The Bus Ride to Guidance

(Thursday October 4, 2007)

As part of Guidance Solutions’ commitment to a sustainable environment, we celebrated National Rideshare Week today by altering the way we commute to work.

So, this morning at 8:15 A.M. PT, I left the Porsche in the garage, kissed my kids and wife goodbye after breakfast, helped them into their SUV, and I walked up my street headed for the bus stop.

This morning’s ride marked my first local bus ride in over 20 years. As a kid, my buddies and I used to ride the “Big Blue” from our homes to the beach to surf in the summer. But this was the first time I rode the bus to work. And while it was new in many respects, the trip itself was quite familiar.

One of the first things I noticed (and remembered) was how close the actual bus stop bench was to the street. As I sat down, my size 12’s were right on the edge of the curb, almost hanging out into the 45 MHP traffic headed down my hill.

Sitting next to me on my bench was a 19-year-old girl listening to her iPod Shuffle. She was well dressed and drinking a Starbucks Grande “Drip” coffee. Once finished, she lit up a Marboro Red and I quickly started to question whether I had made the right decision that morning. The blowback from the speeding cars blew her toxic addiction into my unsuspecting Blackberry session. Indeed, it was a rude awakening. Now it was 8:20.

Soon the bus arrived. I boarded the orange Metro 232 and asked the driver for a transfer. I paid the $1.55 fee and took my paultry paper pass for the connection to bus number 2.

The bus was only half filled. A myriad of passengers included men, women, students, young, old, leather shoe, tennis shoe, awake, asleep, talking, moaning, reading, zoning. All types.

I wondered if I was the only person on the bus who normally drove to work. Was I celebrating National Rideshare Week alone? Could all of these folks be regular bus riders? Did they have cars?

One guy sitting across from me got off the bus and grabbed his 10-speed off the front of the bus. He slammed the bike rack closed and headed off down the sidewalk.

The bus driver yelled, “It will break that way!” And after no response by the biker, the driver followed that with, “Jerk!”

Now things were getting fun.

Slow-going to Rosecrans (going north on Sepulveda), we found the intersection light to be out. A motorcycle officer was directing the mile-long tail of traffic. We crossed the intersection and our speed and collective tempers seemed to improve.

A voice from the bus’s CB radio could be heard shrieking throughout. It was a woman driver on another bus calling for 911 assistance. She had a wheelchair passenger who had fallen out of his wheelchair face down on the bus. The driver wanted an ambulance to assist, as she was self-admittedly uncomfortable handling the fallen man.

Soon after, we approached LAX and I knew we were close to the bus station where I would catch my second bus. I popped up and asked the driver if he would “let me know” when we arrived at the bus station, assuming it wasn’t obvious.

The bus driver pulled down his classic Don Henley Varnets and offered, “It’s pretty obvious, and sure… I’ll let you know.”

Feeling like a tourist in my own town – remember, I grew up less than 10 miles from LAX – I sat back down and kept an eye open for the station.

We arrived to a small island of benches and signs, and we all departed. Ten minutes later, the Big Blue #3 North Bound arrived on time and swooped a score of us from the concrete island.

Now northbound on Lincoln Blvd, the bus felt a little tighter. The seats were closer together. We were moving faster with fewer stops.

As we got close to Maxella, I noticed that the bus’s recording was announcing the stops. “Next Stop – Lincoln And Maxella,” the synthsized voice exclaimed. I had arrived.

With a quick thanks to the driver, I stepped off the bus right into the Starbuck parking lot. “Why not,” I thought. So at roughly 9:15 I strolled into the coffee house and paid $1.80 for my Grande Mild. And the old expression of “costing less than a cup of coffee” came to mind.

After a quick stroll back to the office, I noticed that the Guidance parking lot was pretty empty, even for 9:15. I ran into one employee who told me that he rode in with 4 other employees. Happily, I was not alone in my Rideshare adventure.

Later…

I left the office at 5 on the nose. I wanted to try to miss the crowds and the traffic. It was to no avail.

So I put my glasses on, openned a book and read for 20 minutes. The bus station came and went and I was back on the 232 heading for my neighborhood. 20 more minutes and I was there.

When I stepped off the bus – a mere 200 yards from my front door – I recalled the days events and the significance of my adventure; no, my experiment; no, my rideshare.

Compared to my normal commute:

  • Extra time “out of my way:” about 20 minutes total
  • Pages read: +50
  • Blackberry emails sent: +10
  • Phonecalls made: +2
  • Gas saved: ~2 gals ($6)
  • Cost: $3.10 (or a savings of over $50)

Walking to my front door, I considered taking the bus once per month, perhaps. Why not?

Ironically, the next morning I jumped in my hot rod and headed down the street. A little bumpier than normal. Hummmm. To my surprise, it was a flat rear tire.

4 hours later, and a whopping $625 for another hunk of tread, I thought to myself, “I could ride the bus for a year for what a single tire just cost me.”

–jason

P.S. during my 2 hour wait for the new tire, I watched An Inconvenient Truth on TV – for the third time.

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