Monday, December 15, 2014

Adventures in transit

Modern apps make transit SO much easier than I remember it being back in the old days of paper schedules and memorized bus routes. 

It's amazing to me that I've ridden buses and trains in lots of cities in the US and Europe, but I've rarely ridden a bus in my home city since I got my first car in late 1997. When I lived in Boston, I was all transit all the time. In the Bay Area, I'd often ride BART and would occasionally ride a bus in San Francisco, since driving there is SO not fun, and parking is the worst! If I was staying in the East Bay I'd either drive, walk, or opt to stay home and avoid traffic completely. In Portland the city traffic is usually reasonable, and parking can always be found if you're patient, so my default (lazy) choice is to drive. Honestly, I remain proud of the fact that the city is driveable - but let's face it, using transit or biking is a big factor in keeping it liveable here!

Thanks to iPhone apps, I've started expanding my horizons beyond borrowing cars and using Car2Go. The most useful is PDX Bus:
As in any good mapping app, I can put in start and end places and times, and it'll tell me what my trip options are. It also checks on the status of the bus and updates the actual vs anticipated arrival time, AND will let me set an alert to make sure I get to the stop on time, or get off at the right place. Finally, it integrates with our transit agency's app, so I can buy tickets and store them there, then access them right from this planner. Genius!

Another terrific app is called RideScout. I tell it where I am and where I want to go, and it calculates how long it will take and what it will cost, depending on how I choose to get there.

So if I want to go from Point A to Point B, it will cost me $2.92 and 12 minutes in my own car, vs $7.61 and 13 minutes if I walk to and use the closest Car2Go, OR I can ride a bike and burn 144 calories in just under a half-hour. (The second Car2Go entry assumes I walk farther, so drive a shorter amount, making it a bit cheaper but requires a longer travel time.) The app also calculates bus routes and costs, and provides great directions for transfers. I can tell it not to include my own car in the calculations, but I think it's instructive to see what it would have cost to do a given route.

For example, looking at the above options, at first it seems like a no-brainer to just drive. BUT when you factor in that it's a round trip, so I'd  have to find and pay for parking, suddenly the car really costs more like 40-50 minutes and almost $6 in gas, and $2-3 in parking. The bus remains about an hour, 1:10, and $5. If it were lighter and warmer out, I would totally hop on my bike to burn some calories before (and after!) I hit happy hour.

I've been without a car for three months now, but I'm clearly still getting in the groove of using alternate transportation options. I'm really glad I didn't rush out and get a new-to-me vehicle, though I'm still certain that will come with the new year!

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