As he deftly wielded the steering wheel of the Metro bus, maneuvering it into the driveway at the Silver Spring subway station, driver Harvey Lee surveyed the crowd of anxious suburban commuters - one of the more visible reminders of the gasoline crunch.
"There used to be a time when one bus could handle all the people who came off any one subway train to board a bus to the suburbs," says Lee. "But now the lines of people out here waiting for buses look like the gasoline lines."
The new riders, Lee says, have completely altered the world of bus riding. They come with three-piece suits and sharp business dresses, carrying leather brief-cases and folders of paperwork - adding wealth, if not warmth, to the atmosphere.
"Before, when I pulled up to the terminal in Silver Spring, at the same time every day I would see the same people," says Lee. "They would sit in the same place every day, kind of like their own little turfs, and other regular riders would honor that.
"That's a thing of the past. Now we have people packed up past the fare box - some of them standing on the steps - and it looks like sardines in a can.We even have to turn some people away from getting on at the first stop. Someone getting off the subway during rush hour may have to wait for several buses just to get a ride."
Lee says he has no trouble picking out the new rider from the veteran bus traveler. "He is the guy who boards the bus before he finds out where he's going and asks 20 questions that slow everything up. The new rider is the guy who boards the bus and acts like he's in a taxi cab." CAPTION: Picture, HARVEY LEE . . . drives crowded Metro bus