Posts Tagged ‘public transit’


open letters: friday commute edition

November 18, 2011

Dear person next to me on the bus,

Despite what you are texting to your friend, “the white lady” next to you — me, that is — does not, in fact, “think you are contagious or something.”

Have you never ridden a bus before?  It is generally considered polite to stay out of a seat mate’s personal space as much as is feasible.  When one’s seat mate is large or is rudely taking up more than half of the bench — like you are, for instance — that sometimes involves hanging out into the aisle a bit.

Also, let’s do a reality check here.  If I am close enough to unintentionally see your text messages, I’m not treating you like you’re contagious.  Choosing to stand instead of occupying the half-seat worth of space you left me (asshole) would be treating you like you’re contagious.

While I am sorry that you apparently have reason to think professionally-dressed white women would treat you like you’re contagious, I am nonetheless offended that you assume it.  And I’m especially offended that you wouldn’t scoot over further on a packed bus.

Kindly go to hell, Lady Quantum


Dear TTA,

When a bus is scheduled for 4:27 p.m., it’s generally polite for the bus to arrive within a 15 minute window of 4:27 p.m.

Or to arrive at all.

Because nobody is happy when two buses’ worth of rush-hour commuters are packed onto one bus.  Especially not my surly seat mate, it would seem.

My sincere thanks for a miserable commute, Lady Quantum


Dear Dook,

I understand that you regularly schedule athletic events, and that sometimes these events necessitate the closure of campus roads.

Major crosstown thoroughfares are not campus roads.  Please do not park your little flashing-light parking truck in the middle of the motherfucking road, and especially do not yell at me for pulling a u-turn when I come up against your little flashing-light parking truck.  Where the fuck was I supposed to go?  Into your parking lot?  Go to hell.

Further, your traffic signs that are designed to warn unsuspecting drivers of upcoming events and direct traffic have been stuck on “IRON DUKES PASS SECOND LEFT” for a month.  This is extremely unhelpful.

I wish you a thousand defeats.  I would wish them anyway, but now I’m doing it more vehemently.

Please fuck off and die, Lady Quantum


Dear drivers of Durham,

The speed limit on NC 751 is 55 mph, not 35 mph.  Please observe it, because some of us have been trying to get home for more than two hours and are really fucking pissed.

Have a terrible weekend, Lady Quantum


opportunity cost, or, bus vs. car part two

November 4, 2011

I just wrote this in a comment response, but then it occurred to me that it’s a) supremely long, and b) somewhat useful.  Here’s some opportunity cost math about my commute.

One way, door-to-door in light traffic, driving takes 45 minutes, assuming I can find a parking spot that doesn’t require a permit across the street from my office (typically — but not always — a valid assumption). It also assumes that there’s no fiery accident on I-40, which is not a very good assumption really.

One way, door-to-door right now, the bus takes 1 hour, 20 minutes, assuming again I can find a parking spot without a permit at the park-and-ride (true if I arrive for the 7:40am bus) and that I walk the mile from the stop to my office. I am planning on parking a shitty bike (<$30) at the stop and using it to get back and forth, as soon as I have time to buy one. This should cut it to 1 hour, 5 minutes.

So, this week, taking the bus was 35 minutes longer one way. If I spent all of that time working for my miserably low-paid (but with benefits!) job, I would make $8.75, or an extra $17.50 a day. If I spent that time writing freelance science articles, I could make something ranging from $0 to about $40 every day. Clearly, the economics of driving win here.

But what all of this ignores is that on the bus, I actually do have about 35 minutes in which I could be doing useful work (assuming it’s not a wifi bus and I spent that time reading comics on the internet). On Wednesday, I used it productively in the morning, but the rest of the week I was just reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw” and learning about ketchup and creative genius and the guy who invented birth control (awesome read). Anyway, if I were motivated, I could easily make up the lost time by being useful, and after I get a bike, if I’m useful I’ll actually be gaining 15 minutes of productive time every day by riding the bus.

Another thing this opportunity cost calculation ignores is that I only depart my house at 7:15am if I’m taking the bus. If I’m driving, I use that extra 35 minutes to hit snooze three times because I forgot to reset my alarm clock from when I took the bus the day before. So it’s not even sleep that’s worth anything except the comfort of lingering half-awake in warm blankets.

But mostly, what all of this means for certain is that I need a job closer to home.  Sigh.


scary fact of the day

November 2, 2011

I used to complain about public transit being doubly cost ineffective.  The fees charged to riders didn’t do much to support the cost of running the buses, but the fees were still more expensive than the equivalent gasoline cost, assuming a rider had a car that has pretty standard fuel efficiency.

