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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 12-15-07, 10:00 PM   #1
gerv 
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How bad is the bus?

Just imagine that you lived in a land with a lot of ice and snow, with temps down to -5F in the nights? You don't have an inclination to ride your bike, so how would you get to work, shopping, movies?

Would you take the bus?

Most people around my town tell me how rotten the bus service is. And I kind of agree... except that most people who tell me this have never set foot on a bus.

As it happens, the service is not stellar. There are 3 buses a day going in the direction of my work and 3 buses returning. Fortunately, a couple of them suit me just find and the service is mostly on-time. I have had to wait up to 10 minutes at a bus stop in 10F weather, but I now get around that problem by walking to the next stop (walking is much better than standing still, of course, in such temps.)

Although I did have to wait 40 minutes in a snow storm once. (Tip: bring a backpack with extra clothes...especially wool socks and maybe even tights... frostbite hurts!)

What's your bus service like? Does it work for you?
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Old 12-15-07, 11:33 PM   #2
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I've used the buses here and I can say with some authority that the service is fair but the buses themselves are crap, big aluminum boxes crammed with people that you wouldn't want to share an apartment building with much less an overloaded bus being driven by someone with less personality than the average disgruntled postal worker...

I think you can safely assume that I don't care much for taking the bus, I'd rather move under my power just to spite the weather.

I've ridden in all sorts of weather and never had any health issues, if I take the bus I can guarantee I'll spend most of the following week getting over something that makes my sinuses whistle and my chest feel like it's full of mud.
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Old 12-15-07, 11:55 PM   #3
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I work from home, but I went back to college in August. If I take the bus, I have a 10 - 15 minute walk to a bus stop, and then it's over an hour to get to school, and I have to make a transfer. I have only used the bus twice. I can do the ride on my bike in about 40 minutes, which is a lot faster than the bus! If I lived closer to downtown, or even midtown, I might use the bus more often, but I live in the 'burbs, and service out here is not good. I'd much rather get on my bike and ride. I know what you mean about not feeling motivated to ride. I pretty much hate the first 15 minutes of the morning commute, but after that my body warms up and I wake up and it's pretty good. I've lost 15 pounds in the last 5 weeks, so I'm definitely enjoying the results of my commuting and gym workouts. Bicycle commuting is one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I have no intention of quitting. Just FYI, a few things I have found to help: I ...
make sure everything I need for the commute is ready the night before. No hunting for gloves, helmet, etc.
dress warmly enough that I'm not freezing when I get on the bike. Sometimes I need to stop part way through and take something off, or open up the pit zips on the jacket to cool off, but I'm never freezing - that's just depressing.
leave with enough time that I don't have to kill myself to arrive on time.
bring a spare shirt to change into when I get to school.
make sure I have a full water bottle when I leave.
keep a positive attitude! I try not to take offense if some driver is not as attentive or courteous as I would like them to be. Just keep on rolling.
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Old 12-15-07, 11:57 PM   #4
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Bus service here is pretty good... my biggest complaint is not enough bike racks!

People on the bus vary widely depending on which route you're on... two routes in particular are the 'bar express' buses... others generally have a lot more upscale passengers and neighborhoods.

