Today I took 6 bus trips. 4 different bus lines, 6 legs of my journey around town. When our auto insurance agent paused and then got real serious when I said that Jay and I were selling my car and planning to live with only one car, I didn’t imagine that he might be envisioning me on the bus. Or 4 buses to be exact.
We were not engaged yet when we sold my car. The auto insurance guy realized we were taking a big step before we did. He actually said, “do you think you are ready to be a one car household”. After I assured him we were ready and that no, we were not engaged nor was that in the imminent future, he added that we would get a lower rate on our car insurance if we did get married. Not that that is any reason to get married (or any of his business).
Anyways, when we were on the road together it was obvious to have one car for two people. Now that we are settled (at least temporarily) I see the challenges. This week Jay went, in the car, to Phoenix to visit his family and do some work there. Thus, I am riding the bus.
Let me tell you a few things I have observed while riding the bus this week. Civil engineers are not bus riders. The town is not laid out in such a way to facilitate travel via bus. The bus stops are in all the wrong places to connect to sidewalks and urban trails. The bus dumps you on an icy curb next to a busy street that you have to cross to get to your destination (without the luxury of a crosswalk). It’s amazing to me that this town which has a phenomenal urban trail system is not actually a walk or bus friendly place.
Who rides the bus? Students, working folks, young mothers with young children and a disproportionate number of native Americans. The morning crowd is quiet and doesn’t make eye contact. The evening crowd is chatty, though usually folks are having one sided conversations on cell phones.
Who drives the bus? The bus drivers have surprised me with how nice and thoughtful they are. Well, all except for one I had this afternoon. They are the eyes of the community, spotting broken down cars, public drunkenness, and lost drifters. Using the radio, they alert fellow drivers of possible hazards and sometimes ask dispatch to call something into the police.
As a bus rider you have to be prepared for two things: 1) waiting and 2) walking. Jay was the one that taught me about waiting. You can’t try to outsmart the bus system and time things perfectly so you don’t have to wait. The bus is the bus and you wait for it. Period.
The walking part came as more of a surprise for me since I’m generally taking the bus to lessen walking. But if your main transportation is public transit then you can count on getting your exercise. So wear good shoes and be alert. See you on the bus!