Friday, December 4, 2009

Public transportation rocks

Over the years (mostly the last few years, really) I've found myself riding the L in Chicago, trolley cars in San Francisco, NYC's Subway system AND the Long Island Railroad, the T in Boston, the Paris Metro, and S & U Bahn trains in Germany.  Oh, also some scary Czech trains, which we'll just try to forget about.  There have also been buses, some more confusing than others - as a general rule the Circulator in D.C. is a whole lot easier to figure out than any bus line in Germany:

I used to be so intimidated by the thought of using public transportation.  Every single ticket machine has some degree of confusion, and I was always concerned that I'd get the wrong pass or spend some obscene amount of money when $5 would really do the trick.  And that's with machines that work with you in English.  Paris had this crazy spinning wheel thing that just threw us for a loop. 
Well, now I think public transportation is just flippin' awesome, and I'd like to call myself a D.C. Metro aficionado.  Once you master the basics of navigation, you're good to go - they all work the same way.  Figure out what's at the end of where you want to go and just go there!  There might be some minor idiosyncrasies along the way, like the fact that a group pass in Germany covers two adults, three kids, and a dog on one ticket (or something like that - there was definitely a dog involved, because I remember being highly amused by that), but the whole thing is really pretty foolproof.

Don't get me wrong, there's something to be said for hopping in your car and just going where you need to go.  Obviously, a lot of it has to do with geography.  Sorry, Dallas, but DART just doesn't quite measure up, especially in the land of trucks and SUVs where I think people take a special joy in propelling these things down the highway.  And do I fight D.C. street traffic or, alternatively, attempt to lug home Target purchases (which often includes one ridiculously heavy thing like 20 pounds of cat litter or a case of bottled water) on the Metro?  No, I do not.  I fire up the CR-V and take myself down Jefferson Davis Highway (Virginia is the South, people) to the suburbia Target in Alexandria where you don't have to pay $1 for the parking lot AND I get the joy of actually getting on a highway.  That being said, I do get my own sense of special joy from actually using my legs more, not dealing with parking, and emitting a few less carbon bad things (eeekk, environmental statement!).

I'm also going to consider BoltBus as a public transportation option.  And unlike this summer when Kerry and I had some scratchy cloth seats and questionably smelly seatmate, at this very moment I'm on my way to New York in the relative comfort of a leather (or at least pleather) seat, making use of the Wi-Fi and actually posting a blog entry while cruising down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  It's a crazy bargain compared to the train or a flight, and when you resort to highways, it's even more of a bargain considering the ridiculous number of tolls between DC and NYC.

And now, if you'll excuse me, with the convenient aid of the power outlet located in my seat that's preventing my computer from an untimely battery death (thanks, BoltBus!), I'm going to watch a movie or possibly an episode or two of "Mad Men" on my way through New Jersey.


Molly B. said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the nastiness that greeted me on the metro at the airport. Public transportation is not always the cleanest option!!

Erin said...

Ewwww, I'd tried to forget about it!! That was hands down the most disgusting Metro moment I've had, and there have been some iffy times with drunks on late nights. Always, always carry hand sanitizer.