All in all, the bus makes a nice combination with a bike for getting around and getting stuff done... but I like the light rail better!
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Old 12-16-07, 12:23 AM   #5
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Here it is never on time. And when there are people riding it, which is not often because it is empty most of the time, they are the dregs of humanity; dirty, smelly, drugged out, or insane.
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Old 12-16-07, 12:28 AM   #6
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Last spring, the lease on my truck was coming up, and I was looking at my options for getting around. I really couldn't afford a new car, but living 3 miles from work, walking was a bit much. I looked at the bus routes, and figured that if I timed everything perfectly, and the buses were exactly on time, it would take me over an hour to go by bus. I could walk faster than that! Needless to say, I've never ridden the buses here, and don't really see myself doing so. Going in by bike, I actually get there faster than I did by car.
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Old 12-16-07, 01:03 AM   #7
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The people are fair, the service is crap, but i'm working on fixing that right now, with the local govt and bus company, who agree with my assessment. (The bus company is in the process of doubling their fleet so that they can reach what they consider -minimum- standards of frequency etc.)
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Old 12-16-07, 01:35 AM   #8
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Bus service is ok here, we received a light rail not to long ago so they have done some rearranging of the local lines, can't say if it's better or worse because I avoid it as much as possible, only because I rediscovered cycling a couple years ago. For years I lived via Metro (Houston's bus line) and did it very well, rarely late. My rules with riding the bus were leave one bus early and another bus early for every transfer I had to take, there were days everything fell though. Bring a book and headphones. I got to know my drivers on my regular routes and they would comp me a ride every once in a while. Park and Ride and local routes are two totally different ball games when it comes to the riders. P&R, wait in line to get on and systematically get off, local routes ever man for himself (local can be really entertaining like a bunch of extras from an old John Waters movie). It works but I bike when I can, I am planning on taking the bus this coming week to see my doctor because I think he is might be doing some local work.
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Old 12-16-07, 01:44 AM   #9
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Our bus service is designed to get seniors to and from medical appointments out of town. Anyone wanting to use the service must call to reserve a spot 24 hours in advance. There are just two buses a day leaving town and two a day coming back, Monday to Friday only and not on holidays. There are efforts underway to improve this service and when that day comes, I expect we'll see the service getting a lot of use by out-of-town workers and by youths who want to do something in the evening.
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Old 12-16-07, 08:25 AM   #10
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Bus service in my area is of two types, non existent and WTF were they thinking. I live over the county line from a town of 8,000 but it is pretty rough and mostly 'burbs. Immediately adjacent is a monster military base with over 30,000 people (and expected to double by 2012) the next town down the road is the one with bus service. The town has 125,000+ and the service is spotty at best. It is laid out on a central spoke system but there are no interconnections on the outside of the wheel. If you start on the north side of town and want to go to the western most point you have to ride to the center of town, then transfer and ride out to the west. It can take over 2 hours to go a straight line distance of 12 miles. Only few of the buses have bike racks on them and they don't run the same routes every day. They start running at 7 in the morning and stop by 7 in the evening...not much good if you are working retail and have to work closing shift at the local mall or work normal shift work at the big hospital in town. Next biggest town to the north of me (14 miles away) is around 24,000 and no bus service what so ever.

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Old 12-16-07, 08:58 AM   #11
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Around here is easier and faster to walk than to take the bus. You could get anywhere in town in less than an hour on foot.

When I lived in a bigger city I tried taking the bus in the winter, instead of my car, and it took almost 2 hours to get to work, the car to 15 minutes. Of course I would take my bike the other 8 months of the year. I ditched the car when I moved to a small town, best thing I ever did.

I never had trouble on the bus when I used to take it more often. During the day it was mostly commuters and students. At night I liked to see the drunks and stoners on the bus, that way they are not driving.

The bus is also good to get a few winks before work. In my case you could get almost a few hours sleep before work, and still have time to drink a coffee. If I had to do it again I would definitely get a car, I hate the bus, unless I am drafting it on my bike.
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Old 12-16-07, 10:13 AM   #12
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Phoenix Valley Area Arizona USA

Could we put our cities down?
bus system
Free Paratransit
Point to point with some hub and spoke.
10mph average
1.25
2.50 day pass
run time 5am to 10 pm
bike racks on all busses with some having three bikes on a rack
Bike lockers at some transit stations
Light Rail end of the year
dial a ride for ADA
friendly bus drivers

the bad
Busses end at 10pm
with the spread of the valley spending 2 hours on the bus is easy to do
no reverse trips on rapid bus
bus pullouts
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Old 12-16-07, 10:18 AM   #13
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Naming the city for mine wouldn't help any but the whole area is "served" by NJ Transit.
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Old 12-16-07, 10:25 AM   #14
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There's a bus stop about a fifth of a mile from where I live. The problem is that it's for a route that runs five times in the morning, and five times in the evening. It's a route specifically for commuters.

The nearest bus stop for every half hour service is a mile away. There is only one route, other than the commuter only run. Either way, I would have to transfer in order to get to downtown Seattle.

I'd rather ride down to Southcenter Mall, and catch one of the many buses heading in toward downtown Seattle if that's my ultimate destination--or simply keep riding my bike .

I'm in Kent, Washington. Bus is King County Metro.

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Old 12-16-07, 01:47 PM   #15
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Our busses here (Columbia, MO) aren't known for their timeliness. The city is throwing a lot of money at them as evidenced by a new downtown terminal though, so maybe it'll get better.


For now, I make it a point to roll my pedicab up to bus-stops 5 minutes before the bus comes, and I steal a couple of passengers. The bus never beats me.
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Old 12-16-07, 03:05 PM   #16
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We chose our home based on partly on bus routes, so we have no trouble getting around by bus. We have the option of two bus stops. Both are a five minute walk. Weekdays we have 4 buses to choose from most of the time. On weekends, we have two buses to choose from. Honestly, it takes about the same amount of time to bus, drive, or bike to work and most of our other destinations.
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Old 12-16-07, 04:58 PM   #17
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I actually enjoy the bus. There are limitations: it works very well if you happen to live close to a bus line, end up near one, etc. So there definitely are limits to the territory one can cover. But within its limits, there are plusses and minusses in taking the bus vs walking or cycling.

