Monday, June 05, 2006

May 31-June 3

May 31 we took the bus to the Library and then back down town. This was all five of us. We were able to eat at our favorite lunch spot and then get home before I had to be at work.

June 1. In the evening Melinda got on the bus at her home and rode it to our neighborhood to pick up the kids. Skye, Noah, and Sammy all got on the bus and took it to Wabash where I met them after I got off work. We went to the Chronicles of Narnia at Flat Branch. It was over all a easy day and smooth on the bus.

June 2. I was able to take the bus to and from work. Smooth as usual.

June 3. I was dropped off at work by Thad and he went on a bike ride. I then caught the bus home after work.

We are still taking the bus and enjoying the experiences we are having. There are a lot of people who rely on the transit system and ( I cant state this enough) I hope that they are planning on improving the schedule soon.
I know that there are a lot of my clients, Friends and Neighbors that have no Idea about the Transit system. I think that they need to puch for more riders. How I am not sure. I hope that some of the attention that we have mad will help.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Experiment Results and Thoughts

Sande's Thoughts
Friday. I decided that since I, Sande, have to work 10-6 at Green Meadows and I have my step kids in town I would just take the bus to and from work. The nice thing about this was that Sammy, Skye, and our boxer Butch all walked me to the stop. We waited until the blue line came and got me and then I was off on the usuall route. Blue line to the Orange line to work. The ride was extremely smooth. I was able to read the novel I had only a few pages left and was anxious to finish.
I had another busy day at work and forgot the schedule so I called the Station to be sure of the pick up time and the connection that would get me home. I was able to finish my last client and pick up the orange line with one of my co-workers who also takes the bus. He and I were able to talk all the way to Wabash and then I was able to get the Blue line home. At our stop I was met by Skye, Sammy, and Butch. It was nice to have a walk home with some of the family on a nice day. I would have to rate the rides for the day a 5 out of 5.Saturday. I work and am unable to get the bus to work or home due to the times of the bus schedule so I had to find alternate transportation.
Sunday and Monday the buses did not run.
We are almost done with our month long experiment and it seems we have learned a lot.
I have learned that some people are negative about everything and want you to think that what your doing is always bad and there is nothing positive about it. We started this experiment to save money and gas. This would be beneficial to the enviroment and our pocketbooks. We were not planning on the papers writing articles, but we thought if it gets others interested in saving gas and the enviroment then it would be a good thing.
What do we want to happen out of this experiment?
I would like to see improvements in the Columbia Transit system so that people that have to depend on it can have a more reliable source of transportation. I would like to see the time of the schedule extended. If more people ride the routes then they would be more willing to extend it. I know these our wishes and that is just what they are.
I do think that all of our experiences on the bus have been positive. We have made friends with the drivers, employees and fellow riders. We know that if we need to take the bus that we can rely on it a majority of the time.

Thad's Thoughts
I also think the experiment was ahuge success. Being the tight wad that I am however, I tend to look more at the cost vs savings aspect of the experiment to evaluate its success. Over the course of the month we took the bus 21 out of the 31 days in the month. We found ways to do all our necessary running around including:
1) Going to the doctor
2) Going to the Grocery
3) Going to the Library
4) Going to the mall
5) Going downtown for shopping and hagning out
6) Going to the gym
7) Going to visit Grandma
8) Getting Grandma to our house
9) Going to the park to play
10) Getting Sande to work
If you look at this list closely, I think you'll see that we were able to get just about anywhere we wanted to go on the bus.
Now how about the costs?
The biggest cost is in the form of time. Getting anywhere on the bus takes time. Sometimes it takes about the same amount of time as it would take to drive, for example, getting to the mall or grocery store. Sometimes it takes MUCH MUCH longer, for example when Sande tries to take the bus home from work. There is also a time of day, about 10:30am and 5:30pm, when the bus system inexplicably takes one bus from every line out of service IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN ROUTE. Why they can't take the bus out of service at Wabash station is absolutley beyond me but as I've already stated, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to bus scheduling.
Now how about the savings?
We saved exactly 25% of our gasoline expenses this month, when corrected for the increase in the price of gas from our reference month to this month. Basically gas was 25 cents higher on average this month per gallon than it was during our reference month of 3/15 to 4/15. When you figure in the 45 bucks in bus fare we spent plus the 13.50 we had to spend to get Sande home by taxi whe she got stranded at Wabash, the net savings was 17% over the reference month.
We could have dome things a little differently to get more net savings however:
1) We were ignorant of the changing bus schedules and this caused a couple of unnecessary pick-ups with the car.
2) We shouldn't have bought monthly passes. Thad's usage only required about 10 bucks worth of bus fare but I spent 20 on the monthly pass. For the occassional user, the ticket packs are the better deal because they don't expire.
3) We tried to have Sande take the bus during times when it really was not convenient just to see if it would work. It almost never did and once it cost us 13.50 in cab fare to get her home.
Had we followed these three simple rules, our net savings would likely have been much closer to 25% overall, which for us amounts to between 100 and 125 bucks, not bad.

