This is the first post of a series called, Get Around. Today’s post features: The bus. Other posts will cover bikes, trains, walking, and even rickshaws!
First, some local transit info…
Your local Transit Authority is comprised of nine citizens who are appointed by the Raleigh City Council and serve for two years without pay, i.e. as volunteers. They conduct regularly scheduled, monthly business meetings that are open to the public. Today, the Raleigh Transit Authority (RTA) will meet at 3:30pm to discuss the current agenda (in City Council Chambers, Room 201 on 222 West Hargett Street). Email these folks you’d like to speak or inquire about an issue at this or any of their meetings.
An interview with…
Transit is a hot topic right now in Raleigh. How will it evolve? What are we already doing right? What major construction will we undertake? When will people begin to realize our transit potential? So, I asked a local resident to share with me what it’s like to not own or use a car to get around. But get around she does! Rebecca Rousseau lives in Cameron Village and loves to explore Raleigh.
Check out my interview with her below!
Which forms of local transit do you use?
I use the bus, walk, train, and Zipcar.
Are there certain times of day or for certain errands or trips that you choose to use one over the other?
There’s a definite pattern to what I use and when. I take the bus to my jobs. I’m an artist and art instructor and substitute teach in the public schools. I take the bus to schools and then frequently walk home. It’s generally a half hour walk. I bus back and forth to the art museum when I work out there.
I’m teaching myself how to ride a bike after not having one for 40 years, so, in time, I’d like to ride my bike to the museum and more around town. When I teach at the Durham Arts Council or at the hospital in Chapel Hill I take those wonderful express buses back and forth. When I have an art show I get a Zipcar, it’s so easy! I load it up with my artwork and I’m all set.
I live a half block from two grocery stores and a drugstore, so I pick things up as I get home each day, and on the weekend ride my bike a couple miles to my favorite grocery store.
What caused you to start using local transit?
Do you ever drive yourself?
I’ve never been a fan of owning a vehicle. The expense, the pollution, the worry of it all. I thought I’d try local transit while I still had my car. I thought if I liked it I’d sell the car, if not I’d keep it. I was amazed at how easy it was getting around without it. Knowing that the Zipcar is within reach is a comfort, but I generally only use that twice a month, never more. When I did have my car I only put 3000 miles a year on it. I’ve always flown or taken the train when I go out of town.
How much walking do you do a week, a day?
I walk probably one to two miles a day. On the weekend I walk anywhere from a mile to 3 or 4. The more I walk the easier it gets.
Are local transit and walking just as important as the other?
Local transit is key. It’s so easy and inexpensive. I pay $36 for a month for an unlimited ride pass. It’s a 10 minute bus ride to the main hub where all the connector buses meet, so that makes it all the easier. I live close to a lot of places I frequent (the library, grocery stores, restaurants), so walking is important, too.
How do you think people will learn to evolve when it comes to public transportation?
It’s so amusing to see the reactions I get when I say I don’t have a car. I could buy a car tomorrow, but people tend to either look at me like you poor dear, how do you do it?, or go on the defensive explaining why it’s not feasible for them. It’s just the culture in Raleigh and I haven’t found that to be true in large cities where public transportation use is the norm.
I think if people would try it for two weeks a good number of them would turn in their cars. I really was stunned at how easy it is for me to get from point A to point B without the car. I think people will evolve when it’s perceived as the norm and the more we talk about it the closer it’ll get to that.
How does Raleigh’s growth and subsequent increased traffic play a role?
I’ve written to City Council in that regard. They replied and told me about the BPAC – Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. I think with growth will come a greater demand for public transportation and Raleigh has been looking at ways to make the roads easier on pedestrians and bicyclers. No doubt, there are areas of town that are very difficult to navigate as a pedestrian at this point, but I see that improving in the future.
Have your actions changed anyone’s mind to use more public transportation?
I had a dear friend ask me last night if I’d teach her how to ride the bus. I have sparked people’s interest, but I’m not certain many have followed suit. If you have kids, or live out in the country, it’s almost impossible in the Triangle. I have a friend who made me question how I get around and it made me change how I travel. She’s an avid biker and lives in-town, too. She manages very well.
I’m not living this way to sell anyone on it, I’m just proof that it’s a possibility.
Do your friends, family, and neighbors think it’s interesting and/or “different” to use public transit like you do?
I grew up outside of NYC, lived in Miami, and southern California, so no one close to me thinks of it as too odd b/c we grew up around mass transit. Anytime I go out of town (even when I owned a vehicle) I took the train and then a bus to where I was going. My family and friends think it’s just something I would do. I do have a pesky neighbor who’s itching to know where my car got off too, but she always asks me as I’m running to catch a bus!
What do you get in return for spending a little more time traveling via public transit?
There’s no getting around the fact that what use to be a 10 minute drive might take 30 minutes of time, between waiting for a bus and a bus ride. What a great trade off to sit next to a big window on a bus and watch the world go by for a pleasant 20 minutes versus 10 minutes of wondering what the new squeaky belt sound is coming out of the engine, or thinking it’s time to stop and get $4 a gallon gas. People say it must be nice to read a book on a bus, but I prefer looking out the window and people watching.
Walking and taking the bus puts you in a position of seeing more of what you’ve whizzed by before. My bicycler friend and I agree we see the world as it is now that we’re walking and biking, rather than racing by it. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and there are many things I walk by that I never knew existed. I love it.
How has using it eased your life?
There’s not enough time to explain how it’s eased my life! No more car taxes, inspections, AAA calls, repairs that wipe out vacation funds, looking out the rearview mirror and seeing that plume of heavy smoke coming from my vehicle, I passed an Inspection station on my way into town the other day and sighed with relief knowing that I didn’t have to squeeze that in! I’m genuinely more relaxed.
What are 3 things every Raleigh resident can do today to get more used to the idea?
I think they could just visit the idea of taking a bus somewhere to demystify the notion. A couple of people have told me they were concerned about how to figure out the bus system. CAT customer service is always one phone call away and they’re very knowledgeable.
The Internet has all kinds of info, from hopstop.com to the CAT site. I noticed Google maps put in a bus icon, too, that tells which bus to take along with your directions on how to get somewhere. It’s only as difficult as getting the address of where you’re going and plugging it into a website.
Three things people could do are, take a fun weekend bus trip to a favorite local destination to see what it’s like riding a bus, have a conversation with someone who’s not car-dependent, and come to realize that a lot of people in the world don’t own a car and have very full and rewarding.
If you’re interested in mass transit, be sure to visit the sites Rebecca mentions above! HopSpot.com is a comprehensive yet easy to use platform that provides directions, maps, schedules, nearby stations, and City Guides (restaurants, bars, and more). The CAT site has bus routes and a trip planner. Also, as Rebecca notes, CAT customer service is always available at 919-485-RIDE (7433), which is also printed on the signs. The operators can help you with information like when the next bus is stopping near your location.
Another site to check out is Raleigh Rides. It’s accessible via your phone and gives up-to-the minute information on where exactly buses are at all times so you can more easily plan you day using public transit.