Thursday, October 20, 2005

Me and Mass Transit

I've been riding the bus each week. Our church choir rehearses on Wednesday nights, a new thing for this church, which has gone 30 years without a weeknight rehearsal, and Karla and the kids are there early to do children's choir and whatnot. I can come home from work, snarf down a bit o'dinner and catch a nearby bus to church with just one connection. Round trip is about 30 miles; my truck gets 20-22 mpg in the city, so a $2.00 bus fare versus 1.4 gallons of gas at $2.80/gallon makes the calculation pretty simple. On the bus, I'm there in an hour and we all drive back as a family.

I could ride my bike, like I do many Sunday mornings, but it's 1 hour 15 minutes in daylight and I often don't leave until 9:15 or so, plus now it's dark out, so it gets to be a late arrival home. I've thought about riding and bringing the bike back in the car. Sadly, neither of my bikes really fits in the car (between the big frames, wide handlebars and fenders), and we don't want to leave the Yakima rack on the roof all the time. We might get a trunk rack that folds pretty flat and quickly attached to hold two or three bikes, but at the moment, if I take a bike to church I have to ride it home.

As a result of this, I have spent a bit of time on the Metro Transit web site. They have an excellent trip planner in which you enter your starting and ending addresses and the desired arrival or departure time, and it comes up with your itinerary. Getting to church once a week doesn't require lots of planning; I catch the same bus each time. However, it is helpful in evaluating other trips by bus. A handy bus thing is the bike racks on front; I have used these (once) when riding with Geneva a couple of summers ago. She got tired, and we took a bus for a chunk of the trip home carrying the bikes up front. These racks work great as long as nobody else uses them and as long as I ride with only one tired kid at a time.

One weird thing on the Metro Transit site is this graphic for their adopt a bus shelter program. It looks like a suggestion to have carnal knowledge of a bus shelter as the individual hugging the shelter appears to have no trousers on:

Adopt A Shelter illustration

My bike and bus riding isn't a patriotic response to President Bush's September 26th plea to economize on gas usage; I've been working to reduce my driving mileage all summer, since the President was kissing and holding hands with Crown Prince Abdul last spring pleading to keep oil under $50 a barrel. I thought this was appalling and was ashamed for him. His plea for conservation, though, is notable. This is an administration which has traditionally viewed cheap oil as part of the American lifestyle:
From White House Press briefing, May 7, 2001: Q Is one of the problems with this, and the entire energy field, American lifestyles? Does the President believe that, given the amount of energy Americans consume per capita, how much it exceeds any other citizen in any other country in the world, does the President believe we need to correct our lifestyles to address the energy problem?
ARI FLEISCHER: That's a big no. The President believes that it's an American way of life, and that it should be the goal of policy makers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one... But the President also believes that the American people's use of energy is a reflection of the strength of our economy, of the way of life that the American people have come to enjoy.

and conservation as merely a personal virtue:
"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." --Dick Cheney, April 2001

Now, finally, four years late, our President wants us to conserve energy. Is this not a flip-flop? And why no actual action in terms of tightening fuel mileage requirements, increasing the gasoline tax or cutting out the worst of the pork in the recently-passed highway bill? Do you think a graduated fuel tax in the wake of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks might have allowed the country some time to adjust to the realities of buying oil from our adversaries? When the President was done encouraging us to cut unnecessary trips, he conserved energy by getting on his personal Boeing 747-200 and flying to Beaumont, Texas to appear to be involved in evaluating damage to the oil industry. Yup, it's reassuring to know he's on top of things.

In the meantime, I'll forego my personal 747 and use the bus and the bike as practical.


Frostbike said...

I have used my bike in combination with the bus for years, because I was fortunate enough to live near the 3 line which had bike racks. I kept e-mailing folks at metro transit saying wouldn't it be great to have bike racks on all the routes?

While in reality I probably had nothing to do with it, I like to think I did.

Anonymous said...

You probably DID have something to do with it, Pete. Customer Service feedback is treated seriously, to the point of the following; Every week in the internal newsletter there is at least one customer comment (good or bad) to let (us)operators know what the public is saying, feeling, wants done differently, etc. The only way that MTC can know what the public wants is if somebody tells them. The bike rack suggestion took awhile for it to get it's way through the red tape, but I suspect that your (and anyone else) pushing for the change is what did the trick.