Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Pros and Cons of Taking the Bus

Sorry for the dearth of posts recently. One reason for this is that I have been taking the bus while my car has been in the shop. This adds and hour and a half to my total daily commute--time that could be used for, say, blogging. That said, there are plusses to riding the bus. That's what this post is about--what is good and what is bad about riding Metro. Along with photos of my commute.

Memorial near dowtown at dawn
Downtown seen from the 70 bus at dawn

Con: It is hard to find a direct route to where you want to go. I live in Memorial and work near IAH. Admittedly, there is no direct route by car, but at least by car I don't have to go all the way downtown and then turn north. I think this is an issue for almost all bus lines. But for more compact cities, it is less of a hassle. Solution: There is no easy solution--more busses and routes would help, but that depends on demand, which in Houston is not strong.

Memorial near downtown dawn 2
Another view of downtown from the Memorial Dr. bus

Con: That previous con plays into this one--taking the bus takes a long long time. Obviously car travel leads your from door to door. With the bus, you have to get to the bus stop, take a long trip that probably goes way out of its way to get to your destination, and you stop frequently. Solution: none. In order for busses to maximize service, they have to make stops. However, improving the quality of the bus experience might make up for the time.

Rice Hotel at dawn
The Rice Hotel at dawn

Pro: Ok, after all this negativity, let me mention something positive. You can sleep on the bus. The worst that can happen is that you miss your stop. This is a nice luxury--to plug in my iPod and doze.

Bus-stop at dawn
The downtown busstop where I transfer in the morning.

Con: Some busstops are really lame. No shelter, no benches, nothing. Some are acceptable, like those downtown, but the further out you get, the less likely you are to have a nice place to wait. That, if anything, would discourage bus-riding. Standing in the rain or in the unshaded summer sun--who needs it?

Gallery Furniture
Gallery Furniture seen from the bus.

Pro: You get a great view from the bus. You are much higher than most other motorists, so you have a better angle to see stuff. Additionally, you aren't required to pay attention to the road, as you are while driving, so you can focus on the sights you see as you drive along. Even though I drive up I-45 every day in my car, I have seen so much more of it from the bus--which is grim in a way, but also really interesting.

Babylon Spa seen from the bus
Babylon Spa--some typical North Houston sleaze.

For instance, you can see that the war against adult-oriented businesses is progressing slowly.

Greenspoint office tower
Office building in Greenspoint

Pro: People who ride the bus are generally a decent bunch, especially at the times I ride--they are people going to and from work, and sometimes students going to and from school. I almost didn't bother to mention this, but there is a notion that people who ride the bus are weirdos or dangerous or on drugs. That just doesn't jibe with my experience.

Apartments in "gunspoint".

That said, people who ride the bus are generally poor. While a few obvious business executive types ride the Memorial bus (70) in the morning, my typical fellow passenger is a paid member of the working class. Maybe that's what scares middle class folks who disdain busses.

under sam houston pkwy
Turning under the Sam Houston Pkwy onto the I-45 feeder.

Pro: The biggest for me. I can read on the bus. I love to read--it's literally my favorite thing to do. My commute by car takes an hour and a half of reading time away from me every day. On the bus, I can read at my leisure while someone else does the driving. Is that not a luxury worth having?

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Blogger TeleRaviRays said...

I've been using Bus 131 for the last few weeks, and I totally agree - especially the fellow passenger bit. Some of the high-seater buses are so good. Somebody was suggesting elevator type music on-board to improve the travel experience. Another con is that sometimes the A/C is kept way too cold that you're freezing though it's pleasant weather outside.

11:53 AM  
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