Guess what?  My commute is now cheaper if I take the bus, even if I were to pay full fare instead of using my employer-sponsored bus pass.

Here’s the math.  These calculations assume I paid $3.39/gallon in gas (the price I last paid at the pump), and that I was getting 31 mpg (my usual mileage in my ’96 Camry).

  • Driving, my commute is 30.9 miles each way.  That’s 2 x (30.9 miles x $3.39 per gallon ÷ 31 mpg), a total cost of $6.76 every day.
  • Using the park-and-ride, I drive 6.4 miles from my house to the bus station.  I walk or bike from the stop to my office.  That’s 2 x ($2.50 in bus fare + 6.4 miles x $3.39 per gallon ÷ 31 mpg), a total cost of $6.40 every day.
  • Because my employer pays for my bus pass, the park-and-ride’s actual cost to me is $1.40 every day.
  • Or, because I like working in differences, riding the bus saves me $5.36 every single day.  That’s $26.80 a week, or $107.20 every month.  Over the course of the six months this job lasts (ah, grant funded positions), riding the bus has the potential to save me almost $650.
  • Even if I carpooled with one other person (I drove every other day), and even if I assume I didn’t have to drive out of my way at all to do so, riding the bus would still be almost $3 cheaper per day.  Insanity.

Yay simple math.  I was inspired to take a break from reading lots of transportation statistics and cost-benefit fact sheets and run the numbers (my new job is doing some education and outreach for a clean transportation group, so I’m spending a lot of time familiarizing myself with our existing literature).  Perhaps I’ll be back later with the more complex emissions comparison, if I feel inspired.


monday, aka i hate everything

December 6, 2010

Ways not to start your day: vomiting on the bus to work.  Especially if said bus is taking you somewhere where you will be effectively stranded for the next 7 hours.  Unless you opt to use your two-bus, hour-and-a-half option, in which case you will only be stranded for the next 2 hours.

Ways not to continue your day: missing your next two-bus,  hour-and-a-half option.  Especially when it’s not your fault, and the first of those two buses leaves early.

At this point I’m wondering if it’s worth it to take my next hour-and-a-half option, or if I’m better off just sticking it out here.  Sorry, coworkers, if I infect you with my airport-caught plague.


the 6am shuffle

May 27, 2010

It’s one of those days.  Y’know, those days.  I was reading this post last night (“Sneaky Hate Spiral“) on one of my favorite hilarious blogs, laughing so hard I was crying, and now it just seems prophetic.  Prophetic, or ironic.  Ironically prophetic.  Something.

This morning I had to get up at 6am.  Not, “oh, I’d really like to get up at 6am and take the 7:15 bus to work today so I can be awesome and get things done,” like I do sometimes when I have a surplus of coffee and bad ideas, but “if I don’t get up at 6am it will end up costing me $9 in exact change on Tuesday, because I won’t have my new bus pass and the old one will be expired.”  Blah.  So my alarm went off, and like every other morning, I stumbled out of bed to hit snooze, then dove (pretty much literally) back under the covers.  This diving business caused the wineglass on my bedside table to fly across the room and shatter.  Yay!  Shattered glass all over my carpet, in the dark, when I have to get out of bed barefoot in 9 minutes.

Clearly the solution was to go back to sleep anyway and ignore the glass all over my floor.  Yeah, that worked well when my alarm went off again.

It’s worth explaining that me and my alarm clock have a really unsatisfactory relationship.  It yells at me, I turn it off, we wait 9 minutes, and repeat.  And repeat, and repeat…  By the end of this process, I am not at all more awake than I was before we began.  Somebody recently suggested that I move it across the room.  Yeah, started doing that about 6 years ago.  It worked a lot better in my college dorm room, where I had to jump off the top bunk onto the cold tile floor to turn it off (also, it was the first year I was doing it).  I’ve tried switching back and forth between obnoxious radio stations and the buzzer, I’ve tried using my phone, watch, and alarm (my phone and watch alarms are scarily easy to silence), I’ve tried hiding the first two in strange places around the room, I’ve tried purposefully setting my alarm early to allow for a token number of snoozes (I actually still do this most of the time), I’ve tried just about everything I could think of.

This morning, though, I had an ephiphany as I dozed amongst the shattered remnants of my fifth broken wineglass this year.  I should turn the light on!  Not that dinky lamp next to the bed (tried that), but the overhead light that I despise so much!  Hooray!  Problem solved!

Yeeeeaaaah.  Not so much.  Alarm went off, I somehow managed to avoid most of the broken glass in my frenzy to reach it and hit snooze and flick the light switch, and then I slept quite peacefully under the fluorescent glare.

Dammit.  I think I need an intravenous drip of coffee, timed with my alarm.

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