Now for my personal two cents.
I'm not really one to mix words so I'll just lay it out there.
1) PROMOTE ESAM: This man should be the one training and supervising the drivers. His customer service level, safe and smooth drving techniques and overall attitude toward his passengers in exemplary.
2) GIVE BIG JOHN A MEDAL: He is really a hero in my book. I swear I thought that kid that ran in front of his bus was going to heaven that day. Big John managed to get his bus stopped in a distance I didn't think was physically possible. I can only hope that is Sammy ever happens to run out in front of a bus, that Big John is behind the wheel.
3) Reformat the schedule: The times when busses are taken out of service should be more easily identified so that novice riders can easily tell if a bus is coming or not.
4) RAISE REGULAR FARES BY 25 cents: Not half fares or student fares, just full fares. Let those of us who can pay a little more do so and use the money to fund line improvements such as increasing service to 10:30 on Monday through Wednesday.
5) Get a bus service intitiative on the ballot: Why not? We fund all kinds of unecessary crap in this town through ballot initiatives. Why not suggest a 1/4% sales tax initiative to properly fund a real mass transit initiative here in Columbia, something that is really desperately needed. I say sales tax because, as a home owner, I'm sick of all this stuff going on property taxes that ensure that most of the folks who use the bus will never have to pay to fund it's improvement.

What's Next????
We will continue to take the bus. Afterall, a 25% savings is quite abit of money for us and we enjoy the experience. We will also continue to keep up this blog. I think it is turning into a good forum for improvement in the bus system and I would like to see that continue. Whenever we take the bus, which I expect to be several times a week, we'll update the blog just like we've been doing.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Days 23 through 25

On Tuesday we didn't take the bus. Thad is STILL wrapped up in this unplanned shutdown at the nuclear plant and is now having to work 12 hours a day. Sande had a busy day as well but it did not involve the bus. Thad's two older kids, Skye and Noah, are out of school for the year and are here now for a long visit. They both live with their mom in St. Louis and are here every other weekend and on a two week rotation during the summer (typical split parenting arrangement).
Anyway, we picked the kids up Tuesday night after Thad got off from work and didn't get home until after 11pm. That may not sound late to some but to us, its REAL LATE.
On Wednesday, Thad's mom, Melinda was going to move to her new apartment in Oak Towers and so Sande and the kids went over to help out, on the bus.

Sande, Skye, Noah, and Sammy walked down to our regular stop at Rice and Osage and of course, as is his custom, Sammy fell down on the sidewalk and skinned his knee. Poor kid, those knees are NEVER GOING TO HEAL!!!
We did manage to make it to the bus on time so we didn't have to partake in our other ritual which is to miss the bus entirely and have to walk to the next stop and catch it on the way back.
Sande and the kids got on the Blue Line headed West at 8:25 and headed over to Oak Towers. There's no transfer necessary to get to Oak Towers so it's real easy to do.
Everyone worked real hard and got Grandma moved into her new place (well mostly, Thad will be going over there on Saturday morning to move the really heavy stuff). The new apartment is super nice and a lot bigger than her old studio apartment.
After the moving, Sande and the kids got back on the Blue Line and headed home. They were back home at around 11:30, in time for Sammy to get his nap on time and have some lunch.

Today, Thursday, Sande and the kids got back on the bus. This time we all headed out to downtown for the day. The first stop was the Columbia Library. We got on the Blue Line headed West and transferred to the Red Line west at Wabash and headed over to the Library.

It was super great to see Esam on the bus when we got on. We also got to see another favorite passenger, Charlie. He's a taxi driver for Reliable Taxi service here in town and uses the bus to run his errands during his off time. We seem to see him quite often and he and Sammy have become good friends. In fact, whenever we get on the bus, "Where's Charlie" is normally something that Sammy asks.

We got off the Red Line at the library and went inside to play for a while. Sammy, of course, started throwing a temper tantrum in the Library and we decided to bail out earlier than we had planned. Sande was able to get sammy calmed down while waiting for the bus so we decided to try to salvage the rest of the trip and head over downtown. We took the Red Line East to Wabash and headed out for some shopping.
We went over to Aardvark's first and then to Peace Nook. We really wanted to go to Cool Stuff but they weren't open. We then went down to Main Squeeze (our Favortite Restaurant) for lunch and then walked over to Ninth Street Books to let Sammy play with their trains. If you've got a 3 year old, trust me, Ninth Street Books is just about the best place downtown you can take them. The staff is super friendly and very patient. They have a HUGE Thomas the Train set to play with. It's really cool.
Noah even found a book he wanted to buy.
After the book store, we were all pretty much ready to head home so we walked back to Wabash and headed home on the Blue Line East.


Overall we would give the last two days rides a 5 out of 5 again. We really have been having fun with the bus.Tomorrow Sande is going to be taking the bus to work again. Maybe we'll head out to the mall tomorrow night.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Day 19-22

Day 19 through 22.
Unfortunately the bus is not always a worthy replacement for our vehicles. While Thad and I have tried the past few days to take the bus the schedules do not work with our schedules.

