Tag Archives: bus riding

Consider the humble — but ever nimble — bus!

On the Monday after the blast-off of the Green Line I stopped at a bus shelter for a quick transfer, rejoicing that I was making my way across town – by bus – in record time. As I waited on that sun-drenched morning an elderly gentleman stopped by the shelter to check the new bus route routes and schedules. After a quick perusal of his expanded transit options he declared, “I’m just going to ride ALL of those new routes, just to see where they really do go!”

He didn’t care so much about the train or the details of the bus routes – he wanted to explore the neighborhoods, malls, diners and parks that the new bus routes opened to him! I continue to applaud his commitment to experiential learning!

The fact is that the much-heralded Green Line is the tip of the transit iceberg that has been expanding and improving transit options these past months. The Green Line captures the limelight while some of the less glamorous – and less costly – bus options that recently came on line actually make more difference in the lives of public transit riders.

In recent months Metro Transit has published fascinating previews on their newsy blog (http://www.metrotransit.org/riders-almanac-blog) Still, like that determined gentleman at the shelter, some of us need the riding experience to make it real. My hope is that some of the highlights will lure readers to take a closer look at the new and revamped routes. A few examples give the flavor of the Twin Cities public transportation-work-in-progress.

  • Take, for example the expanded Route 67 which replaces the old Route 8.   The rehabbed 67 runs mostly on Franklin and Minnehaha between downtown St. Paul and the Blue Line Franklin Avenue Station, with a connection to Green Line stations at Fairview and Raymond. Better yet, the bus runs every 20 minutes Monday-Saturday with hourly runs on Sunday. It even takes a dip in the route to accommodate Augsburg College and the Fairview University Medical Center.
  • Or consider Route 83, constructed to fill a gap in North-South service between Snelling and Dale. The run goes between the Roseville Super Target and Montreal Circle just South of West 7th  The 83 travels for the most part on Lexington with stops at popular sites including the Ramsey County Library on Hamline and the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory.   The bus connects with the Green Line Lexington Parkway Stations. with service every 30 minutes seven days a week.
  • Or there’s my personal favorite, Route 30, which has expanded my transit horizons and saved me countless hours on the bus. The 30 connects North and Northeast Minneapolis riders with the Green Line at University and Raymond, entry point to the wonders of the Capitol City without the usual slow trek through downtown Minneapolis.   Built with federal funds the route will be evaluated after one year of service – thus my high motivation to fill the seats of Route 30 which currently operates just five days a week.

These are three of dozens of bus routes and options that have been a sadly overlooked in the hoopla afforded the Green Line.   Some day I would love to have the time to follow that gentleman’s plan to explore them all. Meantime, there’s much to be gleaned from the Metro Transit blog (http://www.metrotransit.org/riders-almanac-blog).

In fact, for months the folks at Metro Transit have anticipated the changes; the results are on the Rider’s Almanac where there are fascinating details about the routes, the riders, the schedules and the connections. Even more fun for the armchair bus buff are the brief histories of each bus route. Here, for example, is the history of Route 30:

The first horse-drawn streetcars appeared on West Broadway Avenue in 1883. Electric streetcars were introduced in 1891. The Broadway Crosstown streetcar line [ran] between Robbinsdale on the west to Stinson Avenue the east. Buses replaced streetcars in the corridor in 1950….

Though stressed-out drivers bemoan the frequent bus stops that slow their dash to premium parking spots they should instead calculate as they simmer that each of those public transit riders means one less vehicle at the next stoplight.

I choose to celebrate this welcome move towards liberation of those who choose to capitalize on the Twin Cities public transit system. There’s lots to learn about today’s transit options. In fact, hopping on could be easier than the vehicle-dependent realize. The first trip is the hardest – and bus drivers and riders alike tend to be patient with newbies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deciders Need to Hear from Public Transit Advocates

“You can’t understand a city without using its public transportation system.”   ― Erol Ozan, author, professor, information technologist

Maybe that’s why the Minnesota Legislature, in spite of its generosity of spirit during the past session, de-railed much of the long-term dependable funding proposed for public transit.  Basically, those who support , plan for and depend on public transit are back to short-term planning with no permanent funding that would allow for cogent comprehensive planning.

