Mass Transit, Not Quite There

I’ve had two days over the past few weeks, where I decided to try the bus instead of biking. With the Washington Bridge walkway closed, my bike commute distance is now about 16 miles each way. Assuming I don’t flat or have some other sort of bicycle mishap, I can pretty much guarantee a one hour door-to-door time. My experience driving during peek rush hour has been, the commute in via car is about the same as biking, my commute home is almost always faster by car. I was curious to see what RIPTA could do for me. So here are some of my thoughts/observations:

  1. The bus schedules should be treated as advisory only. In the morning, the buses seem to run pretty close to the published schedule. However, in the afternoon, I consistently noticed the buses were ten to twenty minutes late. Naturally, the first time I depend on the buses being late in the afternoon, will be the time they are actually running on time. I don’t fault the drivers for this, they have no control over the traffic jams they face coming and going from the city. It does make me wonder though, with all of the reconstruction involved with the 195 relocation, are RIPTA and/or RIDOT looking into carpool or bus only lanes? Even if they are only active during commute times, this could really help bolster public transportation, especially if people begin to realize they can commute faster via bus than their own cars.
  2. The buses seem to end up grouped together. The bus I rode home yesterday was about twenty minutes late, it was immediately followed by a second bus, that was originally scheduled to be 15 minutes behind the first bus. This can be a definitely problem when people are expecting a bus every 15 or so minutes and they all go by in one big clump. This seems to be more of a problem on the way out of the city than on the way in.
  3. Some buses seemed to be over stuffed, while others are almost empty. I rode a bus into the city a couple weeks back that had a sum total of five people! I suspect his has to do with point number two.
  4. If I include the time walking to and from the bus stops, the riding the bus is slower. Because of the delayed buses out of the city, riding the bus home can be significantly longer.

Bottom line, the hassle of riding the bus isn’t worth it. I have more freedom with my bike, can come and go when I please, and it’s no slower. Quite frankly, I was surprised that I couldn’t even match my bike times over a 16 mile commute.

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