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.


At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Lee Radtke said...

Hooray! I'm glad you're continuing to take the bus and to blog your experiences. Especially since I never got to run into any of you on the bus - it's not such a small world, after all. What I've found is that even though a car satisfies my craving for immediate gratification better than the bus, I like being part of the bus community - greeted by the driver, other passengers, other drivers at the station, etc. As you've discovered, that's the experience of most regular riders. It's like a transit version of "Cheers": Sometimes you want to ride where everybody knows your stop.

I also hope the attention your blog has brought to Transit does spark some expansion of service (especially hours). Just to reassure passengers who are reading, fares won't go up to expand service. Another quarter from full-fare passengers is hardly a drop in the bucket when you're talking about adding buses and drivers. The actual cost of one ride on a fixed-route bus is around $3.00 now - so paying $.75 instead of $.50 doesn't make much difference. What I've learned working in transit is that expansion is financed originally through grants, then communities have to find other ways to pay for them, usually through some sort of tax. Maybe Columbia is ready for real public transit. I hope so.

Best of luck to the family, and happy traveling.

At 9:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of the ever-hard-to-approve sales tax, I think Columbia should do what Mexico Mo did; a hotel/motel tax. This would the hotels and motels of the city pay a certain percintege of the amount paid per room. And since Columbia has a lot of hotels and motels, and since the avreage pric of hotel room is around $40.00, that would add up rather quickly for the city, would it not? And since it would target people mostly out of town, and not effect surrent readints living out of hotels, it would most likly be approved! And this could fund new buses, benches, whatever. By the way, I've noticed a lot of new benches going up, and that is good. I thank the city for doing that. Hopefully, the city considers a hotel tax rather than a conerversial sales tax, and put it on the ballot soon. Then a larger form of public transit, mamby not full fleged mass-transit, but something close, could begin serving the greater community.


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