26 June 2008

Blue is the new Green

So I finally did it. I chose to forego my car and ride the Big Blue Bus to/from work almost every day for the last 2 weeks. I take the #2 bus, which is two blocks from house. I ride about 10 minutes to Broadway and 4th Street, which is downtown Santa Monica by the 3rd Street promenade. I walk across the street and usually wait a few minutes. I then transfer to the #5 bus, which is another 15 minutes to my office. It is quite easy to get the hang of, once you know where the bus stops are.

MONEY: In the short term I am spending more money, but as gas increases that margin gets smaller. In the long term I am probably saving money since I am driving my car less – about 180 miles less per month, which should translate into less repairs.
I have also read that our local transportation could possibly be hit with severe budget cuts. This could adversely affect fares, routes and availability of buses. The BBB is looking out for the well being of our community and I believe that since the senior fare rate has stayed the same since the 1960’s. The City of Santa Monica is urging us to voice our opinion to help keep state funds directed to our local transportation.*
BUS: $2.50 per roundtrip** CAR: $1.70 per roundtrip (.17 p/mile*** x 10 miles) Difference: extra .80 per day

TIME: Losing precious minutes in the morning before I leave home is a hard sell to my brain & body. I give up time in the shower, time with Donny, sleep and the chance to make a good breakfast. Once I get on the bus I'm fine and I don't even mind changing buses anymore.
BUS: 40 minutes one-way CAR: 20 minutes one-way Difference: extra 40 minutes per day

PERSONAL: Instead of walking just a few feet from my house to the car and then from my car to the office door, I walk about 10 blocks a day getting to/fro the bus stop. It’s not a huge amount of exercise, but it’s more than I was getting before. I also find that riding the bus is less stressful. Los Angeles drivers are crazy, which makes most drivers, me included, quite anxious. Aside from having to watch for my stop, I can basically just kick back and read a book or surf the internet on my sidekick, something I shouldn’t or can’t do in my car. July 1st California drivers will not be able to use a handheld wireless telephone. By riding on the bus I can freely check my email and chat on my phone without having to worry about getting pulled over.

ENVIRONMENT: Here are some great things to know directly from the BBB: Currently, half of the Big Blue Bus fleet operates on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) which put 80% less pollution into the air. The remainder of the fleet operates on a clean bio-diesel fuel and has p-traps that capture emissions before they reach the air. The Big Blue Bus recycles everything including bus batteries, tires, plastic and paper and keeps our water clean by recycling the bus wash water and using biodegradable soaps to clean. Of course, the greatest way we contribute to the environment is through removing cars from the road by providing trips to our customers. I also recently read that by taking the bus to work everyday you could reduce 3% of your total CO2 emissions.

SOCIAL: My colleagues have had some interesting responses. “I wouldn’t ride the bus. I have a car.” or “You live that close?” or “Where are you walking from?” A possible vendor may have been placating me, but she thought riding the bus was “remarkable” and “inspiring”. The social aspect of riding the bus has been the most interesting. I enjoy being around people that are different ages, genders, races and live different lifestyles. I have always thought that the beauty of NYC is that everyone takes the MTA, no matter if you are wealthy or poor or are going to school or to a nice dinner. The Big Blue Bus has a very mixed group of riders too. Rush hour seems to be more eclectic, which is not surprising. I like listening to what people are going through or dealing with. Today the driver and a another passenger were talking about the housing market and how they knew people who lost their houses. Last week some kids were chatting about graduation and their final week of school. I’ve also seen some of my neighbors and recognized regulars who ride the same line as me everyday. It makes me feel like part of an actual community, rather than just living in a little bubble with just Donny and our close friends. It also feels good to contribute to a good company. The Big Blue Bus has been in service for 80 years and is a charitable organization. They participate in food drives, community service and were part of helping displaced people from the Katrina hurricane.

I have no doubt I will continue to ride the bus to work as long as possible. My job often keeps me at the office for long hours, but I feel pretty safe riding the bus late at night. I look forward to more exciting adventures on the Big Blue Bus.

*Please consider contacting: Sheila Kuehl at senator.kuehl@sen.ca.gov or 310-441-9084, or District Assemblywoman Julia Brownley at Assemblymember.Brownley@assembly.ca.gov or 310-395-3414

**Equal to the cost of a day pass, which is unlimited rides for 1 day.

***Figures based on premium $4.76 p/gallon and 28 MPG (city) for a Mini Cooper (manual). Premium gas required for BMW engine.

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