Legislators could exit the marble halls, rush to their cars (conveniently parked and guarded at taxpayers’ expense), and speed with abandon past the 94 Express, LRT construction, even the bikers and weary bus riders.  Some probably dashed off to enjoy a respite in distant lands where public transit is funded and functioning.  With luck, they will have time to reflect and connect the dots.

They may return to wonder why the electorate does not relish the endless wait at the bus stop.  Jeff Wood, chief cartographer at Reconnecting America, a nonprofit that advocates for public transit, explains the cognitive dissonance: “Well, nobody uses transit, so why should we fund it?”

In its study of Public Transit 101, the think tank Remapping Debate makes the case that “companies understand that there is an initial period during which the hope of future consumer adoption means significant pre-adoption losses.”   In commuting terms, it is obvious that solo drivers of pricey vehicles are not easily moved to embrace public transit as a concept – and they are vehemently disinclined to adjust their modus operandi.

Bottom line, legislators are not pressured by their constituents on the public transit issue.

David Van Hattum of Transit for Livable Communities, this state’s most ardent advocate for public transit, observes that “you can’t expect transformational change without sort of setting up the conditions so that people readily see public transit as an alternative.”

The question then is:  what might entice a reluctant public, particularly the Deciders, to invest time, creative energy and taxes to build a viable – even irresistible – public transit system?  Graham Currie of Monash University cites the three key things that would make a transportation option attractive to riders, the ultimate deciders in a democracy:  “No 1: service frequency; No 2: service frequency.  And you will never guess what No. 3 is…”

True enough, but there are other issues.  One is the issue of routes, a particularly hot topic as the Twin Cities builds out the LRT network.  Bus routes are a significant factor in design and deployment of rapid transit routes.  For example, residents in inner-ring suburbs are left in the dust – or the snow bank –  as express busses speed to the outer ring where time and convenience matter more.

Then there is the issue of subsidies for public transit, as if these were  unique.   Thoughtful Deciders know full well that automobile dependence is totally formulated on an incredibly pricey infrastructure that includes not only publicly supported highway design and construction but constant maintenance and policing.   The infrastructure also involves private and public support including parking facilities and related conveniences for car-dependent customers.  Public dollars for public transit, which includes the vehicles, fuel, stops, stations, etc. are just more visible.

One factor the politicians and advocates don’t mention – the issue of Class or Cool, depending on one’s view.  Some people are just too important or too cool to join the working masses, the old folks, the little people who must or choose to depend on public transit.

Another, more remedial factor, is the issue of public transit “literacy.”  In spite of good efforts on the part of transit staffers, there’s the “end of the diving board” terror that faces every newbie rider.   The knowledge hurdles are a serious issue for people who are used to being omniscient – where does the LRT stop?  Which side do you exit?  What’s that green card that the regular riders sport?  What’s the fare and will the machine make change?   The list goes on and few neophytes want to show a busload of transit regulars that they are beyond their depth.  Little do they know that the regulars are eager to advise, inform, even provide change for the neophyte.

And there are other disincentives.  Piles of unshoveled snow, packed with sand, are an insurmountable barrier for transit regulars.  Empty cement slabs are grim reminders of a day when vus shelters and benches once offered safe respite for uevN transit customers.  Tolerance for rude and unacceptable behavior, even non-threatening aggravations such as ear-piercing phone calls and trash in the aisles, can be curbed.  Online trip planning sounds like a low cost tech solution till you try to get into the head of the system designers.

So, public transit advocates didn’t get the 1% annual increase for public transit, support for the LRT build-out or stable long-term funding.   What’s next?  First, the possibility to gain political muscle.  Concerned citizens can take heart in the Transit for Livable Communities study that concludes that 91% of Minnesotans polled support state investment in transit.

One opportunity to speak out is the public hearing on a Draft Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) set for Wednesday, June 19, 3:00 p.m. at Metropolitan Council Chambers, 309 North Robert Street in downtown St. Paul.

