Smile Politely

Idling Buses May Be History in Urbana

First Sniff

I never had the chance to tour in a bus when I was a musician. It’s the dream of most bands actually; your own cot, a living room in the back with video games and satellite television, a kitchen with a stove and running water. It’s a mobile home, in reality. And when your band can afford it, it’s a luxury that most are willing to dip into the band fund to purchase. After all, any one who has been in a van for tens of thousands of miles with the same stinky people understands that anything (and I mean anything) would be better than that.

And in this corner…

I guess I never thought twice about it, but, someone who I admire deeply brought this to the community’s attention this week when he wrote a letter to the Urbana City Council proposing a ban on idling buses on city streets. The thing is that, buses must idle with their generators running in order to continue to function in the way that they do, as a home, for their inhabitants. And when artists come to perform at The Canopy or Krannert Center (the only places in town, on city streets, that can host bus tours – save for a rare one at Highdive), sometimes load in is as early as 6 a.m. Often times the buses don’t leave until the middle of the next night, effectively sputtering emissions into the lungs of passersby throughout an entire day.

To some, this is a big problem.

And in the other…

Touring in a van is hard. No, it’s not just hard — it’s downright tiring. After even just a week on the road, one’s body begins to wilt in many ways. Legs cramp up, headaches ensue, rashes breaks out, chafing occurs, profuse sweating is always on the docket and body odor becomes a regular known scent in the van.

After years of this, when a band is selling tickets to their shows and can finally afford to hire a crew to give them a hand and to make this very difficult way of life a bit easier, I can understand the need to travel in a mobile home. After all, I don’t think that many people out there are going to argue that touring musicians should be forced to suffer completely.

The Compromise…

Emissions and stank from the buses are real problems, especially with restaurants nearby and pedestrians walking to class or work. I think that my friend who wrote the letter has a very legitimate complaint here. But, to outright ban people from using their mobile homes? That is an extreme and reactionary proposal that would do nothing but hurt the ability to lure in talent from the outside to come to perform here. And that’s a good thing for our local economy. Where would Krannert be without tour buses?

So, how about for once, we entertain a fair compromise and create a real solution to the problem?

I propose that buses may not idle on Urbana city streets from the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. This would ensure that all people who carry regular working hours would not be subjected to the emissions from these buses. On the flip side, it would also ensure that the people who call these buses home (temporarily) were not left without running water, heat or gas (you know, the things that we all use in our own homes) for an entire day.

Mondays on Vine St. in Urbana

Did you know that you can actually go to city council meetings? And you can actually speak there, and voice your opinions? It’s truly a world of wonder. I applaud my friend, who will remain nameless, aside from letting you know that to me, he is the most prolific and talented musician living in Champaign-Urbana. I just don’t think he has ever been on an extended tour inside of a van. I think that might make him be willing to accept this compromise.

In the end, no one wants to sleep in a van.

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