Monday, October 15, 2007

Riding on a Bus!

Welcome to Blog Action Day! Lots of folks are blogging about the environment today, and I am just one in a mighty army.

Like most Americans, I lived my life as though I was on top of a "food chain" of energy. The government has done what it can to keep energy prices artificially low, and we have used the cheap commodity like it was going out of style.

Guess what, Americans? It's going out of style! It might be time to consider other options.

On the album The Beatles Live at the BBC, there are snippets of interviews done with the lovable moptops as well as their live performances played on the radio. When asked what they missed now that they were famous, they said they missed the little things.

"Like riding on a bus!" interjected Paul, The Cute One. (In a Liverpudlian accent, bus more closely rhymes with puss than it does with muss.)

Well, I have been without a car for about a year now. When my car's engine burnt up last year, I couldn't afford to fix it or replace it, and luckily for me, I could get to work without a car, so I didn't fix or replace it. I've been getting around either on foot or on my bike and using public transportation.

In some ways, I'm one of the lucky ones. I work part time at several colleges, and as a group, we are known as the freeway flyers, as most of us need cars to travel to the various places we work. It's my good fortune to work at two schools right now that can easily be reached on public transportation. If that hadn't been the case, I would probably have gone into debt to fix the car last year.

BART, the local commuter train system, is very convenient for me. One school I work at, Laney College, is one block south of the Lake Merritt BART station. The school parking lot is one block west of school, so the walk from BART or the lot is about the same. I've worked there for years and I've never bought a parking sticker. I've only driven there when I was picking up a check while running other errands. I always try to get to work about 20 minutes early and I have never been late due to BART. Friends who drive can't all say the same.

Now I also work at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, which is several miles away from BART. On the first day, I rode my bike from BART, but I had a flat tire when I got out of class, which was a long walk to get home. I decided to try the bus line until I fixed the bike. I took the EmeryGoRound the next day, and haven't taken my bike to campus since.

The EmeryGoRound shuttle is a free service with several lines covering much of Emeryville, a small town nestled between Oakland, Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay. It is paid for not by the government, but by the businesses on the line. It runs out of the MacArthur station in Oakland, which is the main hub of the east bay lines of BART. Several other businesses run free shuttles out of MacArthur, mostly local hospitals. Again, like when I use BART, I give myself a lot of leeway for how long it will take me to get to work. Given that BART is a fifteen minute walk from my apartment, the train ride is a half hour and the bus is about another fifteen minutes, I usually leave the house an hour and a half before I have to be in class. It works very well.

I don't recommend getting rid of your car to everybody. In some places, walking, biking and public transportation aren't practical options. I certainly have days, especially rainy days, when I wish I could jump in the car to run errands; when I had a car, I could carry more groceries home than I do putting them in the basket of my bike and save a few trips a week. But when I think of the cost of a car payment, insurance, gas, oil changes and various inevitable repairs, the convenience is really very expensive.

Back when we were at war and the government asked us all to sacrifice instead of asking us all to shop, there were billboards asking the question Is This Trip Necessary? Instead of asking if a trip is necessary, maybe you can ask Is your car is necessary for this trip?

The government we have right now won't ask you this. You'll have to do the right thing by doing it on your own. With this government, as we learned in New Orleans, we are all on our own.

Yay, Flags of many lands™! Hello, Belarus! Let's all sing the verse from Tom Lehrer's Lobachevsky!

I have a friend in Minsk,
Who has a friend in Pinsk...

Now playing: The Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing
via FoxyTunes


dguzman said...

Nice entry. I can't wait to move to a big city with public transportation; we have only one car, and sometimes it's a pain because we live out in the country away from everything. I love it out there, but unfortunately, the car is usually necessary for almost every trip.

I went vegetarian for the environment (among other reasons); imagine all the land we could have back and beautify if we didn't have to have cows, pigs, and chickens on it!

sfmike said...

Way to go, matty. Down with car culture! Your EmeryGoRound reminds me that private businesses are finaly getting into the public transit business because a lot of public transit is useless. There are the Google buses rounding up employees in San Francisco to go to the Peninsula every weekdays, and a shuttle from San Francisco's downtown that takes workers to the Presidio, for instance. It's an interesting moment in public transport.

Matty Boy said...

Thanks, Mike. I agree with you that public transportation has become a mess in many cases, and the private (or at least specific) mass transport is much nicer. When I taught at Cal State Hayward/East Bay, they decided to make a shuttle bus to Hayward BART, which duplicated the AC Transit bus, but was free and quicker, since it only stopped on campus at a few places then at Hayward BART.

It also helps if you have the attitude that any published schedule is more like a guideline than like a strict law. I expect BART to be within a few minutes of on-time, but with busses, it's very hit and miss, so I put some flexibility into my schedule.

I also get a lot of reading done on BART. On the bus... not so much.

FranIAm said...

i just typed in a long ass comment and it did not save... Lucky you!

Anyway great post- thank you my man!