all aboard; or, why the earth is doomed

Sometimes life just hands you a little gift. It wasn’t expected, wasn’t particularly sought after and certainly can’t continue to be counted on – but it’s nice. Here’s a little story about a bus, with a surprise ending.

The community I live in is close to a lot of public transportation but not conveniently so. To get to the excruciatingly slow and (in the evenings) somewhat dangerous trolley system you would have to walk a long distance along a major highway with no sidewalks (urban planning failure). It’s also quite expensive considering how slow it is. Parking is expensive, too, making it a bad option – both for slowness and expenses.

The New Jersey transit system is further away – several miles – and requires driving along a heavily congested highway and parking in an $8 per day parking lot. It’s more convenient but I hate driving my car every day. Lo and behold, my community cobbled together funds from our maintenance fee and started a once-every-15-minute shuttle service to the NJ transit system station. We have clean, private buses that will accomplish a half dozen things, both for me and other residents:

  • Increase housing values: obviously having a cheap, safe transportation option for the community will help increase housing values.
  • Helping the environment: today, on Blog Action Day, this is a nice bonus – I rode with a half-dozen other people who otherwise would probably all be sitting alone in their cars riding to the same place.
  • Better use of my time: I hate car time. You can’t do anything fun or productive while driving unless you are a big audiobooks or music person; I am not really either. I prefer reading or writing or (if I’m tired) napping. Now that 20-25 minutes I spent sitting behind the wheel can be better spent blazing through another highly productive personal finance book. Oh, alright, you got me – actually I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Sue me 🙂
  • Safer: it’s taking dozens of cars out of the morning commute mix, which can get ferocious right around my community. It’s a huge community with ONE exit to the main highway nearby, so there are big jockeying-for-position battles every morning around that exit.
  • May even allow for one-car existence: “my” car is paid off, so I don’t have much incentive to get rid of it, but if I don’t drive it every day to work I keep my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to stretch its use out for another 10-12 years (it’s already 6 years old). If I don’t drive it to work I’ll barely drive it 1000 miles a year, I bet.

That all sounds great, and I’m sure many of you are ho-humming. Here’s the surprise twist ending: it’s a clean, quiet, comfortable private mode of transportation that’s exceptionally convenient and free and good for the environment – and in our community of hundreds of homes, I see dozens of cars, one right after another, streak by on their way to the train station passing up the free bus. Usually there are 5 or fewer people on the bus every time it leaves.
Why are people so unwilling to give up their cars in this country? I wonder if there’s hope for public transportation anywhere but in the heart of east coast cities, when even New Jerseyians – a hop, skip and jump from New York City – won’t give up their beloved cars for free public transportation. Yesterday was blog action day and everyone was hopeful about the chances to slow down climate change, but sometimes I wonder, faced with such short-sighted behavior.

3 comments

  • Yeah, I don’t understand that so many people have a bad attitude towards public transportation and buses especially. I love public transportation and would rather ride than drive any day of the week (and do). The car culture in America is too strong, along with a too strong individualistic streak that prevents some people from wanting to subsume their identity to the mass that is public transportation. We need to raise gas taxes on people who live near public transportation….

  • I would LOVE to get rid of my car…but it just isn’t an option where I live.

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