I wrote the following post back in July of 2012:
After visiting METRO headquarters for a work meeting, something has been bothering me. Why have I never considered riding the bus? My husband and I are thrilled that the new rail will be heading down South Main close to our home, but why is the bus different? Why do I not have a public transportation card after I have visited so many cities around the world where that is the first thing I obtain? I have spent the last couple of weeks watching the inhabitants of the bus shelters try to alleviate the heat, stay occupied, and plan their next stop. I wonder where they are going and why they are taking the bus, what they do for a living, how often they ride.
I think it is interesting that METRO’s web site is RIDEMETRO.com. They want to be accessible and increase ridership, but how do you lift such a heavy stigma? Why is there even a stigma in the first place, and why have I not seen right through it? I have been researching METRO’s General Mobility Program for work; METRO serves 5 1/2 million riders (as of January 2012), and I am pressed to dig up enough excuses to not increase METRO’s bus ridership by 1. The biggest concern for me is that it is slow and inconvenient (I would have to WALK to the nearest bus shelter and wait in the Houston heat). I am also going to be honest; I am concerned about safety. METRO has tried to answer that concern with their “Bus Safe” program where undercover police officers and TSA agents ride on buses around the city which was announced by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson in April. I am not sold, but I am wanting to try and see for myself what the atmosphere, convenience, and overall experience is like.
So I turned to www.ridemetro.org to see exactly which routes I could take to work and how long it would take. My office is 9.4 miles from my house and it takes me around 12-15 minutes to drive there each day. After perusing the web site, METRO’s “Plan your Trip” site claimed there was not a stop .5 miles near my start location and I was having a hard time piecing a route together, so I turned to Google: 1 hour and 7 minutes according to Goggle Transit. Yikes.
Directions: Walk .4 miles to the nearest bus stop, which I pass every day in my car. That bus route is numbered 33 and it runs through Bellaire. According to Google, I will travel through 34 stops in 28 minutes until I have to change buses at Richmond Ave. and McCue Road. From there I wait for the #25 bus then travel west on Richmond Ave. through another 26 stops which should take around 16 minutes. Then I walk the .2 miles to my office.
For the return route, Google gave me two options, and I was pumped. I could go back on the same route, but decided to look at the slightly longer route for a different view. After writing it down, I realized I did not put in the time, and Google put in the current time (which was around 8pm). When I put in 3pm, the time I was planning on leaving work, the route changed, extending the trip by 2-4 minutes. For this time, I had 3 choices, one that was the same from before, but 2 new routes. I chose the shortest route (in estimated time) which should take around 1 hour and 10 minutes. Because the stop was scheduled at 3:29pm, that gave me a little more wiggle room when leaving work.
Directions: Walk to .2 miles back to the bus stop on Richmond (at Mandell). From there I will get on the 3:28pm #25 bus towards Sharpstown that travels west on Richmond Ave. 7 minutes, 7 stops. I will get off at Kirby, then get on bus #18 that heads south on Kirby towards Reliant Stadium at 3:45pm. I get off at Old Spanish Trail after riding for approximately 16 minutes and 22 stops. From there I walk to Main St. to get on the #10 bus heading towards Willowbend. After 17 minutes and 24 stops, I will end up at a bus stop .6 miles from my house.
It sounded like a solid plan, and I was ready to try it. And yet, as I was writing this, the Mister walked in and asked what time the class was that I am teaching in the evening that same day. I cringed. I had forgotten about this addition to my day, and worried that I could not make it in time (5:30pm). If I got dropped off at the last stop at 4:26pm, then have to walk home .6 miles, I may not have enough time to shower and clean up and then go right back out the door. Obviously I could ride the bus there, but then I would have to take the bus back after 10pm (safety concerns still lingering.) I also planned on getting up and running at 7am, giving me plenty of time to shower and be at work by 9. If I ride the bus, I would have to wait until after work, which could still not happen because I have to be at the college campus by 5:30pm.
SO, I will not be riding the bus tomorrow. I do feel like I have legitimate excuses–2.5 extra hours taken from my day presents a challenge.