Car is in the shop today, so I’m using public transit

Most days I drive myself to work in my own vehicle. As much as I’d like to take public transit and let someone else do the driving, it’s not practical in my situation. As much as I complain about my commute, it’s only about an hour and 20 minutes round trip. If I were to take public transit, it would be an hour and 45 minutes each way. That’d be two hours and 10 minutes more time spent commuting every single day. Yuck.

Today, however, my car is in the shop, so I had some choices to make. I could rent a car and do the same commute I always do, just with a different car. Or I could take an Uber or Lyft from the shop to work and back, which would be almost like my usual commute, just with a different car and a different driver. Or I could use public transit for part or all of the commute. Today I decided to drop the car off at the shop and take public transit all the way to work from there.

From the shop, the commute would be about one hour and a 30 minutes each way, the shop being not far from my home. It would involve a combination of bus and light rail travel and cost a whopping $4 for the round trip.

Since the first part of the inbound journey was by bus, I would need either exact change or a prepaid ticket. Since I had neither, my first stop after leaving my house at 5:55 am was the local 7-Eleven, where I traded a $10 bill for an all-day fare card and $6 in change.

It was about 6:05 am by the time I dropped off my car, put the key in the drop box, and walked to the nearest bus stop. I used the five-digit code on the bus stop sign to send a text message to find out when the next bus was coming. Immediately I received a reply that the next bus was at 6:13. The bus arrived at 6:11. It’s important to remember that, for bus routes, the scheduled times are only accurate for the major intersections, and then you’re only assured it won’t leave early. Between the major intersections, the time provided is just a best guess.

The bus part of the journey took me about 55 minutes, which was not entirely unpleasant. Nearly all the riders appeared to be on their way to work or school. I pulled out my phone and started tapping out this blog post, but I soon realized I was fat-fingering nearly every keystroke as the double-length bus bounced along the potholed city streets. I got a few sentences written at stops, and then decided it was a better use of my time to catch up on Instagram. At least I could relax a bit.

When I arrived at the transit center downtown, I crossed the street and transferred to the light rail, which arrived about seven minutes later. For those of you unfamiliar with Phoenix, our light rail line here is, for all practical purposes, a rolling homeless shelter — one that’s open all day long and has excellent air conditioning. You can’t board a bus without a paid fare, but you can board the light rail and ride until you’re caught. The security guards are unarmed contractors, not law enforcement officers, so all they do when they catch freeloaders is escort them off the train. I watched this happen once this morning. Since there’s not a ticket check on every train, they’ll probably just get on the next one.

Roughly 25 minutes later, I was at the light rail stop near my office, where I had about a seven-minute walk to work. It was unseasonably cool and overcast this morning, so I rather enjoyed the walk.

Door to door, including the time I spent at 7-Eleven and dropping off the car, it was about an hour and 45 minutes, and it’s looking like it’ll be just a little longer for the return. It’s not something I’m going to start doing every day.

On the other hand, I don’t have to drive, and I’ve already gotten at least $4 worth of entertainment out of my fare.

6 thoughts on “Car is in the shop today, so I’m using public transit”

  1. Wow, what a journey! We rely so much on our cars and trucks but don’t realise it until it’s in the shop. My truck developed a fuel leak a few weeks ago, had a loner for two days. I hope you get your car back soon! Should something be done to stop the freeloading on the light rail trains?

    1. I’d like to see more law enforcement on the trains and platforms. I don’t ride the light rail a lot, but I’ve only rarely seen police aboard.

      1. Budget Cuts come to mind reading your comment… ya can’t put a price on human lives.

  2. I’ve found the light rail to be very convenient when going from Phoenix to Tempe or Mesa. You can get on and read a book for an hour. I admit that I don’t often use it around town, because I also end up needing to do a bus/rail/walk combo, and I’m just too lazy to make that many transfers and take three times the commute length to do it if I don’t have to. As for the huddled masses of public transit, none of my Phoenix light rail experiences seem unique amongst any other city transport. (But I will admit to being biased as an abuser of the system… When I’m stuck in a city for a layover, I’ve ridden the train just to see the sights for cheap while resting my legs.)

    1. I’m not saying I haven’t seen homeless people in other cities’ public transit systems, but in my admittedly limited experience in Phoenix, it strikes me as disproportionate to the paid ridership.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve abused the system in a similar manner. I rode a streetcar to the end of the line once in Prague because I’d been kept awake on an overnight train and needed a nap. I didn’t know where I was when I woke up, but I crossed the tracks and rode back to the city center. Local commuters probably thought I was homeless.

      1. My mother and I most recently did this on Bainbridge Island. We had some time before the ferry, but the garden we’d intended to visit had closed. So we hopped on the local “bus” (minivan) and rode around. It was only slightly more awkward because the bus didn’t really follow a defined route, but tended to pick up locals when they phoned in, being that the population was so small. 🙂

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