Another political ploy might be to invite a Decider to a guided tour on a bus or on the LRT.  Help him or her with the boarding and exit hurdles, then take a long leisurely ride, preferably at a slow time of day, so you can point out the political, economic, environmental and health virtues of public investment in a vital and viable public transit system – with particular mention of how adequate long-term funding, coupled with concern for the customers, could change the shape of public transit.

 

 

Car-free in the Cities

Those classy cars in my driveway belong to my neighbors.  My son says the revolving mini-fleet makes the house look lived in, just one good reason to share the space.  Truth to tell, I don’t need the driveway because I don’t own a car.  Car-free living has  actually become an avocation, an ethical issue, and a key element of my persona.
Granted, I’m fortunate.  I live on a bus line.  I’m mobile.  My schedule is flexible.   I am well aware that not everyone can enjoy the luxury and economy of the car-less life.  Still, what has surprises me, is to learn just how many people are doing just that.  My unofficial observations, supported by real data, affirm that vehicle liberation is a growing lifestyle choice.
I was trying to pull together some “how to” thoughts on the topic when I googled and found a wikiHow on the very topic. The group-generated tips reflect exactly what I have experienced and what I would propose.   Over one quarter million googlers have checked the wikiHow link.
My absolutely favorite tip is that’s kept me going on some wintry evenings, i.e. “If absolutely necessary, don’t hesitate to flag down a taxicab, or rent a car or truck.  After all, you’re probably saving at least $6000 a year by not having a car.”  I never act on that but it’s a great mental fallback.
As with every scratching of the surface, I have found a wonderful subculture of car free movers and shakers.  Reading more about the movement I’ve thought and better appreciate my independence.  Living Car Free is an eclectic mix of quotes and links and thoughts.  One of those links led me to the Car Free Movement/, a delightful amalgam of ideas with a great recommended reading list.  It’s always good to have one’s ideas reinforced and refreshed.
Another post for another day:   I’ve also discovered a fascinating sub-category of great guides to getting along without a car in a host of major cities.  These are often geared to the traveler who doesn’t want to rent and drive in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Washington, DC, or Denver or Atlanta or wherever.  These are great intros to public transit, bike rentals, tours and more.  The thought of driving in an unfamiliar city terrifies me – the thought that neither I nor any other neophyte is going to attempt such a feat calms my nerves.  Before you rent and risk it, check the web.

Those classy cars in my driveway belong to my neighbors.  My son says the revolving mini-fleet makes the house look lived in, just one good reason to share the space.  Truth to tell, I don’t need the driveway because I don’t own a car.  Car-free living has  actually become an avocation, an ethical issue, and a key element of my persona.
Granted, I’m fortunate.  I live on a bus line.  I’m mobile.  My schedule is flexible.   I am well aware that not everyone can enjoy the luxury and economy of the car-less life.  Still, what has surprises me, is to learn just how many people are doing just that.  My unofficial observations, supported by real data, affirm that vehicle liberation is a growing lifestyle choice.

I was trying to pull together some “how to” thoughts on the topic when I googled and found a wikiHow on the very topic. The group-generated tips reflect exactly what I have experienced and what I would propose.   Over one quarter million googlers have checked the wikiHow link.

My absolutely favorite tip is that’s kept me going on some wintry evenings, i.e. “If absolutely necessary, don’t hesitate to flag down a taxicab, or rent a car or truck.  After all, you’re probably saving at least $6000 a year by not having a car.”  I never act on that but it’s a great mental fallback.

As with every scratching of the surface, I have found a wonderful subculture of car free movers and shakers.  Reading more about the movement I’ve thought and better appreciate my independence.  Living Car Free is an eclectic mix of quotes and links and thoughts.  One of those links led me to the Car Free Movement, a delightful amalgam of ideas with a great recommended reading list.  It’s always good to have one’s ideas reinforced and refreshed.

Another post for another day:   I’ve also discovered a fascinating sub-category of great guides to getting along without a car in a host of major cities.  These are often geared to the traveler who doesn’t want to rent and drive in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Washington, DC, or Denver or Atlanta or wherever.  These are great intros to public transit, bike rentals, tours and more.  The thought of driving in an unfamiliar city terrifies me – the thought that neither I nor any other neophyte is going to attempt such a feat calms my nerves.  Before you rent and risk it, check the web.