Sunday, January 07, 2007

BUS STORY # 17, Part 2 (WWYD)


Sometime last week, someone posted a bright pink poster on each of the bus stop benches or bus stop signs along the section of the No. 11 route being cut to just four commuter stops a day. It is a simple statement of the facts and a call to arms – namely, to our city councilman and to the head of ABQ RIDE. It lists names and phone numbers. I emailed both already, but the truth is I’m feeling inconvenienced, not angry. I understand the numbers and the need to allocate finite resources for the greatest good.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I wrote because it appears others wrote as well. And ABQ RIDE has listened: the number of stops in my neighborhood has been increased from four to nine. I’ve studied the new schedule, and I have a shot at maintaining my routine if I get up 15 minutes earlier and take the 6:11 a.m. to work, and if the Yale-Rapid Ride-Lomas schedules mesh perfectly. A miss on the way in leaves me at Central and Yale and sucking the mop for 25 minutes. Same thing going home: I’ve got to catch the 4:00 p.m. Yale, and the schedules have to mesh perfectly. Otherwise, I wait another 20 minutes for a later Lomas bus that will only take me to the 7-11 just west of Copper and Tramway. That in turn leaves me walking 0.7 miles up a moderately steep incline hauling a duffel bag with a Little Playmate Igloo cooler, an organizer, and a bunch of magazines in it. Sometimes the shoulder strap gets crossed bandolier-style with the strap of my hefty laptop. It’s a formidable workout in good weather, and neither a fine nor pleasant misery in bad. It also costs me another 15 minutes.

Last week, a UNM student carrying one of those Razor-style fold-up scooters got off the Rapid Ride with me. While waiting for the light to change, I watched him set the thing on the sidewalk, unfold the handles, step up on the running board and – whoa! – I heard the rev of a small engine and I saw him go whizzing off into the campus. They come with motors! They’re portable! I googled “motorized scooters.” I found a lot of them, and pretty cheap, too. But most of them caution they don’t really go uphill. The ride from the 7-11 to home would probably burn out the motor on the first ride before I was halfway up the hill. I did find one that advertised it was up to the job: less than 20 pounds and $399 – shipping is free. Sigh.

There is the Park and Ride. I’ve got two options. The first is the official ABQ RIDE Park and Ride south of Coronado Mall. The upsides: 1) a Rapid Ride leaves within 11 minutes of whenever I get there; 2) only one connection to make – which lets me fine-tune my scheduling for minimal waits between buses; 3) a shorter commute time (which I have not yet calculated). The downsides: 1) it’s about a five-mile drive from home – half the distance I drive to work (My wife argues if I’m gonna drive halfway to work, I might as well drive all the way. My coworker, born-again environmentalist Elliott, counters with five miles times two times a day times three or four or five times a week times 52 weeks equals a lot of gasoline not purchased and burned.); 2) my car would sit in an unsecured lot for 12 hours. The Albuquerque Journal recently reported car thefts are up in the city by 40 percent this year. No figures on vandalism.

The second option is to find a place to park closer to home. There’s a bus stop at the edge of an Albertson’s parking lot a mile away, at the corner of Lomas and Juan Tabo. I figure I’d have to get the store manager’s permission to use it, but it’s a big lot. The upside: driving only two miles a day. The downside: still leaving the car in an unsecured lot for 12 hours. My wife’s take is my car could get stolen whether from these lots or the lots at work or from any other lots I park in – or even from our driveway, as once happened to her. So, she advises, park and ride until someone steals my car, then use the insurance money to buy one of those motorized scooters.

Elliott says, “There’s always the bike.” Meaning I could ride home from the distant stop across Tramway. Yes, but I’m not keen on lugging around a bike all day just so I can save 15 minutes riding home from the 7-11 stop. Besides, riding in bad weather is as bad as walking, and there’s the added risk of having to let a Rapid Ride go by if the bike rack is full – which happens not infrequently.

Of course, I could always backslide. 70 extra minutes at home every day, shelter from the wind and rain and cold . . .

And so, dear and loyal readers, I’m asking for advice. If the new schedule doesn’t work out, what would you do, and why? Email your responses now – trained operators are standing by.

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