Tales from The Hood

The White Bus Prince


The White Bus Prince was on the phone with his bank when he walked into my condo. He was furious … “can you believe it? My wife and daughter have been in Europe for almost a month and they have already spent $30,000.”  I worked my butt off for that money. And as you will see, he did …

My dear pal Tony Castro is from Brazil. He is a 50-something, handsome, suntanned, tea totaling, chain smoker that has been living here in the hood for the last 15 years. He is a graduate of the University of Texas with a BA and ran a Four Seasons Hotel in the second most important job in a hotel, Food and Beverage Manager … in case you were wondering, he was not the least concerned that his wife and precious daughter were power spending in Europe. He has over the years owned three restaurants and made a nice pile in barrio real estate here before the economic meltdown in the new world in 2008. 

That is when Tony started buying white buses … at one point he owned 46 of them. The bus business is complicated. So let's first start with riding them … something we all should start doing more often to leave a smaller carbon footprint. I am so proud of our local grocery stores for getting rid of plastic bags … I just wish I could remember to bring my green bags when I go to the store. Maybe someone should invent a “do not forget your green bags so we will have oxygen to breathe and have food to eat in our old age, bunky!

The buses have five hubs, Wal-Mart, Costco, Home Depot, Plaza Puerto Paradisio, and the Dolphin Aquarium … and they leave every 15 minutes and go on predestinated routes throughout the entire city and are monitored by GPS. The drivers are on the whole, very polite and efficient. They make a lot of money for what they do and have job security. If there is a complaint against them, the driver is automatically suspended for three to four days. A driver who works diligently for 15 years gets a hefty bonus … the kind of bonus that can buy you a nice house in the barrio bonus. BUT it is not cash, it is the right to buy the license plates, which can be sold or used to leverage a better deal. Henceforth is their way of getting a bigger piece of the pie.

The pie is split between the owners who own the medallion, the drivers, the government, and the bus company. Plates cost up to $80,000 USD and are bought and sold like currency. Generally speaking, they go up in value and are a long-term investment. 

Then there is the cost of the bus … most plate owners own the bus too. Buses sell for about $100,000 USD. So think about $200,000 USD to get in the bus business. Drivers make more than a manager at CocaCola, work hard making six turns on their designated routes daily. It is competitive on purpose to keep the buses really moving to serve the public.

You can stop a white bus anywhere on its route and they will drop you off just about anyplace too. A well-run bus makes enough money to buy a new Mercedes a year for the owner. Tony owns his own garage as they are in constant need of repair and maintenance. All in all, though, it has a decent return on investment in about six to seven years … not including the value of the plates.

So next time you need to go to Wal-Mart, try a white bus. It is going to cost you about .80¢ unless you are a senior or can show a student ID, then it is .40¢. There are two stops for Wal-Mart, one is on the highway towards town and the other right across the parking lot. They seat 24 people and are seldom full, so there is almost always a seat. So take a white bus, save the world and think about poor old Tony whose wife is talking about taking a first-class “around the world cruise” and wants to take her sisters.