This Week, 5/8

In five years of living in Charlottesville, I had taken the bus exactly once—as an outing for my then-3-year-old, who loved riding the bus back in Brooklyn.

Even once I started working on the Mall, it didn’t occur to me to commute by bus. The closest line to my house runs only once an hour, and takes half an hour to get downtown, compared to 10 minutes by car.

That kind of inconvenience likely keeps a lot of people from using public transit, and is something those who can’t afford a car simply have to put up with.

But as I watched Sean Tubbs, an environmental advocate and former Charlottesville Tomorrow reporter, document on Twitter his attempts to get around by bus, I started to wonder why I hadn’t tried it myself. In this week’s issue, Sean argues that, both to accommodate our growing population and to meet our new climate goals, more people need to take the bus. And for that,
we need a better regional transit system.      

This is a bit of a catch-22: There’s little incentive to pour money into the bus system when relatively few people use it, but ridership likely won’t improve until the system does. But it can work the other way too: If more people choose to take the bus, despite it being slightly inconvenient, there will likely be more pressure to fund a better system.

In my case, I realized that I can cut my riding time to only 10 minutes by getting off at an earlier stop and walking the rest of the way. It still takes 40 minutes, total, but a quick bus ride and a nice walk turns out to be a far more pleasant way to get to work than sitting in traffic and circling endlessly through the parking garage.

So let’s advocate for a better transit system (and vote accordingly). But in the meantime, try the bus. —Laura Longhine