Get On the Bus
I came into the #CarFreeMemphis challenge assuming I’d ride my bike all month since it’s something I am comfortable doing, enjoy already, and have difficulty finding enough time to do. This was going to be the excuse to ride my bike all I wanted and then some. My goal was to ride the MATA bus at least a couple of times because I didn’t have any familiarity with it whatsoever, and wanted to try to understand our Public Transit options in Memphis. So, the first week of the challenge I got on the bus. In my biggest surprise of the challenge so far, I’m still wondering when I’ll find time to ride my bike – I’ve found the bus to be convenient enough to be my primary commute transport.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I am fortunate enough to live and work within a short walking distance to a bus line that is perfectly suited for a direct ride between my neighborhood and my place of work. I realize that’s not the case for many Memphians. And of course, when you ride the bus, you are at the mercy of the bus schedule. I’ve yet to see a bus sitting at a stop because a rider’s running late. For me, the schedule has been pretty well in sync with the needs of my commute.
My enthusiasm aside, It hasn’t been perfect, either. I took my daughter to school via MATA last week and missed a connecting bus after dropping her off, and then missed a subsequent bus while trying to walk to another line to make my way downtown. With different lines having different frequencies of service due to demand, you can find yourself in a lurch if you get off schedule.
One thing that I’ve enjoyed about the bus is the familiar faces. I’ve had two different drivers on my both morning and afternoon routes. The commuters on the bus are often the same people, too. I’ve enjoyed these new characters in my routine, folks to wish good morning and good evening to. It makes you feel more connected to the community you’re a part of. That doesn’t happen when you are by yourself in a car.
As I’ve experienced our transit system so far, I’ve had a lot more positive than negative experiences. The best thing we can do to make it better is to use it. More riders = more fares = more revenue = more service. Take the time to figure out how you can use Memphis’s transit system in your routine, and try it. If even a fraction of the drivers on our roads made a fraction of their trips by bus, we can go a long way to realizing the transit system we want.