Public Transit

Twice in the past two weeks I’ve ended up taking the bus to and from work, because of car repairs/appointments. I’m not a big fan of the bus for the simple reason that on the way home, it doesn’t matter which line I take—it is always late. In the spring or the fall, this isn’t too bad; in the winter (which is when I had to take the bus back in 2005 while I was without a vehicle for about a month) it meant shivering as the freezing wind blows, and in the summer it potentially means sweltering in the lack of shade.

The 38BThe other thing I’m not a big fan of is the amount of time spent to take the bus to work. To get to my office in McLean, I need to hop the 38B to either Rosslyn or Ballston, then transfer to either the 15K (Rosslyn) or 23A (Ballston) to get to work. (I could take the metro from Court House to those stations, but the cost jumps up a great deal. And if it’s a really nice day I can snip the 38B out and walk, but that’s not going to change the amount of time spent for the better.) When I drive to or from work, barring accidents on the road my transit time is in the 15-20 minute range. With the bus, it’s a solid hour if the bus is on time.

But I do like the chance it gives me to read while going to work; between the bus home last night and to work this morning, plus a little bit of time at the car dealership, I read all of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which has sat on my shelves for eight years waiting for this moment. (It was worth the wait. I’m looking forward to read Parable of the Talents in what will certainly be a less than an eight year wait.) And, perhaps most crucially, once someone suggested that I take the 38B over to my second bus of the morning (instead of the metro), it meant that the cost of the bus ride is now less than the cost of gas used to drive to work.

Yeah, that was an eye-opener. If I assume I’m getting 30mpg, it costs $1.53 to get to work, versus the $1.25 spent when I use my SmarTrip card, thanks to free bus-to-bus transfers. So now I’m considering the idea of trying to designate one day a week to take the bus to work. It’s certainly less convenient (no errands as part of the work transit) and it means I really need to make sure I’m out the door by a certain time in the morning or it’s another 20-30 minutes before I can get to the office. But I really like the idea of getting that reading time added to my day, and while the monetary savings are hardly a lot, it would also be good in general for the environment, right? So we’ll see.