Monday, May 28, 2012

‘We are on the same bus’

Jonathan and I use via RVTD's Route 10 when we're in Ashland, Ore.
Photo by rickie22 on Flickr. Reused under terms of Creative Commons
On the Medford Mail Tribune website, I found a great commentary by Julie Akins, news director of KOBI TV Channel 5 based in Medford, Ore.

Akins, like me, commutes to work by bus. In her case, it’s via the Rogue Valley Transportation District and in mine it’s on Lake Transit. For both of us, it’s a matter of choice. She says:
“I coyly gave away my parking space and invested in more rubber-soled shoes to see what I could gain from the experiences of walking to and from bus stops and taking time to look out the window and watch the world go by each morning and evening.”

Akins offers the observation that most people who ride the bus are not there by choice:
“I have not done a formal or even informal poll of bus riders, but I’m clear the regulars are there by necessity. The seats in the back are crowded as people talk in animated detail about getting licenses pulled for various infractions and no longer being able to drive as a condition of parole. 
“The talk of trying to save up for a car on disability or TANF, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and then watching the bare reality of people in wheelchairs who rely on the bus to get to the store or the doctor convinces me choice is a rare occasion for many on the bus. I am glad there is a bus for them and for me.”
My impressions of Lake Transit ridership suggest that reasons vary for why people are riding the bus. There are people in circumstances similar to what Akins describes: licenses lost and unable to drive.

Other riders are licensed drivers who simply choose not to drive.

More and more frequently, I hear passengers say they’ve started riding the bus because gas prices became too high. Given that it can take $40 or more to fill the tank each week, the $40 that a person spends for a month-long pass is a real bargain in comparison.

I could not afford to live and work at near-opposite ends of Lake County if I had to drive.

One of the things I like best about the bus is the stress relief. There is so much stimuli to process when a person drives a car and even when I’m a passenger in an auto, the other cars in close proximity can be a source of anxiety.

I prefer to ride a bus; it is elevated from the roadway and it reduces the impressions that register. Thus my anxieties are reduced. I can also bring my travel pillow with me and take down-time when I need it.

I feel confident in my personal fleet of drivers who get me where I need to go.

Akins decides that it doesn’t really matter why anyone is on the bus:
“[T]he fact is we are there coming and going and through the ride we are learning more about what it is to be in a community. I have not had an unpleasant encounter, no one has threatened me in any way and the protocol is to yell ‘thank you’ to the bus driver when leaving. The regulars know that we are on the same bus and share a culture. We are generally good to each other. It’s nice.”
Who knows, when Jonathan and I move to Ashland, Ore., we may even meet Akins on a bus.