Saturday, June 18, 2016

Apps may be the savior of public transportation

I can't think of many things that is as intimidating as taking the bus or subway in a strange town. Especially a large city. Buses may seem infrequent and routes bizarre and out of your planned path. I think many people avoid public transportation because it is inconvenient and requires a foreknowledge of routes and timetables. 

Looking at my commute to work I mentioned to a colleague that I was considering biking to work instead of driving or taking the bus on days with bad weather. I have a few pounds around the middle I need to work off after almost a year of back and forth to STL, hotel rooms, and restaurant food. I also feel nostalgic about riding to campus as a grad student. Monsanto in chesterfield is so big that it looks and feels like a college campus. My coworker is French and he scoffed that as a white American I would take the bus or bike instead of driving. 

That was a challenge, so when I flew to STL as part of a trip to MD on Thursday I decided I would not rent a car or take a taxi or an uber (My colleagues all use this as a noun, which shows how ubiquitous Uber has become, I bet it or something like it will eliminate the traditional taxi) - all costing about 25-35 dollars for the day. I decided I would take the bus. The bus said it would take over an hour to get to campus, but driving was estimated at 30 minutes.  Google estimates by bike were only 1.5 hours. I was by far the minority on the bus and the Metrolink train.  Almost all riders were black, some Hispanic.  

There is a metro train that runs to the airport. It is on the back side of the parking garage and obviously little used. The train comes every few minutes. The app told me I would have to wait until 8, but then a train came and Google somehow knew it and updated the times.  This is a transformative tech if we take advantage of it. I followed the revised instructions and got to Chesterfield in just under an hour.  Other riders also were using google maps to check to see if buses or trains were delayed or ahead of schedule.  I think like Uber has updated Taxi service by making it possible to easily check on your phone and get a ride, apps around public transportation could really help break down barriers about using public transportation.  

So the kids and I will be using public transport to go downtown St. Louis.  Nothing is more aggravating than getting stuck in traffic with a minivan full of whiny kids and then trying to find parking at the zoo. 


Becca said...

I love your blog, Brian. I hope you guys are starting to really settle down in St Louis area. We may just get to see you yet, next time we come to Arkansas! Allen just barely got "hired" as a full time employee at Monsanto--he's been a "temp" these past 8 years. Benefits and paid vacation make a huge difference. And I would totally be using public transportation with kids--I loved your last sentence in this post.

Brian Gardunia said...

Becca - we would love to see you guys. I am totally jealous of all the backpacking you guys have been doing. Life keeps getting in the way.