(Mis)Adventures in Public Transportation

(Found at the bus stop, and I have sooooo many questions.)

During this season where we save money for a second car I’m using the public transportation to get to my classes. I had this idealistic and romantic ideation about it before attempting… I’ve had three days of misadventures.

I left my house at 8:50 to walk half a mile to board the 9 am bus to head to the southern portion of the city for my 10:35 am class. This was seriously the shortest commute option allowing me to arrive early/on-time for class. I was so excited about the opportunity to sit quietly and read my book for the duration of my trip. Well… I didn’t get my hydration schedule correct and about 20 minutes into the trip desperately needed a restroom stop. Oops. This led to feeling overheated and I almost felt nauseous. Well darn. So I did a lot of looking out the window and praying. Switched to the train and then had a half mile walk to the club. Fast-forward to the last five minutes of class and the power went out… nbd I thought. Until… I arrived at the train platform and realized power was out for a huge portion of the city. This meant no trains. At all. Thankfully Twitter conversations with RTD employees kept us posted about the possibility of a shuttle rescue. And I made friends with a momma when I gave her a lara bar to share with her hungry kiddos. I waited on the train platform for 1.5 hours before Jeremy rescued me. We took a detour to Costco since it was convenient and we arrived home somewhere in the 3:30-4:00 range because of our stop. So actual total commute time… unknown. But I’m guessing it will be at least four hours total travel time.

For today’s commute I decided to carry my external battery pack so I could listen to podcasts on the ride in case of motion sickness- brilliant. I left my house at 9:17 am and walked half a mile to the bus stop to catch a 9:30 bus and everything went smoothly until… I couldn’t figure out how to let the bus driver know which stop I needed! Ugh. Missed my stop and ended up with a mile walk to get to the gym instead. Oops. This commute was made especially possible because the best arrival option for my 11 am class was 10:25 if I had figured out my stop appropriately. Since I didn’t I had all the time I needed to walk the mile route and arrive on-time/early. But seriously going forward I will be arriving 35 minutes early because that’s the best commuting option. Finished class, and snacked on some jerky as I walked half a mile to the train stop to realize I’d just missed the earlier train and would now have a 20 minute wait for the next one right next to the highway with all the noise and blowing debris kicked up by the cars. Gross and loud. The transfer to a bus went smoothly and was uneventful all the way home… by 1:15pm. Three hours of commute time for a one hour class.

I again chose podcasts as my form of entertainment and this was again a good idea. I left my house by 11:40 am to catch a 11:49 bus… it never showed (or maybe it arrived at this stop early so I was SOL in spite of being there more than five minutes early). I looked on the live update system and realized that the next arriving bus would make me late to the train and thus late to class so I ended up running .75 miles to get to the train and arrived with one minute to spare. Nothing like climbing onto an air conditioned train when you’re literally a hot mess from having run in 90 degree weather carrying your pilates mat and a water bottle. Transferred to the free mall ride and then arrived to class on time/early. Whew. For my ride home I had two bus options I could use based on which one arrived first- so convenient. The ride home was uneventful and I made it inside by 2:40 pm. Two hours of commute time for a one hour class.

Y’all. Y’ALL. This public transportation stuff is not for the faint of heart! It’s wildly inconvenient, horribly inconsistent, horribly run and utterly confusing. I am a well-educated, intelligent, savvy individual and I’m finding that it’s HARD to use public transportation.

All of my commutes have me on the bus/train etc during normal ‘lunch times’ so I’m going to be navigating easy to eat, transportable meals that I can eat quickly while waiting on my bus or train because I can’t eat or drink on the conveyance. Mildly inconvenient, but in and of itself a reasonable problem to solve. Added in to these other challenges and frankly… using public transportation is exhausting. My need for routine and schedule is showing.

Each of my travel days requires using different combinations of train and bus to get where I’m going. I’m in the process of getting a crash course of 3-5 bus routes and 2-4 train routes to successfully get to and from where I need to go and arriving on time (but not insanely early when it can be avoided). I’ve learned that a variety of stops and transfers are also necessary to my commute. There’s this constant alertness required rather than a peaceful zone-out. My need for control is showing.

Also, people are gross. There was trash left at every stop in spite of multiple trash receptacles. Multiple pieces of trash left on conveyances… And then there’s the unwashed bodies, smokers, legal and illegal substance aromas and exhaust smells. My introversion is showing.

My privilege is showing.

I was hoping to be able to convey these things in a humorous way, but I’m finding it’s striking all these empathy cords in me for people who only have this option for transportation. There were people stranded on Friday that were seriously stranded until the train started again or a shuttle was provided. And RTD was giving NO ETAs on either option.

I knew that at any moment I could call a Lyft/Uber etc and get home. But I really wasn’t in a hurry and knew that if Jeremy needed to rescue me we could turn it into a moderately convenient run to the grocery store. He’d have to drive 20+ minutes out of his way to get to me, but we could redeem the trip. There were people there that didn’t have this option.

And today, again, if necessary I could have requested a Lyft/Uber to get downtown, but dang it. I really want this system to work. I want the peaceful commute where I read or listen to a podcast while someone else transports me. I’m just finding there’s a bit more angst in my heart over how this is going than originally anticipated. And I’m finding that it’s a much harder system for people to rely on than originally anticipated.

How do people who rely on public transportation systems out of necessity full time survive? Maybe no one else is using as many combinations of buses and trains? Or maybe it’s only Denver’s system that is this bad?

Basically my newest part-time hobby is commuting to my pilates classes. And a season of growth that I wasn’t expecting. Please Lord Jesus can we have a second car soon?

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