So, I’m commuting by bus this summer. Often, when I tell people, they say something like “Wow, that’s great, I know I really should, but I just can’t.” This may or may not be followed by a reason for not riding the bus.
There are many barriers that keep people from using public transportation. Some barriers are bigger than others. Some are virtually insurmountable (like living in the country where there just isn’t a bus). Other problems have solutions which can be implemented either by the rider or the transit system. Here are some of the barriers I’ve run into (or through) during my almost two weeks of riding the bus, with solutions divided according to Me (stuff I can do) and Tri-Met (stuff the public transit system could do).
It’s not safe/I don’t want to be around crazy people and weirdos
I hear this a lot in Portland lately. I think the safety factor has been blown way out of proportion. Yes, there have been incidents on MAX (the light rail system, for you non-PDXers). However, Tri-Met has responded by creating new East and West transit police precincts and adding officers.
As for the weirdos…tough. You want to insulate yourself from all of the homeless, mentally ill, developmentally disabled, unwashed, etc.? Give me a break. All of these people are part of the world, too. Deal with it.
Me: Practice basic personal safety — be aware of my surroundings, hang on to my purse, stay in well-populated areas at night, etc. Be polite and respectful to everyone, regardless of their weirdness.
Tri-Met: Continue beefing up security.
There’s no bus line near my house
According to Tri-Met, three-quarters of Portland-area residents live within 1/4 mile of transit, which is what they consider walking distance. I often walk 1/2 mile to a bus stop, which is the same distance my children walk to school.
Tri-Met: Additional routes/stops where appropriate. With ridership increasing, why not have 90 or 95 percent of residents living with 1/4 mile of transit?
You: If you really aren’t near a bus line, consider whether you’d be better off moving to an area that does have public transportation. Living in or near the country is nice, as is having a big yard. However, people living in dense urban areas with public transit actually tend to have a smaller environmental footprint than those in the suburbs or rural areas. I’m not saying that’s the solution for everyone, but it is worth a thought or two. I think I’ll probably have more to say about the advantages of urban density in a future post.
I’ll be exposed to the elements!
This has been difficult for me. It’s been hot and sunny here, and some of the bus stops I use are not sheltered at all. Sometimes I’m also walking that half-mile to or from the bus stop in bright sunlight. I’ve got the sunburns to prove it! And at other times of the year, rain, snow, and cold can be problematic.
Me: I can wear a big hat, carry an umbrella, wear sunscreen, dress appropriately for cold weather, etc. I can also change my route to use the bus that stops right outside my house. This takes longer, but can be worth it.
Tri-Met: Put up more shelters and benches, or plant trees. Provide more frequent service to lessen wait times.
It takes too long
I hear you. I’ve lived in places where it would have taken 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get to work by public transit — one way! Since a car trip took only 30 minutes or less, that was a no-brainer. I took the car. Even now, a bus trip can seem tedious, especially if I use the bus line we actually live on.
There is literally a bus stop right outside our front door, but the bus only goes by once an hour, each direction. So, right now, I can catch a bus at 7 a.m., get off the bus 1/2 mile away at the main thoroughfare (122nd Ave), then wait 15 minutes for another bus, and arrive at work around 7:35. I don’t need to be there until 8:00, though, and I am not a morning person, so I leave around 7:25-ish and walk 1/2 mile to 122nd to catch a later bus.
My other option would be to catch a 7:23 bus outside the house going in the opposite direction, transfer to MAX, take MAX up to 122nd, and then catch a bus from there. That actually puts me on the EXACT SAME BUS that I would catch if I walked the 1/2 mile, but without the walking.
Me: I use different options, depending on how I feel. This morning, it was cool, and I walked. This afternoon, I was hot and tired (I’m working a physically demanding job this summer), so I transferred to MAX so that I could take a bus to my doorstep. It took me an hour to get home (it’s a 10-15 minute drive), but that was OK. I relaxed and enjoyed cool breezes while waiting for my final bus at Gateway Transit Center.
I could also ride my bike to the bus stop, and then put my bike in the bike rack on the front of the bus. I’ve never tried it before, though, so I’m a wee bit scared.
Tri-Met: More frequent service.