My Chariot Awaits! An Ode to Mass Transit
One of the biggest changes that came with my new job is its location. Rather than a
relatively easy drive to the edge of Bellevue, I am now diving into the new heart (at least in terms of vibrancy) of downtown Seattle every day- South Lake Union. For many, this lengthening of my commute would be viewed as a negative, but I decided to embrace it and use it as an opportunity to get back to a lower impact form of travel- mass transit.
Now, it isn’t mass transit in its purest form- I DO still drive to the Park n’ Ride closest to my house, but it’s a short drive along some lovely twisty roads, that are not congested at the time I travel them. I enjoy my short little jaunt down to the P&R and should I get stuck behind someone who doesn’t subscribe to the belief that “you should drive like you are excited to get where you are going” (fast!) vs. “drive like you are headed somewhere unpleasant” (slow!), I take a deep breath and remind myself that another bus will be along in 15- 20 minutes to whisk me downtown.
As a Seattlite (okay, I live in Redmond now, but whatever), I love riding the bus, though this was not a perspective I grew up with. I grew up in Long Beach, CA, where the bus was viewed (at least by me and my peers) with extreme disdain- a necessary evil. Steve Martin’s hilarious depiction of LA’s obsession with cars in 1991’s LA Story (sure, I’m dating myself…) perfectly captures southern California’s historically frosty relationship with mass transit. The song “Walking in LA” with it’s refrain of nobody walks in LA was absolutely true.
Before I go down the rabbit hole of transit related movies and songs, back to our story. Despite being a longer commute, about 45- 50 minutes door to door, those minutes are MINE! On the bus, I settle in, grab my Kindle (which is probably another blog post- I LOVE my Kindle Fire), and relax into the gentle sway of the bus as it delivers me downtown. On numerous occasions already, I have had to leap up in order to avoid missing my stop, I’ve been so engrossed in my book. Even when it’s crowded and I’m stuck standing- I make a game of trying to balance effortlessly, as if I am an old sailor on deck of a ship in rough seas.
It is not just the reading time that I enjoy, I love being a part of the crowd on the bus. I enjoy people watching and thinking about their diverse lives, engineers, students, office workers, even the eccentrics- it’s a human tapestry that I can observe and participate in every day. It makes me feel connected to be people in a visceral way and reminds me of how universal public transport is- the press of bodies when it’s crowded, the careful calculus unconsciously employed to spread out evenly when it’ not. Worldwide, people are far more familiar with public transport than with cars and there is something lovely about leveraging a shared resource- that allows low and high to conduct the important business of their lives efficiently.
Beyond the bus itself, I also revel in the walk from my bus stop to my office. I love the
crispness of the air, the bustle of the city as it’s waking up in the morning, the faces that are becoming regulars along my route, the art gallery where I ogle the paintings in the windows as I pass by, the people walking their tiny city dogs, the opportunity to stretch my legs before the inactivity of an office job overtakes me.
Now, when winter rolls around, and it’s cold and wet on the bus, and that press of bodies brings the smell of musty jackets (and bodies) with it, it may not be quite such a pleasant ride, but even then, it will be a fair tradeoff for the reduced stress and cost of driving in and out of the city each day.
Viva la bus!