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Question of the Week: Public Transportation

by Susan Henderson on January 21, 2008

What mode of public transportation do you take most often? And tell a story of one of those travels.*Wednesday, Dan Passamaneck will be here. Dan runs the compassionately observant and heartwarming blog, The Chucklehut, and his book proposal called FELLOW TRAVELERS is about the people he observes while taking public transport around the Bay Area. Hope you’ll stop by and play Top 5 with him!*Oh, and P.S., Today’s a great day to listen to this speech – both to celebrate how far we’ve come, as well as to consider the work we have yet to do. 

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

SusanHenderson January 20, 2008 at 11:02 pm

What a game – the Giants and Packers in overtime – huh? Just a reminder that Patry Francis Blog Day is on the 29th, and more than 200 of you signed up to join us. Do you know John Elder Robison? He’s the brother of Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors), and an author in his own right. And since he’s going to be out of town on the 29th, he went ahead and put up his review of THE LIAR’S DIARY today. John not only has Asperger’s, but he has spunk, and so his review is extremely interesting and worth checking out:

http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2008/01/liars-diary-by-patry-francis.html (Thanks, John!)

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Nathalie January 21, 2008 at 2:25 am

Interesting article (it certainly provides a unusual angle on the effect a book can produce on one person) and interesting blog.
I’ll have to think about a story for this week’s theme. I am up and running about but most of my brain has begged off life today and opted to stay in bed (lucky devil) instead.

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Oronte Churm January 21, 2008 at 8:51 am

My form of transport is almost always LPCs, as we used to call them in the army–leather personnel carriers, or shoes. I spend on average one hour per month in a car. (Though I do take a city bus to campus maybe once every two weeks. It’s a 10-minute ride.) I’m not a Luddite or anything, but I do get a lot of uninterrupted thinking time that way.

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robinslick January 21, 2008 at 9:26 am

I walk everywhere, too, since the State of Pennsylvania does not want me ever driving again and I find public transportation repugnant and unreliable. Hence why I live in downtown Philly – everywhere I could possibly want to go is within easy distance by foot.

Funny you should bring this up, though. I was thinking of a side project, or blog, called Radical Pedestrian. Now that I am armed with a camera phone, I would really like to take photos, complete with license plate numbers, of all of the idiots who are bent on killing me every day…the ones who run red lights; don’t stop before a right turn on red; or my personal favorite, the morons with hand held cell phones and blackberries who don’t pay attention to the roadways at all… anyway, I’d like to post said pics daily along with the obscenities I shout at them which alas they do not hear.

Other than that, at least once weekly I provide entertainment to fellow pedestrians because I am never without my iPod and yeah, yeah, I’m one of those…meaning, a person so lost in the music I forget I’m out in public and I sing along at the top of my lungs. Which is unfortunate because I sing a little like Lucille Ball in the old I Love Lucy sitcoms.

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lorioliva January 21, 2008 at 9:49 am

I take the train to my contract job 4 days a week. It’s about a 20 minute ride with 1 change over. I get a lot of reading done, which is great and it completely eliminates any stress regarding traffic. It’s so nice to walk out of work and not have to worry if the roads are clear.

Nothing pops into my mind yet…as I have just come down from an intense writer’s workshop! If a delightful story pops into mind, I’ll be back!

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lance_reynald January 21, 2008 at 11:46 am

I mix it up. I love public transportation, and Portland has some of the best I’ve ever seen.
most necessities are within walking distance (20 blocks or so.)… wider scope of errands are on bike (cheap cruiser with the classic coaster brakes…nothing fancy past the basket and bell)…The bus if I need to go downtown to Powell’s and the IPRC, and if I really need to expand my scope there is the MAX (our super nice lightrail)…. ah, and I can’t forget the free streetcar downtown…

there is a whole world and language to all the differences in those modes… each form seems a different group of people with limited crossover in their worlds…fascinating actually…

and I detest driving…putting me in a car is a mistake… I hate it anyway; add the carbon footprint and I regard them as totally evil.

