When driving out of the city to my job that has no bus stop near, I find myself caught behind quite a few city buses. I find this somewhat strange as I’ve consistently found the city bus to be too slow and too expensive to use on a regular basis. According to Jessica, it was faster for her to walk from Ramblewood in Wyoming to the mall in Grandville than it was to take the bus. What’s the cause of this disconnect in what could be such a wonderful form of transportation? I’ve taken the bus several times in the years I’ve lived here, but I can’t really recall it ever being a positive experience.
Once I took the bus because it was an ozone action day and I was riding my bike into downtown. After a few minutes of drenching sweat(on my way to Hop Cat for a first date, by the way), I stopped and grabbed a bus. The driver was not a big fan of me trying to get my bike on the front. Perhaps because she needed to hurry up and get to all the stops before someone noticed she was handing out Jesus flyers to people getting on. If you aren’t from Grand Rapids you may think it strange a public employee handing out “Jesus Saves” booklets on a public bus. It’s not that strange around here.
That’s the only time I really remember taking the bus, but I’m sure there were others. Every now and then I took it school, because for Aquinas students it was 25 cents. Free if you go to the state school, Grand Valley.
Now we get to the point of money, I suppose. Last I saw it was a $1.50 for a one-way bus ride. Now it’s gone up to $1.75. There are not a whole lot of situations that make the bus a more economical alternative to driving my car. Sure, the argument can be made I’m not being an individual polluter on a bus and I don’t have to worry about parking, etc. There are probably dozens of arguments for taking the bus over driving. Price is not one of them. Unless I’m paying to park, (which I rarely do, because I can walk anywhere in the city someone would want me to pay to park) there is just no way that taking the bus is cheaper than driving.
Even on the occasions it is cheaper to myself or others than driving what about the time it takes. I tried to map out riding the bus to work. It only takes me to a certain point even though I work 9 miles from home and home is downtown. It stops at the airport and that’s the farthest. I’m sure that would be fine if there weren’t so many businesses out past the airport. I’ll have to spend some time coming up with alternatives for going from the airport all along the East Beltline corridor. I wish the answer was getting all those tech companies and factories to move into the city, but I doubt they would move just so I could ride my bike or walk to work more easily. Like I said, though, I discovered from downtown to the airport is a one hour bus ride. It’s a 45 minute bike ride. How can I ride my bike 9 miles in 45 minutes and the bus takes an hour? What’s the route and why?
I really would like to take the bus. I swear it! I’m not someone who is trying to get all the buses off the road so I don’t have to wait for them. I want the buses to be more efficient, so I don’t have to weigh the horrible inefficiency with my desire not to drive. It’s a tough call. I’d like to spend my morning commute with a book and not have to stress out because everyone is going at least 10 miles an hour under the speed limit for reasons that I will never fully grasp. I’d love less cars on the road and more buses and bikes. We have to come up with a way to make this happen, though, and the way Grand Rapids is going about it isn’t really working out so well.
So, some things I may have an answer for. The price I’m not sure, but can guess it is just that there aren’t enough riders and those that do ride are heavily subsidized. Can’t be cheap to operate that many buses and have that many routes. That’s where my solution comes in. We just have too many bus stops and the routes aren’t very economical. The bus stops are in places like directly after a traffic light or directly before, so they hold up traffic. Also, at least along Fulton where I used to live, they are about every 100 yards. I love the idea of a bus stop every 100 yards, but we just don’t have the density as a city to warrant it. Let’s put some serious thought into our bus system and make it affordable and timely.