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The Vagaries of Public Transit

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The Vagaries of Public Transit

Old 06-17-13, 01:48 AM
  #1  
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The Vagaries of Public Transit

Saturday I went to an event in a town on the other side of the San Francisco Peninsula. I live in a suburb on the bay side; my destination was a beach town on the ocean side. It isn't particularly far away in a straight line, but there is no direct route across the peninsula (due to a protected watershed where people are not allowed to go), so the trip entails taking one bus about 15 miles to the north, then a second bus that heads back south about 8 miles along a very steep and convoluted route, and finally a 2-mile bike ride. Total travel time was 2.5 to 3 hours each way, which included quite a bit of waiting, since these buses run infrequently. Google Maps says the same trip by car takes 33 minutes. The route is more or less the same except a car would travel almost entirely on freeways instead of surface streets.

Trips like this one really make me wish for better public transit! If I want to visit San Francisco or San Jose, it's easy, but I miss out on a lot of interesting activities in suburbs and outlying towns because it's either impossible or ridiculously time-consuming to get there. Do the rest of you experience things like this? What do you do in those cases?
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Old 06-17-13, 08:06 AM
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Happens all the time once you leave city centers...

My parents house is 19 miles from mine. By car 30 minutes, by bike 1.5 hours, by bus 2+ hours after a 7-12 mile bike ride.

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Old 06-17-13, 10:05 AM
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It is what it is. If you're carfree, there are mid length journeys that just take longer. You could probably go six blocks in San Francisco faster carfree (on your bike) than in a car. You could probably go 600 miles faster carfree (in a plane) than you could in a car. But there are other distances in between where driving is the fastest mode.
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Old 06-17-13, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
It is what it is. If you're carfree, there are mid length journeys that just take longer. You could probably go six blocks in San Francisco faster carfree (on your bike) than in a car. You could probably go 600 miles faster carfree (in a plane) than you could in a car. But there are other distances in between where driving is the fastest mode.
It's all about the right tool for the job

When I first started wanting to be car-free about 8-9 years ago, I was a cycle zealot who hated cars. Now I just see 'em as another tool in transportation. If I had to live in the Orange County/LA area again, I'd start driving again, simply because the infrastructure is set up such that it's the most efficient form of transportation for anything farther away than walking or cycling distance. Even if it doesn't look like it to the rest of the world. I'm finally car-free, but it's only because I've managed to move to an area where a car is absolutely the wrong tool for any place I want to go to here. Of course, I live in SF proper, and have little interest in heading to the suburbs again anytime soon. I guess I miss out on a lot of things, but it is what it is.
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Old 06-17-13, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by fat_bike_nut View Post
Even if it doesn't look like it to the rest of the world. I'm finally car-free, but it's only because I've managed to move to an area where a car is absolutely the wrong tool for any place I want to go to here.
If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. The issue is that many people cannot be self-reflective enough to know they are using their transportation resources poorly. They have one tool... the automobile... and use it to solve every transportation need.
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Old 06-18-13, 06:37 PM
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[QUOTE=ro-monster;15750581
Trips like this one really make me wish for better public transit! If I want to visit San Francisco or San Jose, it's easy, but I miss out on a lot of interesting activities in suburbs and outlying towns because it's either impossible or ridiculously time-consuming to get there. Do the rest of you experience things like this? What do you do in those cases?[/QUOTE]

I have very good public transit living in New Jersey and close to New York City. I find that bringing along the bike on board the train allows me to reach many destinations that would have required multiple transfers by bus. Timing the buses and trains is important or you'll spend alot of time waiting. Most transit agencies have the time schedules online but very few people make use of them. It really requires a little bit of planning a day ahead but works!

For example, I take my folder over a bridge saving $12.00 dollar toll! Then I'll board a New York City bus which goes over a restricted bridge (another toll) saving $24.00 dollars in total.

Having a folding bike or kick scooter can allow you to board inside the cabin of the bus and I've done this a number of times. The bus or tain may not leave you close to the stop but 5 or 10 miles isn't far on a folder. Heck, it's not that far on a kick scooter (Xootr) either!

