Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get On the (City) Bus


As a non-car owning passenger of DC’s bus system, I spend my time riding to and from work in deep reflection, which is one of the many benefits of opting for this form of public transportation.  In recent months, my thoughts have been outwardly focused, thinking about the socioeconomic and demographic make-up of my fellow passengers—and how this seems to be a self-perpetuating trend, both here and elsewhere.

My fellow riders are overwhelmingly minority and working class.  No surprise for an urban transit system.  However, what has been a shock for me is the reaction of my friends and colleagues when I tell them that I take the bus to work now, that I took the bus across town to graduate school for two years, and that I much prefer it over Metro-proper (ie- the train).  It would seem that not only is the bus used by minority and working class residents—it is also perceived as designated for those residents and those residents only.

Case in point—DC has pumped millions of dollars in an effort to revitalize the H Street Corridor and potentially to improve the residential and commercial viability of the area.  However, despite the fact that this street in particular is home to the X2 line, a bus that essentially runs every 10 minutes in both directions, an argument was made about the perceived lack of available transportation to this neighborhood, and plans are being currently hatched to introduce a trolley system for folks to come and go.

Millions of dollars will be spent, just to help tourists and new residents and perhaps, dare I say it, the city’s ‘professionals’ (read- desirables) to avoid the city bus.

It seems that the stigma of bus-riding is both deep-seated and far-reaching.  I want to break down this barrier, but I do not know how. Does it help to talk about the new “Next Bus” phone system, where GPS locators tell riders how many minutes until your next bus arrives at your stop?  Will it make bus-riding more palatable to show the far, far reach of the routes?     

Come on, DC, get on the bus!   

(Photo copyrightgreychr)

By Pilar Oberwetter

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