadowood Mall at 7, and the 7:04 to Carson City showed up on time.
"They were right on the money," Reinhard said. "I think it's going to become very popular. I may just leave a car in Carson City so I can take care of errands during the day."
Whittingham, who boarded at Wal-Mart, praised PRIDE as his bus pulled into CitiCenter at 9:38, just as promised in the published schedule.
"I'm tremendously impressed by the service," Whittingham said. "I like to play poker at the Cal-Neva in Reno. I'll be using the bus quite often. I'm retired. I would rather ride the bus. You don't have to think about driving and it's very reasonable."
Frontier Tours is supplying the four buses used for PRIDE. They are touring coaches with reclining, upholstered seats, a restroom and overhead luggage compartments.
"It's very comfortable," said Marge Foster, who boarded at Safeway and went to Meadowood. "I love the big, nice, clean windows and you talk to nice people."
Barbara Atkins of Carson City sees PRIDE as the perfect vehicle to go on outings with her granddaughter, Rachel Smith, who is 4.
"I'll come to Reno every week," Atkins said. "I'm looking forward to bringing my granddaughter. I'm afraid to drive that far with her in the car."
One-third of all PRIDE riders Monday morning were on the 9:50 bus to Carson City. Why did so many people want to go to Carson City?
Would you believe for shopping?
That, at least, was the reason for the mother-daughter duo of Frances Gralla and Deanna Alexander.
"We're going shopping," said Alexander, 16, a junior at Wooster High. "Something different, just to look around, really."
Gralla said taking the bus was easier than driving.
"This is good for us to see what we can do and where it stops," Gralla said.
Eleanor Clark grew up in Carson City and now lives and works in Reno. She had a day off and decided on a bus ride to Carson.
"Maybe I'll go swimming," said Clark, a medical assistant at MedWise Primary Care for Seniors. "I brought my swimsuit."
Glenn Fruehan is a school board candidate in Washoe County who had never been to the Legislative Building or the Nevada Supreme Court. He took advantage of the free bus ride.
"I felt like I should support the bus system instead of using a car and wasting gas," Fruehan said.
Information about PRIDE stops and schedules are available by calling 348-7433.