A week without wheels: On the IndyGo bus
Indianapolis - For one week, I'm trying out different ways to get to work without using my own personal transportation. Read my blog entry here for the full story.
On Tuesday, I relied on the bus.
I've been on IndyGo several times for stories, but never as a commuter. That changed Tuesday morning.
I went to IndyGo's online Trip Planner, typed in my info and was told where the nearest bus stop was, the times it would pick me up and how long it would take to get to my destination. It even estimated it would take 10 minutes for me to walk from home to the bus stop. Cool, but would it work?
I left home at 8:23 for my 10-minute walk to the bus stop. It was a third of a mile, and I made it there in seven minutes. Oh, did I mention it was raining? Chilly too. But hey, people who rely on the bus have to deal with the elements all the time. I stood and waited maybe three or four minutes and the bus arrived pretty much right on time.
I stepped aboard and tried to insert my $1.75. It took a couple of attempts - no doubt, the result of being an over-eager first-timer. There were maybe 15 people on board. I'm sure several saw my colleague outside holding his camera. I walked to the back and told people that I was chronicling my commute. They smiled, nodded and returned to reading the paper, doing Suduko, checking emails and listening to their MP3 players.
I struck up a conversation with Chris Boggs, who said he takes IndyGo to and from work three to four times a week.
"It saves on parking, it comes in front of the house and drops me in front of work and it's green," he said.
Boggs estimated his savings on gas and parking at more than $100 a month. Plus he'd put 400 fewer miles per month on his car.
As for the cons? He said while the morning runs were on time, "It can be spotty in the afternoon and the bus rides a little rough at times."
Linda Noble is another regular I met. She began taking IndyGo three years ago initially, "just occasionally and then I found it very convenient."
Noble says she saves on parking and she does take the bus daily unless she works late at night.
Her biggest complaint is "there aren't enough buses running."
That's a complaint I hear regularly when I do IndyGo stories. The buses come every 30-60 minutes and to get from one side of town to another, can require one if not more transfers.
Emma Jean Johnson, who takes the bus from the north side to her downtown job, said her ride is about an hour long. But she said she doesn't mind.
"I just sit and collect my mind. Just relax," she said.
As our driver slowed to a crawl near a construction zone, I saw all the drivers sitting in traffic, just like we were. But unlike them, those on the bus were able to continue reading, writing or even napping. I've always considered that a huge plus of taking the bus or some sort of light rail or commuter time. You're actually able to use that time getting to work in some other way.
People were friendly and accommodating. I asked one man if he would hold the camera and take video of me summarizing my ride, and he politely obliged.
From behind the camera I heard, "That one's good, that's good. I like that."
Thirty-five minutes from the time I left my house, I arrived at WTHR and made it just in time for the 9 a.m. news meeting.
So, would I take the bus again? Here are my pros and cons:
My bus stop is relatively close and the pick-up time works well.
I don't have to transfer buses.
It saves wear & tear on my car (but the roundtrip fare is actually more than what I spend on gas each day, even at $3.99 a gallon).
It's green. I'm leaving a smaller carbon footprint.
I can use that 20-minute ride reading, writing or just relaxing.
I need to leave for work 20 minutes earlier.
I lose flexibility (I can't just decide to go in earlier or leave later without checking the schedule).
I'm subject to walking/waiting in the elements.
No food or coffee on board - ouch!
The fare is more than gas (though I do save my car from wear and tear).
I can see the appeal, especially for those who save not only on gas, but parking. And yes, IndyGo did see ridership jump nearly 5% in March. But I also think until the buses become more frequent and easier than hopping in the car, most people will remain behind their own wheel.
But to answer my own question - would I take the bus again? Sure, especially if I decided to bike or run to work and bus it home. I'm just glad I have the option, as I know many people do not.