Car Commuter Turned Bus Rider, and I’m Never Going Back

Getting Around by Jackie Stone from the Austin Post June 20, 2012

Two years ago, I was working for the daily newspaper in Killeen and practically living out of my car. I drove an hour to work and an hour home at night. Although I had planned to move to Killeen when I started the job, I had a sweet deal on rent in Austin and then fell into family and social relationships that tipped the scales to commuting daily, despite the distance.

And, honestly, I became a fan. Though my friends grimaced with sympathy when I talked about the drive, I had no trouble with the hour during which I would catch up on NPR, the Top 40 or books on tape. I reached that sweet spot of driving monotony where you are at once completely aware of your surroundings and completely detached. It is a Zen feeling many commuters understand.

When my opportunity to return to Austin proper and work for the Austin Post presented itself, I jumped at the chance to leave my commuting ways behind. And of course, once I no longer had to drive all the time, I found myself suddenly reluctant to drive anywhere. I began walking to the grocery store and biking to get coffee. But I didn’t turn to public transportation.

When I first moved to Austin seven years ago to go to college at UT, I had tried out the bus system but rejected it thanks to a pair of bad experiences (one hour-and-a-half trip from campus to the mall that I could have made in 15 minutes in a car, and a broken-down bus that made me an hour late for an interview.)

I don’t like relying on other people’s timing, and I really enjoy a good drive. Bus riding was never likely to appeal to me.

But recent circumstances led me to begin riding the bus regularly, and I find myself surprisingly enamored of the process. This summer, I decided to take some classes. My home is fortuitously located on a Cap Metro route that runs roughly from my front porch to campus. Since parking is increasingly expensive and frustrating in Central Austin, I decided to give the bus system another shot.

Lo and behold, my reaction this time is one of joy and satisfaction. Instead of leaving at the last minute, still sliding my shoes into my feet and trailing my purse behind me as I rush out the door, I have to prepare. I arise from bed earlier to make sure I have time to check my emails and start my day for The Post before I go to class, making a cup of tea and planning my day. On the bus, I have time to relax and catch up on reading, muse on my surroundings and occasionally start writing a story (like this one!) while I ride.

The slower pace ensures that I take the time to breathe, and if the bus is late (let’s be real, it does happen and makes me late for class or work when it does), I am allowed to give that up to the bus-gods and say it is beyond my control.

When my class is over, I am at the mercy of the bus schedule once again. But instead of being frustrated by having to wait at the bus stop, I find again that it seems like an opportunity to take my time and use it well. I can go to the Vietnamese place near the bus stop and have lunch while I wait, without feeling like I have to cram lunch in at my desk whenever I remember it. (Some studies suggest that eating while you work increases your chances of obesity and getting food poisoning, so keep those excuses in mind when your boss asks you if you really had to stay out of the office at lunch so long.)

Now a few weeks into my bus-riding experiment, I’ve extended my busing to the weekends, following the line down to Mozart’s on Lake Austin for a cup of coffee and some study time, and so far, so good.

There are still plenty of times when I want to drive my car, whether I absolutely have to be somewhere on time, or just because I enjoy a good leisurely drive once in a while. But I don’t think I’ll ever be up for commuting like I used to, and Cap Metro is now a regular part of my routine. I don’t see that changing even after my summer classes are through.

The original article can be found here.

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