Want to hop on a bus without paying the fare? Catch the new music video for “Route 42,” a hummable ode to public transportation by local singer-songwriter René Moffatt. Although a lot of the lyrics are about waiting — and wondering, as many of us have, “When do I start walking?” — Moffatt knew his video would need some footage on an actual bus.
Renting one for the shoot was going to cost nearly $1,000, which would have broken the budget he cobbled together from online fundraising and a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities. So WMATA offered him another option: Use your SmarTrip card. “They said, ‘If you’ve got a small camera setup, don’t bother the driver and don’t make a ruckus, you should be OK,’” Moffatt says.
The real challenge was finding two empty seats next to each other: one for Moffatt, the other for the actress playing a girl who won’t stop yapping on her cell phone. When the crew finally settled on a workable setup, there was no way to hide what they were doing from the rest of the passengers. But no one seemed to mind; other riders pitched in with unsolicited directing advice.
It’s that community of the bus, the shared experience of folks without their own wheels, that inspired Moffatt, 32, to pen the song in the first place. It’s nominally about the 42, a route that goes from Gallery Place to Mount Pleasant, but the lyrics evoke issues that are relatable for any transit rider in Washington — the letdown of seeing an “Out of Service” bus roll up, the fear of getting stuck in a traffic circle courtesy of Pierre L’Enfant, the growing annoyance at other riders who request every single stop on a line.
Whenever he plays the song in town, he hears from audience members who want him to sing about their own bus lines. The most common request is for the 43, the 42’s speedier sister that sneaks under Dupont Circle. “I could do a version without the bridge, so it’ll go quicker,” Moffatt jokes.
But he thinks there’s something special about his bus, beyond the fact that it allowed him to create such a catchy rhyme (“Here comes that 42/The one that brings me back to you”). It cuts through parts of the city — downtown, Dupont, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant — that have been particularly meaningful to the native Texan in the six years he’s lived in the District.
So, until the video launched on Monday, he was anxious that something disastrous might happen to the 42. “I was worried someone would get hit by the bus,” Moffatt says. “Or they could have canceled the route, or reassigned it.”
He appears to have arrived at his desired destination.