Saturday, July 21, 2007

No bus route

I've heard many excuses for not riding mass transit, but the one I hear the most is that there is not a convenient bus route that matches where the person wants to go. I thought this was the case for me personally for a long time until I discovered deadheading buses. Imagine the typical US city with a downtown in the center (generally) surrounded by suburbs. Buses run in the morning carrying the throng of people from the suburbs to the city center. Because there are fewer people going away from the city center in the morning, they run empty (what is called a "dead head run") from the city center back to the suburbs to then pick up another load of passengers. Any bus scheduler will tell you that it is almost impossible to avoid some dead head runs, but the good news is that most bus companies will still let riders travel on the dead heading buses. In my example, I travel from near the city center against the majority of traffic. I never thought there was a fast bus that traveled in that direction so I would either drive or wake up obscenely early to ride my bike or take the combination of TRAX and the 811.

If anyone is familiar with the 811, you know what it's like. It's a 93 series bus generally, which means that it tops out at 55 mph on the freeway and wasn't even built for the freeway to begin with. It's generally packed with people (most of which wouldn't be riding it if they knew of other options) and stops every few yards as it lumbers along it's route. Not to mention that air seems to seep right through the windows as well as through the floor and doors... and roof and everywhere. This provides the opportunity to get the sauna feeling in the summer and the ice cream isle feeling in the winter. I thought the above were my only options that I could ride until I saw a dead heading bus one day completely empty. You can imagine the situation... me, standing on the 811 (because there's no where to sit) huddled next to the most pleasant people in the world and as I gaze out the window at the mountains, I see a nice commuter bus (see pic below) cruising by completely empty! So I said to myself, "Self, I REALLY need to be on that bus!" I emailed UTA that day and they informed me that I could ride those dead heading buses. The next day I caught one.

I was hooked! It was just as fast as driving because the bus makes no stops until it gets back out to the suburbs (or Orem in my case). It's a straight shot at 75 MPH from Salt Lake City to Orem and it is amazing. It affords me about 40 minutes extra studying time, reading time, or SLEEPING time. Hello, who wouldn't want to catch an extra 40 minute nap to and from work? So I ride a dead heading bus (there are many of them) nearly every day and going to work is so much more enjoyable now!

If you think you can't ride the bus because there is no route available to you, it may be worth contacting your local transit authority and asking them if there is a dead heading bus that may fit your schedule. I have been emailing UTA once every few months asking them to advertise the dead heading buses, so I hope they do one day. I hope they don't change the route that they run, but at least advertise them!

Most people however can ride the normal express buses (VERY fast options=Bus# 801-810) easily. In addition, many large companies will offer cheap bus passes to their employees which makes the commute drastically cheaper than driving and just as fast with nearly front door service in downtown SLC. Even if your company doesn't give you a cheap pass, a monthly express bus pass (including TRAX and all other buses) is $107. With just a little arithmetic and gas at $3/gallon, that means you would only need to make about 11 trips from Orem to SLC and back to break even on a monthly pass (assuming you get 25mpg). Many people make more than 11 trips to SLC and back in a month, so it's quite cheap. Not to mention less wear and tear on the car and the ability to arrive at work much more relaxed.

oh yeah, and if you're looking for pics of our Bald Mountain hike (cause I know you are...), they can be found at The Bradlee Duncans

No comments: