Public Transportation

On Saturday, I received a huge boost in motivation in my ongoing effort to stop being dependent on my car for transportation. It came in the form of my fifteen year old car dying twice while idling at an intersection. I could have taken it to a shop and paid a few hundred dollars to get it fixed, but instead I chose to accept it as a challenge and find another means of getting to work.

Like me, you probably have a grocery store very close to you. Mine is only a mile away, a very easy bike ride, or a relaxing ten minute walk away. I already walk or bike to the store, as I’ve been “low car” for several months now. I find the entire ordeal of driving in traffic and trying to find a parking spot annoying and not worth the three to five minutes that it saves over walking. Since it is such a short distance, biking there is actually faster than driving, although I’d rather walk because of the heavy winds that my area experiences.

Right next to the grocery store, I can hop on to the (free!) trolley to university, or walk the remaining 1.5 miles myself. I usually opt for the bus, but walking isn’t an issue if I miss it. I’m getting exercise, appreciating my surroundings, and it saves me the exorbitant parking fees at university.

The only issue I have had in going completely car free is work. I work about seven miles from my home, which should be a manageable bike ride, but in reality, it can actually be more of a headache than driving due to high winds. So yesterday I decided to try a method that I hadn’t considered before my car troubles: the bus. My city offers an adequate bus system, with several routes that cover almost the entire city. But since people prefer to drive their own cars, the buses aren’t completely ideal. Each stop is visited at most every 30 minutes, but depending on where you are this time can go up to an hour for less popular destinations. Fare is $1.75 one way, which according to Google Transit is much better than the $4.13 that my car would burn on the same trip. But it gets even better if you can commit, as weekly passes are $14.50, and monthly passes only $50.00.

I only opted for the standard fare so far, but I found that public transit was far from what I had expected it to be. I had a preconceived notion that the buses would be dirty, full of people, and that everyone who takes the bus is a drug dealer or dangerous. What I found was that even at peak times (I took the 8:00 bus) the bus isn’t more than half full, and at odd hours (the 2:30 yesterday) I was one of three people on a very clean bus. The operator was friendly and patient with each passenger, and the passengers themselves seemed to be middle class, university, or in a wheelchair-hardly the criminals I had expected. The only real issue I found was the bus system caters to a “standard” 9-5 worker, and stops running at 7pm on weekdays, and doesn’t run at all on Sundays. Since I work until 10 or 11 at night frequently, this may be an issue in the future. I’m considering bringing my bike to work on the bus (they are bike rack equipped) and biking home at night, but I’d prefer a solution that doesn’t involve late night rides when I’m already tired.

All in all, this was a good lesson and I am considering purchasing a monthly pass and seeing how long I can go car-free. Traveling by bus takes around 45 minutes door to door, and taking my car is about 30 so I don’t see the increased time being that much of an issue, especially when I can read on the bus.

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