To be honest, I've saved so much money over the years from not driving, that if I really needed to take a cab, it would not break the bank at all.
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Old 06-18-13, 09:39 PM
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I can feel your pain. The town I grew up in had a very comprehensive bus system. You were rarely more than a mile from a line. The problem was, they all went to a central transfer point. All spokes and no wheel. So frustrating! A 5 minute car trip could take hours on the bus. Sadly, it's still that way. That's why Jesus rode a bicycle.
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Old 06-20-13, 06:40 PM
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When I first moved to central Ill. I learned to use the transit service here to get to work, well ... now I hate to get on the damn things!!
Everybody's ghetto attitudes and drama permeates the bus 10 seconds into your trip! I'm pretty ecstatic when no one is on it but me and the driver! It's like a Jerry Springer show on every ride,(I hate the show)
It's increasingly hard to bike anywhere here without some college kid with a rental car cutting you off!!!
Going back up north, where you can bike anywhere in town in 20 minutes! Yay!
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Old 06-20-13, 11:10 PM
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Perhaps I didn't express my main point very well. It wasn't so much that public transportation outside the main corridors leaves much to be desired; everyone here knows that. What I'm interested in learning is this: How do folks who don't have cars approach the problem of getting to those places that are impractical for a reasonably quick bike trip, but equally impractical to reach via transit? Do you simply limit your activities to whatever is within easy biking distance? Do you get rides with other people? Do you spend hours getting there? Rent cars? Or use some other way that I never thought of?
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Old 06-21-13, 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
Perhaps I didn't express my main point very well. It wasn't so much that public transportation outside the main corridors leaves much to be desired; everyone here knows that. What I'm interested in learning is this: How do folks who don't have cars approach the problem of getting to those places that are impractical for a reasonably quick bike trip, but equally impractical to reach via transit? Do you simply limit your activities to whatever is within easy biking distance? Do you get rides with other people? Do you spend hours getting there? Rent cars? Or use some other way that I never thought of?
I tend to avoid those areas. About the only reason I might have to go out into the suburbs would be to go to a hypermarket, but by doing my shopping in or near to the town center, I sometimes pay a little more than I might if I ventured outside of my sphere, and when time and transport costs are figured in, I think I actually save money and my euros go to small businesses. In my street there are five or six greengrocers, three fishmongers, a couple of bakeries, umpteen bars... All of them seem to be doing well in spite of the dire economic situation. It makes me feel good to see these people prospering, and studies show that a good percentage of the money spent in small businesses stays in the neighborhood.
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Old 06-21-13, 05:18 AM
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Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
Perhaps I didn't express my main point very well. It wasn't so much that public transportation outside the main corridors leaves much to be desired; everyone here knows that. What I'm interested in learning is this: How do folks who don't have cars approach the problem of getting to those places that are impractical for a reasonably quick bike trip, but equally impractical to reach via transit? Do you simply limit your activities to whatever is within easy biking distance? Do you get rides with other people? Do you spend hours getting there? Rent cars? Or use some other way that I never thought of?
It will depend on YOUR choices. I used to limit my activities to the local area. My son lives car free in the Boston area, he will rent a Zip-Car or a regular rental car if he really, really wants to go to something that is not reachable by mass transit. That happens maybe twice a year. YOU have to decide what is important to you and how much time/money you want to invest getting there.

Aaron
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Old 06-21-13, 06:47 AM
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I think the above two posts sum it up pretty well. If you just need groceries or entertainment, keep it local. If, in a case like yours, you need to make a rare trip to an out of the way location, consider alternatives like zip car.
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Old 06-21-13, 09:24 AM
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There are a couple places that I would like to visit, but it's almost impossible to get there without a car. For example, I would go to tha two small towns in southwest Michigan where my grandmothers lived, just to make a sentimental journey. These towns are at most 100 miles away, but there's no connecting bus or train service. I could ride my bike, but that would take two or three days. I could rent a car, but that would cost more than I want to spend. So I will probably see if my sister wants to join me on a sentimental journey. That will involve her driving her car 200 miles to my house for the 100 mile journey.

This points out the stupidity of our current infrastructure. I could get to Sydney, Australia (9,407 miles) more easily--and probably faster--than I could get to Three Rivers, MI, 93 miles away! Also, 100 years ago I could have taken an interurban to grandma's house for only two or three dollars.
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Old 06-21-13, 10:20 AM
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+1 Zipcar makes a car-free lifestyle so much easier!
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Old 06-21-13, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by sauerwald View Post
+1 Zipcar makes a car-free lifestyle so much easier!
I don't know much about zipcar, but I thought it was mainly for short trips, like an hour or two?
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Old 06-21-13, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I could get to Sydney, Australia (9,407 miles) more easily--and probably faster--than I could get to Three Rivers, MI, 93 miles away! Also, 100 years ago I could have taken an interurban to grandma's house for only two or three dollars.
You can get there quickly today by renting a car but don't want to pay for it. The cost R/T is probably comparable to six dollars in 1913 money.

Sounds like you would rather see if your sister is willing to spend the time, and $ for the gasoline needed for driving 400 miles R/T to pick you up and taxi you to your destination.
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Old 06-21-13, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
so the trip entails taking one bus about 15 miles to the north, then a second bus that heads back south about 8 miles along a very steep and convoluted route, and finally a 2-mile bike ride.
Since you had to go a long way north and then a long way south again,and had a bike with you, could you have used the bike somewhere in the middle to hop over the spine? Or not feasible?
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Old 06-21-13, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
You can get there quickly today by renting a car but don't want to pay for it. The cost R/T is probably comparable to six dollars in 1913 money.

Sounds like you would rather see if your sister is willing to spend the time, and $ for the gasoline needed for driving 400 miles R/T to pick you up and taxi you to your destination.
Yes, I am a horrible stingy greedy person.

I don't mind paying. I just don't want to do the driving. If I do pay, I will pay in 1913 dollars and save a lot of money.

