In my last post I had a wee bit of a complaint about the information available about bus routes on the Metro Transit website. Now I want to change tack completely and get back to giving all of the advice you never asked for or wanted: you should ride the bus.
Yes, I’m talking to you (okay, maybe not you, Travis Bickle, although it might be better than your driving a taxi).
It snowed the other day. Everyone complained about their commutes. Down in our little part of south Minneapolis, there was much shovelling (shout out to the neighbor with the snowblower who did whole block’s sidewalk!) and some not shoveling. Cars were difficult to move. There was a snow emergency. But the bus ran more or less on time (I wrote that sentence before the commute home, for which the bus was more than a little late, alas).
I recently had reason to wander around, by car naturally, in the suburb in which I grew up. Aside from being inspired to wonder why we lived there (I know some reasons), I was reminded why we drove everywhere. We kind of had to. There are some sidewalks, but they don’t go everywhere (and I was a lazy enough teen to walk a few blocks away from school to catch the bus rather than walk to school).
Granted, before we were old enough to drive, we biked (now there are more bike lanes and MUPs than their used to be). I recall it being a little scary, for example, to ride my bike across Silver Lake Road to get to a friend’s house. We biked over to what was then the Apache Plaza mall in St. Anthony to get fishing supplies at what we thought was the greatest sporting goods store on the mall periphery, the name of which I can’t remember.
Back then we biked because we had too. I recall at one point trying to figure out how to take a bus somewhere and it would have taken two hours, a trip more or less all the way into downtown, and at least one transfer. (In my memory that trip was to the Apache Mall, but it looks like the 25, today, would have sort of worked for that, so maybe it was Rosedale.) The point being, we didn’t take the bus.
Then I moved into the big city for college. We took campus buses, but not the city buses, except that I’d take the bus to the Capitol for student lobbying, and in particular meetings of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council (yes, I was odd as a college student too). It was cheaper than parking and more convenient than driving. As a college student, that made a big difference.
Then I moved to DC, where I lived close enough to walk to school and then work. I lived in DC for 11 years and I don’t think I ever took a city bus. I’d take the Metro to a ballgame or to a different part of the city (randomly to explore at first), but personal transportation was on foot or in a car. I recall one day being surprised that one of the big shot partners – who lived in a giant mansion in Georgetown and who used to tell young associates making late night deliveries of documents to use the service entrance – told me he either walks or takes the bus.
It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Because to me, and I think a lot of Minnesotans from the suburbs, taking the bus is not something that a person who can afford otherwise does.
But it should be. For lots of reasons.
These days, I really do mostly prefer not to drive. At rush hour, it’s frustrating, slow and wasted time and in the morning ends in an expensive parking spot. When I take the bus I get to save a little money, take up a lot less street space than alone in a car, emit a lot less carbon and other pollutants, move at least a little to get to and from the bus stop, and spend my commuting time doing stuff that’s not driving. Just the other day, I was able to do a work call from the bus on the way home (yes, lots of people do that while driving too, but they really should not).
But even when I’m not commuting, I still like to take the bus if I can’t bike. It’s still better for the environment. It still relieves me of having to pay for parking, especially if I’m going to a sporting event. Heck, I took the bus to the birth of our daughter, who wound up coming a bit earlier than planned. It turns out, the 5 is a perfectly good way to get to Children’s hospital from downtown (unless you would rather bike).
The bus isn’t an option for everyone. If you live in the suburbs instead of closer to stuff or closer to work, your coverage might be spotty. It turns out you can’t run a bus to the end of every suburban cul-de-sac.
Now if I could just get everyone to shovel the sidewalks between our house and the bus stop before I need to head out for work…