Bus Advantages:
- Sometimes faster than cycling
- More comfortable in foul weather
- It's easy to put one's mind at off for a while
- Some conversations, reading, etc. are possible.

Walk Advantages:
- It's easy to put one's mind at off
- One has the time to look at the architectural details, at the urban fauna, etc. (sometimes it's not too interesting too)

Cycling Advantages:
- Better carrying capacity (I'm not the one who lifts and carries the load)
- Faster than walking
- One can go exactly when and where one wants to go
- However, one needs to stay alert (unlike touring on secluded roads).
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Old 12-16-07, 05:55 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by bmclaughlin807 View Post
Bus service here is pretty good... my biggest complaint is not enough bike racks!

People on the bus vary widely depending on which route you're on... two routes in particular are the 'bar express' buses... others generally have a lot more upscale passengers and neighborhoods.

All in all, the bus makes a nice combination with a bike for getting around and getting stuff done... but I like the light rail better!
It's generally the same deal here in Seattle. We don't have light rail yet (it's being built), but bus service is generally very good. Some routes are terrible, some are fine. As a bicyclist it's fairly common for the bike racks to fill up during busy commuter routes (which sux because you have to wait for the next one).

So overall it's usually fine. Not perfect by a long shot, but fine.
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Old 12-16-07, 06:01 PM   #19
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We've got a good public transit system around here. We don't get snow/ice too much in the winter so the city doesn't make a huge investment in plows. (why bother?) As a result, the roads are pretty crappy for about 3 weeks out of each winter. They put chains on the buses and modify some routes to "snow routes". so they run more often and will drop you off at places that are not regular stops. Unlike the typical Oregon driver, the bus drivers have been trained to drive in snow & ice. I'm two blocks from a snow route bus line and it's very convenient.

The down side is if you live along a steep hill, the buses aren't going to go there when snow/ice makes those roads hazardous. On the other hand, if you chose to live on a steep hill knowing what the winter can be like around here, you ought to be prepared to be stranded for a while. You can ignore Mother Nature when you choose a place to live, but your existence is quite irrelevant to her.
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Old 12-16-07, 06:56 PM   #20
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Our bus system is okay as long as you are going to or leaving downtown. The buses are clean, reasonably on time, and each one has a bike rack. But the hours of service are pretty limited, so the bike racks are necessary if you want to go back at a reasonable hour.

And in my case, I live half a block from the nearest bus stop and there is a bus stop at work. But to use them, I'd have to take the bus all the way downtown and another bus back, a two hour ride. And the bicycle ride is only 20 minutes straight down one road.

Last edited by Artkansas; 12-16-07 at 07:28 PM.
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Old 12-16-07, 07:42 PM   #21
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The buses her seem decent. I get a free pass with school but still don't use it much. It seems to be a mix of working people, students, drunk/druggies/crazy people. I'd rather ride my bike.
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Old 12-17-07, 07:56 AM   #22
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I haven't used buses much since I moved to NJ, where there's excellent rail service. But before that I used to take buses all the time, and it was fine. I have certainly met some interesting people on buses, but that's really been a positive experience.

Keep in mind... riding a bus, like everything else, is a skill you have to develop. Once you know which bus you want, and you know when and where to catch it, you'll get comfortable doing it. Your ride will be more comfortable if you can get on the bus before it gets crowded, if you have that option; keep that in mind if you have more than one bus service or route or bus stop to chose from... and so on. So, I suggest: try it, you'll like it!
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Old 12-17-07, 07:57 AM   #23
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I live outside of DC, so our system is pretty good for the times I use it. The bus is free for enrolled college students so I take that when Im in classes since the school is a mile from me
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Old 12-17-07, 08:10 AM   #24
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The service is OK. My closest bus stop, about 400m walk from my door, is served by 3 bus lines going near my office (about 15kms from home), and a couple of more going to another destinations. If I walk to the next closest stop, maybe 200m further, I have 2 more lines to office, 3 more to other destinations. In total, the buses operating those 5 lines to my office stop at the bus stop about 190 times per day, Mo-Fri. A bit less in the weekends. It's OK.

Regarding waiting times, if I completely neglect to check the timetable, I may have to wait 10 mins in peak hour. 20 off-peak. Several hours, if it's 3AM. But there's really no reason to not to check, as the timetables are drawn for each bus stop separately. That takes a lot of guesswork out of my bus commutes, and in my opinion is an important detail in bus service. It's their job to guesstimate how long it'll take for their bus to reach your stop, they have better chances of doing it properly.

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Old 12-17-07, 12:28 PM   #25
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I've not used the bus service much here in the Kanawha Valley, but I have heard good things about it. A couple of years ago they put bike racks on. Using them took a while to catch on, but I'm seeing more and more busses with the racks delpoyed.
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