Driver Shawn McAlister gave eager riders a warm welcome on Monday as they boarded his bus near the State Capitol.
After riders stepped onto his GoRaleigh bus, McAlister helped them pay their fare and made sure they took their return trip passes from the dispenser. Once everyone was settled into their seats, McAlister shut the doors and headed out Hillsborough Street to the N.C. State Fair.
Every day the fair is open, buses operated by Go Raleigh, Go Triangle and Go Durham offer rides for a regular fare of $5, and discounted rates for children and people over the age of 65. They take few stops and move quickly, dropping off and picking up passengers in front of Gate 1, near the corner of Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Road.
McAlister said driving the fair route is one of his favorites because riders are usually in a good mood and children can hardly contain their excitement when they get close.
“When they see the Ferris wheel, before they get off the bus, they say, ‘Thank you so much, bus driver,’” McAlister said.
McAlister generally drives the fair route that picks up passengers along Hillsborough Street, but riders can also take express buses from several stops in Durham and Chapel Hill as well as at Cary Towne Center and Triangle Town Center.
Rodney Bizzell, who has a job working the midway and at a discount store on Capital Boulevard, said he gets to sleep in on days when he works at the fairgrounds because the express bus to the fair makes few stops.
“The other one takes about an hour, so I have to wake up early just to make it to work on time,” he said.
He said he passes the commute on his smartphone, using the wireless internet available on some buses.
As the bus rumbled past the traffic circle at the corner of Pullen and Hillsborough streets, Debbie Durham and her friend Karen Filipski discussed plans to browse agricultural exhibits, eat N.C. State University ice cream and look at student artwork.
Filipski, who came from Greensboro to go to the fair, said she likes taking the bus because it saves the headache of fair traffic and searching for a place to park.
“They let you off right in front so you don’t have to walk a long way to the entrance,” she said.
Waiting for a bus back to their car, Ritchie Creech and his friend Shannon Riley said they had a full day eating their way through ears of corn, footlong hot dogs, french fries and other snacks.
“We usually get the London broil, but we were too full and didn’t mess with it,” Creech said.
Creech said she travels from Emerald Isle annually to attend the fair, and always take the bus from a nearby park-and-ride lot because it’s cheaper and takes less time.
“For five bucks round trip,” Creech said. “How could you beat it?”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi
Today at the fair
Hours: Gates, 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Midway, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Exhibit halls, 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
Tickets: Adults (13-64), $10; children (6-12), $5; military with ID, $6; children 5 and younger and adults 65 and older, free.
Dorton Arena concert: Superchunk with Skylar Gudasz, 7:30 p.m.
Forecast: Sunny, mid-80s.
Wednesday’s attendance last year: 71,348
Transportation: A complete list of schedules and realtime bus locations in Chapel Hill and Durham can be found at Gotriangle.org/fair and godurhamtransit.org/fair. Raleigh schedules can be found at goraleigh.org.