08 March 2012

Bussed Off

Warning: This blog post contains generalizations, which can be the worst kind of thing you can do to a person. If you are offended by lumping people into groups for the sake of convenience or argument pleas stop reading now. Go read a book instead. Lately I like Bernard DeVoto's 'Across the Wide Missouri' but you no doubt have some ideas of your own volumes you could crack open.

Here goes: The Columbia, Missouri bus works for me.

When I talk to people in Columbia it seems there are three kinds of people. Group one already rides the bus anywhere from sometimes to always. The bus works for them. Yeah, it ends too early on most weekdays, doesn't run frequently enough and misses huge swaths of town, but we still ride. Whether transit dependent or just don't want to mess with a car the bus works for them and me.  For me, I like to freedom to sit back and be driven around. I enjoy the bus aesthetic but not when there are nasty people sharing the ride. Nasty people who cuss at their girlfriends and even worse at their kids. Those people are on the bus sometimes, too, sorry to say. This group is about 7% of adults I meet. That number may be higher than the actual number that rides the bus but that's who I meet: transit adventurers, college kids, the poor.

The second group I encounter is open to riding the bus, but needs some coaching in how to do so. This group generally is educated, mobile and open to commuting in a way they know they ought to more fully consider. These people love their cars but aren't so blinded by that bond that they can't consider a new relationship with their local bus route. They just haven't ridden. They know transit from riding in larger communities. They like to try new things, but not too often. A bit of personal coaching on routes and times is what they need to make the connection to the 104West or whatever 64-foot bus rumbles by their neighborhood every 40 or 80 minutes. I venture 20% of adults I meet belong in this group.

The third and final group into which I would lump about half of all adults is the no-way-never-would-I-ride-the-bus crowd. Now I don't know if research would bear me out on this but it seems that this is about half of the adults out there. They loves their car. BFF. Give me my Internal Combustion or give me Death! ABout 75% of adults I meet seem comfortably in this camp. There may be transit allies in there but not riders thank you very much.

The middle group (the transit willing 20%) is obviously the group here on which transit advocates like me (and you?) can work to create a more sustainable transportation here in Columbia and on Earth.

I wanted more people on the bus this afternoon for sure. I parked my bike at the drug store at 4:55 this afternoon to go in and get a prescription for my cold (Don't judge me for falling ill and choosing Western Industrial Medicine) and when I came out Rush Hour was in full bloom. Monster Trucks and College Kids Texting were swarming around in their personal pollution machines at 5:15 as if they had taken over God's Green Earth.

I like the bus. It is hard to always defend it, but for the maybe 20% of folks who are open to it there is a change that can happen. That change in favor of one less car gives me hope that auto domination isn't gonna win the day every day. Maybe before I die. Maybe, we'll see something really different in terms of My Fellow Americans making more sustainable personal transportation choices.

See you in the Streets,

1 comment:

  1. What I forgot to say in this post is why I like the bus. Thanks, Lisa for reminding me to write just what I want to say.

    I like the bus for how smooth it all works. Usually. I walk to the bus stop, I wait, I board the bus. It takes me just where I want to go. There is something vaguely comforting about the precision (or is it accuracy?) of the Columbia Transit schedule.

    I like the experience of riding the bus. I sit with a cross-section of other Columbians who also chose the bus that day. They are poor and middle-class, dressed-up and dressed-down. Some of my fellow riders are in a good mood. Others not so much. No one talks unless you want to and then everyone is downright pleased to converse. There is no need to force interaction on the bus. The default is me as rider gets to sit and stare out the window at the world going by. A breather from whatever busy-ness might ensure later that day or evening.

    I like the lack of work. When I ride my bicycle to work or wherever I am going there is a fixed amount of work. I could stop and give up but then I'd never get anywhere. The bus carries me generally close to my destination with a minimum degree of work on my part. I can be lazy for a bit on the bus. I paid $1.50 to be driven around for a few minutes.

    There I said it. I enjoy the bus for its pattern, the experience and the simplicity.