Saturday, 29 November 2008

Cars and buses

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

I recently downgraded from a very large car to a small second-hand car and I have to say I am really enjoying the benefits of a smaller car - cheaper in petrol and easier to find car parking spaces.

Having said that, I still struggle with the concept of using my car so much. The city where I live is fairly young... and obviously designed with cars in mind. As a result, my city has been struggling with public transport ever since. As an example, I can drive from home to my work in 15 mins, one way. If I was to catch public transport, home to work would take me 2 buses and a total of 1 hour and 20 mins one way. This is a huge disincentive for me to catch public transport.

So for now, a smaller car is the best I can do. Recently, I have started to catch buses on weekend outings with the children. Without the pressure of having to get to somewhere, its actually quite lovely to catch buses and not have to worry about parking. I have also realised another benefit for catching a bus. On a bus, my children are exposed to a wider range of people than they normally do. Prior to our weekend bus trips, my children would be driven from place to place where they play with children who are pretty much from the same background/circumstance as them.

A bus is an entirely different matter. On the bus, my children are sitting right next to 70+ year olds, next to people who are mentally or physically disabled, next to people who are obviously from a very very different background to them. They learn to stand up to people who *need* to sit down. They learn that the person who can not see or walk can still get around by themselves. They learn that the young man with Downs Syndrome catches a bus to go to his job in the city every Saturday morning . They learn that the world consists of very different peoples.

I think its a good thing to normalise such things at a very early age. As my local government grapples with public transport infrastructure for a city built for cars, I have decided to continue catching buses when we can - the lessons we are learning have been well worth the "inconvenience".

Since I'm talking about cars on this post, I thought I might share this funny episode from "Top Gear" - smallest production car ever built:



rhonda jean said...

Eilleen, I wrote about this subject yesterday for my book so it's wonderful to get another perspective, especially from someone with children. It's great to know you're using the bus trips as a learning and teaching exercise for your children. We have a good train network where I live but the buses aren't so good; still, it's better than nothing.

Good post!

Frogdancer said...

Hilarious clip.

I'm not a Top Gear watcher, but I loved this one. Just the thing to see first thing on a Sunday morning!

as regards the public transport thing, in my life the convenience of the car far outweighs the 'benefits' of the public transport system. Too long between trains and buses, unreliable.... I'd rather just get into my car and go. The only time I use the train is when I want to get into the city. Then it's a no-brainer. (No expensive parking fees.)

Karen said...

gah. your city sounds like louisville, kentucky, where i live. the possibility of a light rail system seems light years away. sad ...

Georgie said...

I always think my children learn a lot from catching buses every day. For instance, the 2 yo can recognise all the letters in 'PRIORITY SEATING - SENIORS & DISABLED'. ;)
But no, they do see a lot of different people and it's pretty interesting.
Thankfully public transport around my area is pretty good, depending on where I need to get to.
Catching buses on weekends where there's no time pressure is a great idea for people who can't fit it in during the week!

Hana said...

I'm lucky to live in a small country in Central Europe where the public transport has long tradition and works pretty well in big cities, and the railway network is quite good, too. Although I'm also lucky to live in such areas where public transport works well most of the time; there are other areas in my country where it isn't so good. And, actually, I always simply walk in the towns and cities, wherever I can.
I agree that public transport offers a completely different perspective of life and society. Again, I'm lucky in this, in my childhood we had no car and always travelled by train, and buses and trams and trolleybuses. So I wasn't robbed of this kind of experience, which I'm very grateful for.

Hana said...

Oh, another thought... One of my cousins studies in Prague (now you know I'm Czech ;-) and for two years she lived at our grandma's, which is on the other side of the city than her school. It took her - who lived in Prague - longer to get to school than for her classmates who lived outside Prague. So I think your city actually isn't the only one that has problems with public transport. Even in Prague, where it works pretty well in my opinion (though I consider the second largest city, Brno where I study, much better in this aspect), it can take very long to get from one point to another. The only difference, I think, is that in Prague it's complicated even for cars.

lauralynne said...

Your situation sounds like Jacksonville! Part of the problem in this city, I think, is that in the 60s the city and county consolidated. Rather than focus on smart urban design, a lot of energy was spent on suburban development and expansion. What we've ended up with is a city that is HUGE landwise and not at all accessible by public transit. I miss being able to take the bus to work--that passive transit time is wonderful for "me time"--but would have a 70 minute ride for a commute that takes 20 minutes by car. I'm really, really, really hoping that our new administration will work hard to build up infrastructure that will support public transportation.

rubyredinbloom said...


We walk and public transport it most places. Sure it takes longer (a 5 minute drive to FDC is a 30 minute walk, a 30 minute drive into the city is a 1 1/2 hour trip by public transport) but the savings are *so* good.

eg. FDC = FREE vs. $15 petrol/week
City = $5.40 vs. $25 petrol there and back + parking

Next year my daughter will be of the age were I have to pay her way on the trains (bah humbug), but that's still only $10.80. So I may have taken an extra hour, but I've saved at least $15 + parking in that hour. I've worked jobs with worse hourly rates then that.

Since we're almost always broke *lol*, this is my incentive. It's all priorities isn't it? What's more important - convenience, environment, really differs between families, and I wouldn't dream of telling other folks what to do.

But yes, for us it's a godsend.

Anonymous said...

Another idea is to bike to work. In a cold climate this may not be super-practical year round, but at least some of the time.

I am fortunate to live in a city with good public transit, so I don't own a car. But even with good public transit, I still enjoy cycling to work in the warmer months. It's killing two birds with one stone: transportation and exercise combined!