Monday, August 21, 2006

August 21, 2006 Take the Bus

Consider This for August 21, 2006—Take the Bus

“Take the bus and leave the driving to us.” Or so they say. I often wonder how many of the professional whiners like myself actually ever take the bus. How often do we leave our major pieces of iron to get on a $300,000 vehicle and go anywhere?

It is so easy to sit in a meeting and demand mass transit but it is a totally different experience to make the commitment to ride our wonderful Summit Stage.

When I was a county commissioner I took the Summit Stage whenever my schedule would allow. Sometimes it was difficult to make all the connections that started with a half-mile walk to the nearest bus stop from my house.

The schedules change all the time. It can take a while to get from one part of the county to another.

In reality, if I had enough time and a little money, it is possible to take that half-mile walk down to Swan Mountain Road and end up in just about anywhere in the world.

Last year when I was in Mexico for part of two months I took the bus a lot. Everyone thinks of third- world countries as being backward but that is another lie we have all bought into. The buses in Mexico are wonderful.

You get a free sack lunch and a drink when you board. The buses have air cushioned suspension and it is like riding on a cloud. Each row has a closed circuit television set showing the latest Hollywood releases in Spanish. You could rationalize that by thinking it is an extension of the hundreds of class hours you have paid for to learn Spanish.

In Summit County in addition to the Summit Stage we have access to the Greyhound bus and the Colorado Mountain Express from the Frisco Transit Center. Greyhound goes to downtown Denver three times a day and costs $14 one way. According to the schedule it takes 90 minutes to get to Denver. Colorado Mountain Express goes to Denver International Airport nine times a day and you will pay $39 for that two-hour trip. You could read a book, work on your computer or take a nap during the trip. I have tried all three while driving my car and let me assure you those are dangerous and life threatening. It is much better to let a bus driver keep his or her eyes on the road while you do other things during the ride.

My Honda Accord averages 30 miles per gallon. My office at the capitol is 81 miles from my house one way. At $3.09 per gallon today it costs me $8.34 to make the trip.

One kicker in all of this is when you ride to downtown Denver you are probably not going to want to stay there. Once you get off the bus you must transfer to RTD to get to your destination.

The light rail is close by and you can take RTD to just about anywhere in the metro area. I have been told an RTD bus ticket is $1.50. Cheap by any standards.

The RTD Sky Ride is $8 from downtown so your trip one way with Greyhound and RTD is $22 one way. If you are gone for four days you will pay $20 for parking alone at the airport.

When I was a New York City police officer in the 1960s I never drove my car in the city. It was foolish. At that time the subway and all city buses cost ten cents to ride. I was told that it was an old promise by the city fathers to never charge more than that. It has gone up considerably since then. Forty-six years later it is $2 for that ride.

I lived in England for almost four years and owned a car that I never drove. Gas on the base was seventeen cents a gallon but the same gallon at the local petrol station was almost $7. It was the taxes. I was there not too long after WW II and there was still rationing going on in some places.

There was plenty of gas but the price was prohibitive so everyone took the bus everywhere. The twenty mile trip from my house to the Air Force Base cost me one penny. Yes, one penny. Can’t beat that.

Words that ring in my ears were spoken by a woman in Breckenridge several years ago telling me we will never get anyone in the west to ever leave his car to take public transportation.

We are quickly getting to the point where we will not have a choice. It might be good practice for all of us, including me, to start taking the bus.

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