At least the bus stop has a poetry board.
At least the bus stop has a poetry board.

Several weeks ago I rode my bike to work in what was supposed to be the start of a regular thing. But then friends wanted us to meet them at Richard’s Goat that evening and one thing led to another and then it was dark, so my husband gave me a lift in the car. My bike has patiently sat in the office building since. (Sorry, Bike to Work Month!)

Today, inspired once again, I took the bus to Arcata so that I would be forced to ride my bike home. I take the bus maybe a few times a year at most; my $10 pass lasted from 2013 to last month, when I gave it to my daughter, so I was clueless to the current fare. Good thing I’d shoved some bills into my pocket, because the handful of quarters I’d grabbed wasn’t nearly enough. When the driver asked for $3, my proverbial jaw dropped – to drive the 5.5 miles at $4 per gallon costs me about 64 cents based on my car’s average of 34 mpg.

If I bought a monthly pass for $59, that’s still more than double the $28 the gas would cost. Plus my car gets me to the office door, whereas the nearest bus stop is half a mile away.

If one factors in the entire cost of car ownership (insurance, registration, maintenance, car payment) then yes, eschewing a personal auto in favor of bus riding seems brilliant – until considering the infrequency of bus service to the peninsula. The Redwood Transit System includes only five stops in 13 hours. I suppose I could just leave the house less, but let’s be real. Even if I bussed to work five times per week, I’d need a car for everything else.

I realize none of this is a new or previously unnoticed reality, but experiencing it this morning made me sad because I’m a fan, in principle, of public transit and for those of us who have a choice, public transit is too expensive and inconvenient to make the switch. For the folks who don’t – ouch – and as soon as they do, they’ll likely opt out. This keeps the public transport option in an ineffective and marginalized zone.

The bicycle, now that’s a fine and cost-effective option. Except for the lack of an adequately safe route from the spit to town…

Sigh.

But I’m aiming for twice a week via bike. It’s summer. It should be doable. And I’ll save $2.54 on gas – almost enough for one-way bus fare.

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