Monday, June 2, 2008

Riding the Bus

With gas over $4 a gallon, many people have been adjusting to the impact on their budgets.

I've been amazed how many additional riders I've seen waiting for buses. We live within six blocks of a hub where three buses stop. Unfortunately, none of those buses go near my workplace. In the past (around a year ago) I might see three or four people waiting at the main stop. Now, I'll see people waiting at stops along the route(s). I myself rode the bus to a major sporting event I was attending for work. I was amazed at the number of people riding. Yes, it took me two hours round trip to get there (one way) - but to me, it was worth it. I walked past the cars idling, waiting to get into the parking lot and smiled to myself.

Not two or three years ago, I remember seeing the buses drive by at night. Sometimes they looked completely empty.

Infrastructure and public transportation are a worthwhile investment for a community. The libertarians disagree with this, but I believe they are worth spending money on. I believe they are worth raising taxes for. In my community, the suggestion of raising taxes for anything is the kiss of death for a politician. But at what point will we realize that the investment will pay for itself in the long run. The roads here are in bad shape. So many people have fled to the suburbs, and the road systems haven't grown along with them. So traffic (from the suburbs into the city during the morning rush hour) is abysmal. The state government has approved million dollar roadway expansion projects, but can't find the consensus to build public transportation at the same time.

I've lived in communities where there is a strong public transportation system. Not only is it affordable, it runs late into the night. It's safe and reliable. That investment originally cost those communities a great deal, but the quality of living there is high.


C. L. Hanson said...

I agree -- good public transportation means a difficult initial investment (and is doubly hard to build up once suburban sprawl has set in), but in the long run it's the way to go. It's good you're out there pushing for it!!! :D

laura said...

Two hour trip? Sounds like public transport hasn't improved much since when I lived there. As I recall, the buses pretty much only ran north and south and existed chiefly for poor people who lived in the inner city to get to their housecleaning jobs on the north side and back. We tried to figure out a way for me to take the bus home from school, but it was actually faster to wait an hour and a half or so until my mother could come pick me up.

Bill McKibben's Deep Economy has a section that talks about a city in Brazil where they not only funded buses but also rewrote the rules of the road so that it was faster and easier to take the bus (buses were equipped with sliding doors and had a sensor that would make lights turn green), and lo and behold, everyone started taking the bus.

And don't get me started on the subject of bike lanes. . . .

Aerin said...

chanson - that's the biggest issue here, the bus system is really built for the community around 25 - 40 years ago, not for the community now. I'm hopeful. I just hope that if gas prices go down, the interest will not evaporate (as it has in the past).

Laura - yes, I had to ride downtown and then transfer to another bus. I don't think they've added many routes since you've lived here. People here (as you know) are incredibly cheap and don't want to spend the tax money. I think that soon, they won't have a choice (this will be an idea whose time has come). That type of bus sounds like a great idea.

Freckle Face Girl said...

Quite a few people take the bus here too to go to work mainly b/c traffic is so horrible. I bet more are jumping on now. I think lots more people would be interested in public transportation if we had some kind of subway system like NY or London.