Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus

I don't know anyone over the age of five who loves buses. If they do, they keep their passions to themselves, which is just as well, since buses are big, ugly, unglamorous, move in a cloud of diesel exhaust, and apparently are one of the top causes of death in the United States (as evidenced by the phrase, "I could get run over by a bus tomorrow and then where would you be" and variations thereof). They're also the public transportation option I've used most often in my life.

Every weekend during the winter of 1994-1995 I took an RTD bus from Boulder to Denver (free with my student ID), walked to the urine-y and exhaust-y Greyhound Bus Station on the ungentrified part of downtown, and then took a bus to Glenwood Springs. I made this trip in snow and ice and riotous game crowds and was delayed only a handful of times. I had my share of strange seat mates (the well-dressed giggling man in his forties who claimed to have a sports car and tried to leave me with his phone number; the earnest and lugubrious former truck driver who wanted to impress upon me the wisdom of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, which he claimed could have saved his marriage, if only he'd read it in time; the man who carried on an entire, merry, give-and-take conversation with himself during the course of the four-hour ride)--but mostly it wasn't too crowded, and I rode alone and worked on my physics homework. Once we were in an accident ("Bus driver! Somebody hit us!"); once we had to wait for an hour on a pass after a semi jackknifed and closed both lanes. Mostly, though, it was a sturdy, stodgy, reliable way to get to Glenwood, and most of my fellow passengers were regular folks who didn't want to risk driving the mountain passes in the winter.

So, when I took this job, one of the first things I did was look at possible bus schedules (especially, uh, for days like today. Holy TOLEDO is it snowing out there.) The Denver RTD site has a handy "route finder" function, where you can plug in your starting and destination intersections and get instructions on which buses to take and how long it should take to get from A to B. Being me, I wasn't satisfied to just plunk in my address and my work address, but had to try to game the system a bit and put in large, obvious intersections that I knew were serviced by bus. Even so, the route they suggested took ONE HOUR AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. I mean, WHAT? In what universe would a normal person opt to take an hour and forty-five minutes to go 13 miles? I could BIKE it in less time. I mean, not today, obviously. But STILL. That's RETARDED. No wonder ninety percent of the people who use the buses are clearly obligated to use them due to their unfitness to drive/ own cars (Note: that stereotype is based on my experience with buses in other midsize cities. Maybe here the buses are populated by young professionals. Who just happen to want to TRIPLE THEIR COMMUTE time by riding the bus.)

So. Buses don't work. Trains don't work. Bikes don't work. What's a girl to do? Drive, of course. And voila: global warming. Also Denver's brown cloud. Parking lots. Acidic runoff. A drive-thru culture. I want something DIFFERENT.


Jess said...

Thank you for continuing along this path. Denver bans woodburning fireplaces to prevent pollution, but doesn't have a system in place to encourage people to leave their cars at home? It's very upsetting.

I heart the snow, though.

artemisia said...

Oh, awesome post. I MAY have a little crush on you.