The bus system: basics and unspoken rules

Public transportation is something that all IU students should become familiar with. Taking the bus is a fast, cheap, and environmentally friendly way to get to classes or work. However, when you’re a freshman or just unfamiliar with the routes, it can be hard knowing where to start.
Not only that, but once you do start riding the bus you will learn the unspoken rules and etiquette that come along with being a passenger. If you learn some of these rules early on, it will make the transition to public transportation much easier.This guide will give you the resources you need to learn about the bus systems and how to get from point A to point B.

Why you should take the bus

The most obvious answer to this is that you’re paying for it already! There is a yearly transportation fee billed to your bursar that helps fund the IU bus system, so why not take advantage of it? Buses can also be very convenient when it comes to getting around campus or Bloomington without a car. It’s always best to learn about the bus system just so you know all of your options for when you’re in a hurry or caught in bad weather.

How to start learning

Basically, what you need to know is that the campus buses are red and are listed with letters (A, B, E et.) and the Bloomington buses are typically green and are numbered (9,6). The campus buses are free to anyone and the Bloomington buses are free if you flash your ID and if you don’t have your ID it’s $1. Download the IU mobile app and look for two sections: bus schedules and  bus tracking. Bus schedules will show you the major stops of each bus and the times, but most students just head to a stop close to them and know a bus will be coming soon. This is where the bus tracking app comes in handy; with this you’re able to see a live map showing where the buses are heading.

If you live in an off-campus location, you may find yourself relying on the bus system often. If you are using the bus as a primary form of transportation to get to campus, make sure to give yourself plenty of time. If you have an 8am, catch the 7:15 or 7:30 bus to campus. The 7:45 bus may sound promising but you probably won’t make it and rushing into class 5 minutes in every day isn’t a good look.

IU campus bus routes
IU mobile app bus tracking


You know when you’re just having one of those days where nothing seems to go right? Knowing bus etiquette can be the difference between everyone having an easy-going trip across campus or a difficult trip that includes angry tweeting and passive aggressive stares. Here are some basics:

Use the front door while getting on the bus – You have to pass the driver while getting on the bus. You may need to show your ID if it’s a Bloomington bus or just walk past, but either way always use the front door or you may be in the way of people stepping off the bus or asked to come to the front by the driver.

Have your ID ready – If you are riding a Bloomington bus, usually the 6 and 9 are most popular, have your ID ready to show to the driver before getting on the bus. The drivers are required to see it and having to fish it out of your bag will hold up the line.

IU Student ID card
Your student ID is a free ticket on any Bloomington bus

Keep others in mind while sitting or standing – If you’re catching a bus at an odd hour where people are typically travelling to classes, it’s okay to sit in the seat closest to the aisle. However, when the bus starts filling up that’s your cue to move over to the window seat to make room or stand if your stop is coming up. Don’t be the guy with the backpack on the seat next to him while people are getting turned away by the driver because it’s full.

Move to the back when the bus starts filling up – When seats are full, a lot of people stand near the back door of the bus so they can conveniently hop off when their stop is coming up. This is fine when not a lot of people are riding, but when it starts filling up please step up to the higher level of the bus to make room for people getting on. If you don’t do this, the driver will either have to get on the speaker and tell you to move back or turn people away when there is plenty of room left. When people decide to crowd around the back door it just slows the entire process down and induces road rage and annoyance to all of the bus passengers and people trying to get on.

Man sleeping on a bus
Taking up multiple seats on a busy bus is just not cool

Be considerate – It’s easy to feel like you’re in a personal bubble while on your phone or jamming to Spotify. Feel free to take an important phone call but keep your voice quiet. Don’t spread your legs out all over the seats when others have to stand. Don’t trash talk sororities/fraternities or say spiteful things that other people can hear. On the flip side, it’s always nice to say “Thanks!” or “Have a good day!” to the driver while you’re getting off of the bus.

Speak up – Maybe you see a classmate you recognize or someone sporting a shirt from a club you’re thinking of joining. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation and connect with fellow Hoosiers! Also don’t be afraid to say something if people are seemingly unaware that they are making the bus ride harder for others. If you see someone taking up multiple seats while it’s extremely full ask, “excuse me, could you move over so I can take a seat?” or “Could you guys move up to the back of the bus, it’s getting really crowded up here.”

Getting off of the bus – Most people exit through the back door while getting off of the bus. However, it is okay to exit through the front door as well. Do know that if you go that route you may need to maneuver through people getting on the bus through the front door.

For me, learning the bus system was a step towards adulthood and being able to get around on my own. Becoming a pro at riding the bus will take time, I hope this guide helps you get ahead of the game and conquer the bus system.

Megan Tackett
Megan Tackett

Class of 2017, Public Relations Major.

Hi I'm Megan! I'm a junior studying Journalism with a focus on Public Relations. I am also a student in the Liberal Arts and Management Program. I love being a blogger for because visiting this site was really influential in my decision to come here. IU has so many opportunities for students to get involved on campus. I'm currently completing two media-related internships at Author Solutions and the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology. I'm also a Hudson and Holland Scholar as well as a Cox Legacy scholar. My hobbies include frequenting Kirkwood eateries, travelling, and blogging.