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.