The best bus ever

The best bus ever
Jason Sievers' awesome Art in Transit bus

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bike Nazi --> Bus Nazi

I've been grounded.

Due to a temporary medical condition, my doctor has ordered me off the bicycle for a period of 4 to 6 weeks. (Any longer, and I would've gotten a second opinion from Dr. Kervorkian!) I won't go into graphic detail... let's just say it involves the part of me that comes in contact with the bike saddle. (Ouch!)

So, for the first time in several years, I'm letting ValleyRide attend to my transportation needs.

I bought a 31-day "employee pass" - it cost me $32.

The "regular" pass costs $36, so I saved 4 bucks. Big wup. (I'll probably save a few bucks over paying $1-per-ride. Hopefully I won't have to decide how to continue, a month from now.)

Let me digress. My place of employment is surrounded by parking lots. If an employee chooses to drive to work alone every day, the company will subsidize $40 of the $60/month parking lot expense. But they'll only offer a $4 incentive to ride the bus for that same month. What's wrong with this picture? IMO, they should gladly pay the entire bus pass fee, for anybody who's willing to use it, and get a car off the road!

I ride the #4 Roosevelt bus. I walk .3 miles from my house to the bus stop. The bus comes by at 7:50. By 8, or shortly thereafter, I'm getting off in downtown Boise, for a 2-block walk to the office.

In the evening, I catch the bus at 5:15, and am walking the .3 miles home by 5:30. (Yesterday afternoon, as I rode in that dry, warm bus, looking out at a gloomy, rainy day, I've got to admit it was nice to be on the bus, instead of on my bike!)

Yep - the bus is pretty sweet. It enables me to retain my contempt for all those single-occupant-vehicle drivers out there. And it will let me preserve my track record - the last time I drove a car to work was September 1997. That will not change. (Even if my 2.5 year perfect bicycling record has been spoiled.)

But I can't help but wonder... why are 30-plus of the 36 seats on the bus empty? On my three rides so far, there have been 2-4 passengers. That, my friends, is a problem! And unfortunately, it's also a very valid argument for opponents of public transportation.

Could they improve ridership with better routes? (I can't imagine a better timetable - you'd think a bus arriving downtown at 8am should be packed!)

Or... are people so lazy and/or inflexible that they won't look at alternatives until gas is $4/gallon? Or $5, or $6? (Time will tell. You know it's just a matter of time. If people will pay $3, they'll likely pay $4.)

One criticism... as in many places, Boise's city buses have big windows, that should afford good views in every direction. But so far, the buses I've ridden have windows that are so "scummed up" that they don't afford much of a view. I don't know if it's dirt on the outside, or gunk on the inside, or scratches, or tint-film, or what. But how much more pleasant the ride would be, if somebody could Windex those windows from time to time!

Drive on!


danielo said...

SUCKS! Sorry about your extended grounding.

I ride the bus once in awhile, probably once or twice a month. I am also amazed at how sparsely used they are, though there have been a couple of times I've ridden one with only a handful of seats open.

And I couldn't agree more with your frustration about workplace buy-in. It's a no-brainer, considering the well-documented costs of maintaining parking spaces. If employers would buck up a bit, the busses would be much more greatly used.

wolf21m said...

Bummer that you are now a forced versus voluntary Bus-nazi.

I agree that employers need to do more and they easily could. I am currently discussing options with my company. Here are some very inexpensive options:
1. If the employer sold you the bus pass, they can do it pre-tax dollars which would reduce your cost to $19 month, but ValleyRide would still get $32. HP just rolled this out for our employees, its works quiet well.
2. Valley Ride has a program to sell a universal bus pass for all employees of a company to ride any time they want for the price of the current riders. Thus, if you have 10 employees riding the bus, they will sell passes for the entire company for the price of 10 annual passes. A year later, they will then see who is riding to set the price for the next year based on that number.
3. They could just buy your pass. Although, option 2 is the same price, but covers the entire company.
Good luck and I hope you are back on the bike soon.

Bikeboy said...

Thanks for the kind sentiments, my friends! (I had a "semi-elective" surgery. It wasn't an urgent situation, but eventually had to be done. I decided better in March than June, or September.) I'm probably off the bike 'til mid-April or so.

Interesting bus-pass options, wolf21m. I had not heard about that #2.

I went 'round and 'round with the "Community Relations" honchos at my office. I rained down suggestions collected from other "progressive" area employers, statistics about the true cost of parking, etc., trying to get 'em to lift the subsidy. (People should be free to drive a single-occupant vehicle if that's their choice. However, they shouldn't get that choice made more attractive through subsidizing it.) Finally my boss said they had complained to him about my enthusiasm. He said "Back off a little - I think they've gotten the message." Unfortunately, there seems to be more "tradition" standing in the way of progress in the Business World, than anywhere else. (No time shifting because we live in an 8-to-5 world, everybody else provides reduced-rate parking, etc., etc.)

Julie Fanselow said...

Bikeboy, thanks for this excellent post. I am sorry you have been forced from your bike just as the weather's getting nice (though I know you ride rain, shine, snow, whatever ...)

This morning's news brought a story about how we MIGHT be able to avoid non-attainment status for air quality this summer IF everyone drives less in the mornings. I would HOPE that many businesses would take this as a sign that it's time to help employees get out of their cars or at least drive a lot less.

I'm glad to hear of HP's enlightened attitudes and I hope that many other big (and small) employees offer subsidized or even free bus passes. The fact remains, though, that there is NO bus service to our area's largest employer, Micron.

We have a long way to go, but with the Idaho Legislature predictably playing ostrich on the transit issue, we may be much better served by businesses taking the initiative to help employees drive less.

Julie Fanselow said...

P.S. I second your comment about the dirty/filmy windows.

I have seen a slight uptick in ridership in recent months on the Vista route, my main bus. But there's usually plenty of room except mid-afternoon when the Boise High students fill it up (which is a very good thing).

I'm going to post within a few days on my recent trip to Washington, D.C., where I had six blissful car-free days.

Ben said...

I don't understand Boise's scummy windows. Spokane's buses do not seem to have the same problem. I hated that when I rode the bus there.