Friday morning I had to get some things back to work and could not carry all of the things on the bus so I had to drive. Friday evening Thad and I thought we would take the bus to the movies and realized that we could not since the buses would not run late enough to get us home. Even with their specail routes to the theater. Saturday I had to get to work and so the bus does not run early enough for an 8am start time. And of course the bus does not run on Sundays. An uneventfull week for the Simmons Bus Experiment.

We are still here and we are still trying to use the Columbia Transit System as much as possible.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Day 16, 17 and 18

Tuesday...... The main goal was once again for Sande to get to work at Green Meadows Hair Company. We did usuall exchange at Rice and Osage of Sammy. Melinda gets off the bus and I get on the bus. I get the Orange line to work and then that was that. The rides were smooth and on time. I had to have Melinda and Sammy come pick me up at work since the buses do not run late enough on those days.

Wed.......... There was no need for me to take the bus for errands. We have been working hard on potty training so staying home as much as possible is a must. I had to take the car to work since once again the buses do not run late enough.
Although Melinda had to go to a Doctors visit. She had to have Thad pick her up since her visit lasted past the time of the bus schedule.

Thursday..... Today.. Goal for today is to have Melinda take the bus to Osage and Rice. There I will pick her up and drive to work. There is a Twilight Cruise at the MU Arena and Green Meadows Hair Company and Spa is participating in it. So I will need transportation to that and home.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Day Fifteen

Today was another day where Sande need to see her chiropractor again. Sande recently has been having a little problem with her neck and shoulders due to her type of job. She will not continue these frequent trips forever. So naturaly Sammy could not go into the office with her so she had Melinda take the Blue East bus to Ash and Garth and walk the remainder of the distance to the Library. Sande and Sammy were running a little late and missed the bus at our regular stop at Rice and Osage. So we continued down to the stop at Rice and Ballanger. We took the Blue line to the Wabash station and transfered to the Red line to get to the Library so we could meet up with Melinda. Melinda and Sammy went to play at the Library and Sande went to her appointment with Dr. Hays.
After her adjustment she went to spend a few minutes at the Library with Melinda and Sammy. They then got the Red line to go to the Station at Wabash once again. There they said good bye to Melinda, she got the blue line home and Sande and Sammy went up the few blocks to the gym. A great workout and shower and they were off to the blue east line home. Sammy and Sande read on the way home. They made it through all the books they checked out at the library. With a little planning and organization we were able to get all our running done this morning and we were able to spend some valuable family time together while riding the bus. Todays rides would have to be a perfect 5 out of 5 since they were once again on time and the rides were all smooth.

Days Thirteen and Fourteen

The Callaway plant had an unexpected shutdown on Friday so that meant a lot of weekend work for Thad. Basically our weekend went something like this, Thad went to work on Friday from 7 - 3, came home went to sleep. Went back to work from 11pm to 7am on Saturday, came home went to sleep. Repeat the pattern pretty much for the whole weekend. Anyways, we didn't ride the bus at all on Saturday and of course it doesn't run on Sundays.
Someone placed an letter to the editor on Thursday that said some pretty mean things about us as a family. Of course, because this person is a COWARD, he/she didn't include their name. Let me just respond to the letter by saying, yep you're right, I am too cheap to buy all the gas I've been buying. 465.00/month is a lot and if you think there's something wrong with practicing a little conservation, well I can't help you change you're mind.
Now having said that, I do agree (as does just about everyone I've spoken too including folks at Columbia Transit) that Columbia is woefully underserved by our bus system and needs a fresh start. We can all have a hand in it but we're not going to get anywhere by negativity.
So, if the author of the letter happens to read this post, come out of the shadows and participate in the change in a positive way. Together we can make a difference.
Sande, Sammy, and Melinda will be back on the bus Monday to run errands.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Day Twelve

Another successful day for us riding the Columbia Transit.
Once again Melinda met Sande in the morning at our regular stop at Osage and Rice. Tagging with Sammy and then off to work with Sande. The blue line to Wabash was a smooth ride in.

At Wabash Sande switched to the Orange line and was amazed at how many familiar faces she saw. The interesting thing is that Cowboy was driving in the morning and after a long, hard, and busy day at work Sande got back on to the Orange line with Cowboy and only two other passengers. Slow day for the Orange line.(I learned in the morning on the orange line that there is a law in Missouri that you can not barbeque with out beer. ha ha ;)) On the way back to Wabash the sense of community once again really stuck me. On south Hampton we picked up Esam and they talked all the way back to Wabash.
The same driver of the blue line in the morning was still the driver this evening. He was running pretty far behind. When he arrived to Wabash he had no passengers. We got on and were taken the regular route. Strange... I did not know why but he wasn't picking up any passengers. Melinda tried to get on to get a ride home but he refused and said he was done for the night and that she would have to wait for the next bus at 7? I didn't know that the blue line ended at that timeand neither did another couple that was waiting at Mckee and Orchard Lane. I thought that it ended only Mon - Wed. I guess we need to study the schedule a bit more. I thought that would work out perfect for Melinda and I to tag off like we do in the morning.

Well over all I would have to rate the Mornings's ride a perfect 5 out of 5. This evening I would have to rate it a 2.5 out of 5 due to the lack of communication about the ending of the route.