As a result of my recent divorce, I will soon lose access to using a car on a regular basis. As much as I’d like to still have a car, I simply can’t afford the gas, the upkeep, the registration, the repairs, etc., etc., much less afford to buy a car myself. This isn’t as much of a hardship as it might seem at first; I telecommute to my job, I live within walking distance to a grocery store and other shopping opportunities, and best of all I live close to two good bus lines that will take me to or take me to where I can connect to another bus or train to just about anywhere I’d want to go in the metropolitan area. I plan to buy a bicycle in the coming months as well. There are opportunities to participate in car-sharing and rental programs, which may be helpful from time to time, though they can be expensive.
So my main mode of transportation will be the bus and train for most of the places I want to go. The bus comes by every 15-20 minutes or sooner 7 days a week. It’s nice, in a way, to just get on the bus and let someone else deal with the traffic, and to not have to look for or pay for a parking space. Our public transportation system here in PDX is TriMet, one of the best in the country, and I feel fortunate to live where there are many options for getting around.
The main thing I find in making this switch from private to public transportation is that it requires a shift in thinking. Obviously it takes longer to get where I’m going since I’m not just jumping into the car and taking off, so some trip planning and checking schedules is in order. And sometimes I’ll need to transfer to another bus line, or to the train, so what about making the connection? Will I have time enough to get where I’m going and do what I need to do? TriMet has a “trip planner” that helps with that, but sometimes it doesn’t fully help with what I’m planning, if I’m planning for more than one destination per trip.
For example, a couple of weeks ago I decided to do some shopping in a nearby area, but I needed to transfer to another bus line to get there. I planned to get off the bus, do some errands there, get back on the bus and ride to another area to complete my errands, then get back on the bus again and transfer once more to get back home. This would be about a 2-hour excursion, which I could complete, including stops for shopping, in about half an hour with a car. And some of this shift to public transportation includes not only allowing for extra time, but what to do with some of that extra time waiting and the time riding, but that’s where taking along a small needlework project or a good book is helpful.
So, getting around for me will be different now; not bad, just different. Would I rather have a car? Sure, it’s what I’ve been used to for most of my life. But somehow it seems rethinking my transportation options and taking advantage of what’s available will be very satisfactory indeed.