At the widely accepted cost of 55 cents per mile, the round trip by personal car will cost more than $100. And another $200 for my sister's portion of the trip. You might know where to rent a car for six dollars, I do not.
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Old 06-21-13, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
What I'm interested in learning is this: How do folks who don't have cars approach the problem of getting to those places that are impractical for a reasonably quick bike trip, but equally impractical to reach via transit? Do you simply limit your activities to whatever is within easy biking distance? Do you get rides with other people? Do you spend hours getting there? Rent cars? Or use some other way that I never thought of?
To answer your question: I limit my activities to whatever is easily accessible on foot, by bicycle, or by public transit. If the travel is more impractical than any of those 3 methods, I tend to just skip it and deal with the fact that I'm going to miss out on some stuff if I stick with a car-free lifestyle. If it's important enough to warrant a car (like a seriously ill relative 100 miles away), I'll just rent a car. I'm saving quite a bit of money on gas, insurance, maintenance, and parking fees/tickets (not to mention my blood pressure) by not driving.
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Old 06-21-13, 06:34 PM
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If you can't go one place, go someplace else.
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Old 06-21-13, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ro-monster View Post
How do folks who don't have cars approach the problem of getting to those places that are impractical for a reasonably quick bike trip, but equally impractical to reach via transit?
First off, public transport isn't really an option for me - ever, there are large parts of Colorado Springs that have no bus service at all, and where the bus routes do exist, you can get between points faster on a bike anyways. So going car-free here pretty much requires doing most everything by bike, I can deal with it because I live within reasonable distance of all the places I need to go on a daily basis, and I can ride to any place in my city or its surrounding area if I budget the time (being a strong rider as a result of much time spent riding recreationally helps). The 2-3 exceptional trips each year, like the annual Denver Veloswap, tend to be things I want to do and places I want to go with friends and family anyways, so it's easy to carpool when necessary.
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Old 06-21-13, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
If you can't go one place, go someplace else.
Right, you could visit someone else's grandmothers' houses within your bicycling radius and your previously posted 93 mile dilemma could be resolved without spending a dime.
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Old 06-21-13, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Right, you could visit someone else's grandmothers' houses within your bicycling radius and your previously posted 93 mile dilemma could be resolved without spending a dime.
I took a Greyhound 200 miles to visit my parents when they were old and sick, every four weeks for almost 12 years. I'm going back with my son next month, to finally put my dad's ashes with mom's. We will be taking the bus, of course.

Unfortunately, Greyhound cut service to grandma's town since I last visited 35 years ago. I remember standing in the bus aisle from Detroit to Three Rivers one Christmas Eve when I was about 13. I might end up taking a sleigh to grandmother's house next time, if I ever go.
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Old 06-22-13, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by nashvillwill View Post
I think the above two posts sum it up pretty well. If you just need groceries or entertainment, keep it local. If, in a case like yours, you need to make a rare trip to an out of the way location, consider alternatives like zip car.
I love Zipcar, and used it once or twice a month when I lived in San Francisco. There, I could have my choice of 30+ cars within a short walk from my apartment. But when my job moved from its suburban location to an even more distant suburban location, I moved with it. I was already spending over 3 hours a day commuting via bike and train (or sometimes walking and train). By moving, I cut that down to 40 minutes a day, all via bike. All the daily necessities are actually more convenient than they were in SF; just about everything you need is easy to reach by foot or bike. Nearly all our food comes from the weekly farmers market; we take the bus to that.

But Zipcar is another story. I kept my membership in the hope that they would bring service to the Peninsula, and it is very slowly inching closer to where I live. However, getting a car now requires walking 3/4 mile to the train station, then taking the train three towns south. So it's no longer practical, except for rare special occasions.

The event I attended was a one-day Zen meditation sitting. For things like this, you don't really get alternatives in other locations, and they are often held in places that are somewhat out of the way. I could have used a Zipcar, but it would have been much more expensive than the bus, and not a whole lot faster considering the time it takes to get to the cars.

Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I don't know much about zipcar, but I thought it was mainly for short trips, like an hour or two?
Its primary purpose is short trips, but you can reserve a car for up to 4 consecutive days. Once you go over 6 hours, a flat 24-hour rate kicks in. You are limited to 180 miles/day, so you can't do a lot of traveling.

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Old 06-22-13, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
Since you had to go a long way north and then a long way south again,and had a bike with you, could you have used the bike somewhere in the middle to hop over the spine? Or not feasible?
Well, sort of. There are two possible routes, one by road and one by trails that require a mountain bike (which isn't an issue, since I have one). By using one of those, I could go about 10 miles out of the way instead of 15. Both routes are extremely steep, though, and I'm not a strong climber, so I'd probably have to walk a lot. There are no public roads or trails that go more directly across.

I did discover (after my trip) that I could ride 5-8 miles on each end of the trip and take a different bus over the steep middle part, though. That probably wouldn't save much time but it would be a lot more fun, especially since the second bike segment would be a pretty trail along the beach. I think I'll try that next time!
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