“This curious world which we inhabit is more wonderful than it is convenient…”

— Thoreau

for the past six months, i’ve almost entirely let my car sit in front of the house and gotten around by buses and trains. so far, there hasn’t been a single occasion on which i had to use the car, but i use it once every week or two to keep it healthy. whether i’ll keep it remains open to consideration. [1]

the disadvantages of relying on public transportation are obvious. for those thinking about doing it more often in order to save money, the environment, or sanity, i’d like to offer the lighter side of it with this selection of random thoughts:

once you step off the bus, you’re done. you don’t have to check its tire pressure, top off the fluids, change its oil, or pay your mechanic an extra $300 because he found calcification between the rotary embiosilator and the flange caps of the rear internal transience conductors.

most of the time, it’s not raining. (corollary: if there are two feet of snow on the ground, you should stay home anyway.)

you don’t need to carry insurance on the train. not even collision.

people rarely get out of their cars at traffic lights and get on the bus to confront you because they think you cut them off.

you may be too tired to drive. you’re never too tired to ride the bus.

you should not read or write while driving. you can finish a lot of books on the bus.

you never have a good conversation with other drivers. you do with other riders.

if the bus breaks down, you can get some more reading done while you sit on it and wait for the replacement. you don’t have to pay to have it towed and repaired.

what’s the ratio of bus accidents to car accidents?

if the bus is in an accident, it will usually win, and with less damage to your person and property.

walking to the train station is better exercise than walking to the car.

bwi to bhz
car train/bus
  $4 gas
+ $2 tunnel toll
+ $2 tunnel toll
+ $? car wear and tear
$3.50 all-day pass


>$8 $3.50

the train may not go where you want, but it goes there directly.

your fellow riders may be as crazy as your fellow drivers, but they don’t have a ton of metal at their disposal, they have to confront you face-to-face, and they’re surrounded by a lot of witnesses.

you may or may not have a cellphone in your car. the bus driver definitely has a radio to call for help, and is trained to handle all sorts of emergencies.

would you rather break down in a bad neighborhood in a bus or alone in your car?

you’ll never forget where you parked your bus.

no one will break into or steal your bus.

you won’t get a parking ticket or have to pay to get your bus out of the impound lot.

no one will ever ask you whether you have any grey poupon.

footnotes

1. (i got rid of it for good on 09/06/2005.)

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6 thoughts on “thoughts about riding the bus (and train)

  1. The one thing about the public transportation that may be somewhat
    lacking compared to a personal car is the ability to get you somewhere
    on time. You can miss the bus; you can’t miss your car. Granted that
    you can get stuck in traffic, lose directions, etc., but using the bus
    effectively for non-leisure activities requires a great deal of
    planning beforehand. And I for one suck at that. Even on my good
    days. 🙂

    1. true, relying on public transit requires more planning and leaving earlier. on the bright side, “my bus was late” is a more palatable excuse than “i wasn’t watching the time and left the house late”.

    2. Ahh, and that’s where biking comes in. When you bike you can estimate
      your arrival time to within three minutes. Every time, without fail.
      Congestion, red lights and bad weather have no bearing whatsoever on
      your travel time. All you have to do is leave the house on time.

      Two more advantages (among many others):

      You don’t have to sit next to drunks or people that smell bad but you
      do get to talk with other cyclists at red lights. You also get to see
      and greet the same people every day.
      You get exercise without paying money and time to drive to a gym.

      More tips on my podcast! See the blog!

      -jon

      1. I’ve just secured a bike and gotten it working. Today marks my second day commuting to work on it 🙂 I still take the bus if I have to be somewhere in clean shape, though; I sweat like a faucet. Even taking a change of clothes doesn’t gaurantee a shower at your destination.

  2. When you drive, you have a great deal more control over when you arrive at your destination. Baltimore has two train lines. Not only do they not go where you want, they’re probably not even close. When you drive, you never have to choose whether to sit next to the guy that smells like stale beer, the guy that smells like urine, or the guy that smells like month-old B.O. Sometimes, “The bus broke down and the MTA supervisors kept giving us conflicting information, so I had to wait at the stop for an hour and a half,” isn’t an acceptable excuse. I like public transportation, in theory. Baltimore makes me hate it sometimes. After several carless years, I bought a vehicle (an SUV, no less) last December. In addition to the purchase price, the car has cost me well over $1000 this year, in gas, maintenance, and repairs. I drive to work because my time is more valuable to me than the annoyances that would come from trying to use the MTA to get to work right now. (This is because of the Light Rail double tracking, and the MTA seems very bad with the shuttle bus thing. I’ll actually go back to public transit once they reopen the Light Rail.) As an aside, have you looked at the proposed reworking of the MTA’s bus routes? I’ve got a blog post kicking around in my head with my full reaction, but I’m not incredibly impressed.

    1. phil! secondly,

      When you drive, you have a great deal more control over when you arrive at your destination.

      yes, and you can stay out later on sunday nights. the many disadvantages are obvious; i just wanted to celebrate some of the benefits.

      Baltimore has two train lines. Not only do they not go where you want, they’re probably not even close.

      i like the light rail. for me, it’s a 20-30 minute walk to the linthicum station, then i have fairly frequent service to anywhere i want to go in the heart of the city, and easy connections to the bus lines. the bwi and penn station stops are great for heading out of town. i do wish there was a branch that went to the greyhound station. and, of course, i wish we had a subway system that wasn’t a joke.

      When you drive, you never have to choose whether to sit next to the guy that smells like stale beer, the guy that smells like urine, or the guy that smells like month-old B.O.

      you may be going to the wrong places. 🙂 the people who ride the 19 with me are 98% clean and considerate. i suppose you could stand… i’ve only had two problems with the buses: an occasional saturday trip with standing room only, and an occasional old and run-down, dark, rattly bus. standing for 15 or 20 minutes isn’t so bad, and the new flyer buses they’ve started adding as replacements this year are wonderful in both their big design and their many small details.

      Sometimes, “The bus broke down and the MTA supervisors kept giving us conflicting information, so I had to wait at the stop for an hour and a half,” isn’t an acceptable excuse.

      hmm, bad.

      an SUV

      noooooooooooooooooooo!

      I drive to work because my time is more valuable to me than the annoyances that would come from trying to use the MTA to get to work right now.

      that’s a bummer. i’m fortunate in being able to work from home, and most people can choose to live near their work or work near where they live, so i still think living carless or with less car is possible for more people than take advantage of it.

      As an aside, have you looked at the proposed reworking of the MTA’s bus routes?

      steve sent me a link to their page about it. i wish they had a map of the entire proposed system so i could get a better feel for it. i didn’t see any problems for me personally in the few routes i looked at. i do hope they can do something to make it easier to travel around the circumference of the beltway instead of just on the spokes of the wheel. linthicum to catonsville is a 15 minute drive, but it takes two hours on the train and bus because i have to go all the way downtown, transfer, and ride out again. maybe when i’m 70, i’ll be able to take my walker onto the east-west light rail line.

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