Why I Ride the Busby David Barlew, Jr. on 03/05/14
When I moved to the Brainerd area of
So established is
By writing this post, I'm hoping to answer precisely that question. After several years of periodically using public transportation in
To and from work each day, I drove myself in my own car. I didn't think much about it. In fact, I continued to drive my car exclusively until 2010, when my vehicular habits were suddenly changed by an event several hundred miles to the South.
Beginning in April of that year, horrible pictures of dirty and dying animals, stained beaches, and filthy brown water caused by the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill entered the news. Following those initial reports were stories of inundated, ruined marshlands, and distraught, unemployed shrimpers. It was awful.
I decided then that I didn't want to be part of this anymore, and by this I meant the American love affair with oil. I didn't want to be part of the oil-soaked birds, the washed-up dolphins, and the ruined coastal communities. I didn't want to be part of the dirty beaches, planes dropping dispersants, and dying sea life. Having seen all of the horrible images, I decided that I would try to reduce my gasoline consumption.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been an advocate for public transportation; to me, it has always seemed like an attractive, logical, and cost-effective option for moving people from place to place.
I am impressed by public transportation's potential efficiency. Public transportation has the ability to move large numbers of people with a very low ratio of material per person. Public transportation requires less metal, rubber, plastic, and glass on a per person basis to move a given number of people. Public transportation also reduces the need for parking lots, parking garages, and extra lanes on the highway, all of which free up land and space for higher uses, such as businesses, housing, parks, and natural areas.
All of that said, it took something dramatic to shake me from simply being a passive supporter of public transportation to being an active user of public transportation. To paraphrase Gandhi, I needed to be the change I wished to see in the world.
The transition from talking the talk to walking... err, riding the ride isn't easy. There is a big knowledge curve to wind one's way through. As I said at the beginning of the post, I knew nothing about
Even after you learn all of the logistics of the bus route and schedule, you have to screw up the gumption to get on the bus for the first time. No, really. You don't think about it until the time comes, but there are so many little anxieties about the bus. Who will be on the bus? Taking transit in
But, if those poor pelicans down at the Gulf could withstand being coated head-to-toe in petroleum, surely I could overcome some minor anxieties about the unknown to try
And, that is what I did.
Beginning in May of 2010, I started riding the bus on the number four route a few times per week. I still drive, yes, but much less than before. Over time, the trips taken by bus---and not taken by car---really begin to show up on the odometer. I actually drove my car so little during 2011, 2012, and 2013 that my car only required one oil change per year based on mileage! Riding the bus has turned out to a good way to save wear & tear on my car and save money in the process. More importantly, riding the bus has allowed me to use far less gasoline, which was my impetus for riding the bus to begin with. Goal accomplished.
Riding the bus in
I find the tabulation of bus arrival times to be the most helpful. I can continue to work at my desk with this window open down in the corner of my monitor. I then know when to leave at just the right moment.
The Bus Tracker software also has a map feature. The map is customizable; by checking different boxes, a rider can modify the map's content to display different routes with the locations of the buses along that route. The map above shows Route 4 and its buses.
The CARTA website works great on mobile devices.
And, the Bus Tracker software works well on smart phones, too. With so much rider information available at one's fingertips, riding the bus becomes just as easy as hopping behind the wheel.
This isn't to say that expanding access to transportation is impossible. In the early Twentieth Century, streetcars serviced areas like Belvoir, Missionary Ridge, and
I ascribe to the "build it and they will come" point of view. In recent decades,
Until then, if you have the opportunity to ride the bus, please give it a try. You might just like it. The pelicans in the Gulf and your car's odometer will thank you.
Written by David Barlew, Jr.
All photographs by David Barlew, Jr.
Permission to use screenshots of Bus Tracker software in use granted by CARTA on 6 July 2012.