Sunday, January 14, 2007

BUS STORY # 17, Part 3 (All We Are Saying/Is Give ABQ RIDE A Chance)

The new schedule is tight. The most I’ve waited between connections is two minutes (two minutes!). Most of the time, the connecting bus is either already at the stop or within view from the bus window. I’ve already missed one connection; I was within 10 feet of the morning Rapid Ride when it pulled away without me. That left me down on the corner of Central and Yale, meditating for 25 minutes on why the coldest part of the day is always just before dawn.

The good news is that, when the schedules mesh as tightly as this, I’m cutting 10 to 30 minutes off my old commute times. The bad news is there are going to be days when a driver is early or late or won’t wait. Based on this first week, that’ll happen about once every 10 trips. 10 percent. That’s a lot, but it’s still too early to really tell.

There is more good news: the schedule dictates I leave work in time to catch the 4:00 p.m. Yale. That gets me home right around 5:00 p.m. Neither my wife nor I are displeased with this turn of events. The bad news is I know there are going to be times when I won’t be able to get away by 4:00 p.m. That means a long walk up the hill well after 5:00 p.m.

So what would you do? Your anti-bus responses fell into two main categories: “A bicycle!” and “Do the American thing – drive.” Actually, I’ve given biking serious consideration. There are a number of pros:
· No fossil fuel consumption or emission pollutants
· Combines my workout time with my commute time
· Leave for work or home on my own schedule
· Continue to feel virtuous, and also manly like Lance Armstrong and like a kid on my old Schwinn Flyer!

There are also a number of cons:
· The cost of a decent bike and riding gear
· The 10-plus miles and roughly 1000-foot climb home at the end of the workday (The kid rides to work; Lance rides home.)
· Bad weather
· All the stuff I pack back and forth

One of my co-workers is a serious cyclist, and I talked to him about my possibly commuting by bike. Jaz* is not one to discourage anyone from taking up cycling, but he had some reservations about ending the workday with a climb of that distance and grade. Of course, he doesn’t realize that, behind this façade of an old guy, there’s an indestructible, buff young man . . . Speaking of which, one response from someone my age suggested he was “too old to be standing around in the cold, or the hot hot heat, waiting for a bus, or huffing and puffing up a steep hill” and thereby implying so was I.

Pro-bus sentiment took this form: “If you stopped riding the bus, you would miss seeing another side of people and that would be the end of the bus stories!!” For some time now, I’ve been of the opinion that we Americans will tolerate anything as long as no one messes with our entertainments and our conveniences. So here’s an interesting collision: the surrender of the entertainment of collecting bus stories vs. the inconvenience of commuting by bus.

There were also advocates for compromise: “Use the Park and Ride. This would allow you to maintain your admirable commitment to public transportation with the least disruption to your routine.” There was also the left-handed reassurance that “NOBODY would want to steal your car.” (I’m getting the cold fender for that one. I’ve tried explaining that I, myself, don’t feel this way at all, but there’s no reasoning with a car. They just don’t think the same way we do.)

I find myself agreeing with my pro-bus correspondents: I really don’t want to see the end of the bus stories, either. Also, I feel some responsibility for meeting the city halfway. ABQ RIDE listened to us and responded; I feel the need to return the gesture and at least try working with the new schedule. And, to be perfectly honest, there’s also the game: You gonna let the suits run you off the bus with their leaner, meaner schedule? Well, now, we’ll just see about that.

And so I’ve decided to keep riding. I’m ready to relax with the uncertainty of the connections. It’s distracting me from the other riders and their far more interesting stories. If the connections prove to be a problem, I’ll try the Park and Ride.

It’ll be good returning to some real bus stories next week.


*Real name changed.


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