Well, this made for an exciting commute.
This morning around 10:30 I was sitting at the back of the 54 bus going south when all of a sudden I smelled noxious fumes and started coughing. It was a bit hard to breathe and everyone around me started coughing too. We spontaneously stood up and headed to the front of the bus, away from where the chemical smell seemed to be coming from. The bus driver saw everyone moving to the front and immediately pulled the bus over, opened all the doors and told everybody to evacuate.
We couldn't see any smoke, and only some of us smelled it, but everyone was coughing. It smelled kind of like gasoline, but much more unpleasant and irritating.
It was a pretty scary situation. Most people seemed to be ok, if a little shaken, but the bus driver (who had stayed on a bit longer making sure everybody was off) complained that her face and throat stung. Another older woman received oxygen when the police and fire department arrived. Thankfully there were only about 15 people on the bus and no little kids or frail people.
I called 911 as the driver called Metro, and within a couple minutes (maybe less) fire trucks, an ambulance, Metro staff and MPD showed up. They asked us all what happened and how we felt. Then the older lady and I think the bus driver went to the hospital. The fire department people asked us all multiple times if we wanted to go to the hospital, if we were sure, and so on, which was appreciated it, but everybody said they were ok.
I was sitting in the back near a family, closest to where the smell seemed to be coming from, and we guessed that it was some kind of mechanical problem that caused a chemical from the engine to go through the air conditioning system. A firefighter said the same thing.
The firefighters couldn't detect any chemical when they went on the bus, maybe because it dissipated when the doors were opened, but said they plan to try to figure out what it was. They asked us if we saw anybody spray anything, and none of us did. There weren't that many people on the bus so we would have noticed.
The firefighters and police took our info and after maybe 45 minutes we were free to leave, after they again made sure we were ok and didn't want to go to the hospital. All the fire trucks and ambulances blocked 14th Street at Girard, so traffic and buses were routed down 13th instead.
It was a pretty crazy trip to work, and a little scary, but the professionalism of the bus driver and first responders really helped the situation a lot.