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Betsy January 21, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I mix it up too, although I work at home more than anywhere else so I’m not a daily commuter. In New York I walked everywhere within a couple of miles from my house, or took the bus or subway for longer distances or if the weather was really rotten. In Chicago – it’s much more of a driving city and public transport really depends on where you live – I’m close to the el, always take it to the airport now, so easy, I also take it downtown cuz parking is terrible, but for other trips it’s just way easier to drive. But I will say that right now in Chicago, for anyone who’s unaware of this nationally, we’re in grave danger of losing a ridiculously huge chunk of our entire system, something like seventy bus lines if we don’t get funding in the next few weeks, and you know, for me personally it won’t be the worst kind of hardship, but for a huge section of the population here, this is is dire.

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass January 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Sad to say I have a huge carbon footprint when it comes to using public transportation. I live in Southern California. Need I say more? We have the worst PT system in the world. I would gladly use it if it were more accessible, convenient, and affordable. Plus, I love my car. I love driving my car. I love driving FAST.

However, when I lived in Japan I used PT frequently. I loved the busses, street-cars, trains, and above all the Shinkansen (bullet train). Talk about feeling the speed as the land blurs by. I remember fondly the first time I used the Shin just after arriving in Japan only seven weeks away from delivering my first baby. Imagine now, this very preggo guijin accidently pulling the emergency alarm in the toilet, thinking it was the flushing cord. Now imagine the alarm ringing through the traincar, the berry red-faced guijin hurrying back to her seat as fast as her very preggo body could go.

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Kimberly January 21, 2008 at 4:46 pm

I’m in Florida for a few days, and have forgotten the mixed blessing a car can be. I love the windows-down, music-loud, think-tank a car can be, but I weep for the lack of exercise I get when I’m down here and the road-raged lunatic I become behind the wheel.

I’m a hard-core NYC walker. I don’t take the train for anything less than four stops (roughly two miles) away. Even during the snow/rain/sleet/heat. I friggin LOVE to walk. I love the sidewalks, smells, clatter, dogs, and air of the city. But when I have to… I really enjoy the trains and cross-town busses for the pure entertainment value – I never read or plug-in to anything. If I did, I’d miss out on all kinds of eavesdropping deliciousness!

One of the favorite things I’ve seen was a guy use an advertisement reflection in the subway car for a mirror as he trimmed his scraggly beard while whistling a polka and one of the many hilarious nuggets I have heard was (no kidding) a large, sassy, deep-mocha woman say to her friend “The only thing he was good for was to pay my bills and a tongue f*ck.” (Is it TMI if I question what exactly she was complaining about???)

If my nose was buried in a book or jamming to my iPod, I would have missed that.

For other gems – do you know about Overheard in New York?

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chuckles January 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm

OINY is one of my favorite things in the world, together with the various sister sites – OI the Office and OT the Beach (not so crazy about the celebrity spinoff). I actually was a finalist in a headline-writer competition they had. That’s a funny story you tell about the woman getting her, um, bills paid (never called it that before!).

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Kimberly January 21, 2008 at 9:54 pm

The only thing better than the real-life quotes (which I both read and contribute to when I can) are the headlines! I’m always so impressed with the winners!!! Good on you!

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RobinGrantham January 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Hmm… We were in NYC and we wanted to go see Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s band, Whisperado, so we tried to take the subway.

Yeah, it smelled like it might if someone duct-taped your head into the armpit of a WWF contender, midmatch. We promptly ended up at roughly the right street number, but in the wrong direction. (I don’t remember what it was, but I mean it was something like 666 East Dark Street and we went to 666 West Dark Street.) I’d walked to the Javits Center earlier that day, so I was already sporting some impressive blisters.

Which is why I’d suggested we take a cab.

Yeah, the gig went down roughly two blocks from our hotel. After walking the distance back in the correct direction, we missed the show by something like fifteen minutes.

Later, as I stood in the shower, salty sweat running down into my throbbing, open wounds . . .

I had a strong urge to duct tape Hubby’s head into the armpit of a WWF contender.

It wasn’t our finest evening.

Normally, though, I do enjoy walking, especially in new places. As long as I know the way and my skin integrity is at least 95%.

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Heather_Fowler January 21, 2008 at 10:28 pm

I will second that vote of bad transportation in SoCal. I took the bus in highschool–going to a school above my station and it was embarassing to get off at the stop in front of the school because this was a school where kids turning sixteen had birthday presents of new cars. Fortunately, or unfortunately, *big grins* I then got a 65 Ford Falcon, 2 door, six cylinder car when I turned 17 and got my license–but the thing broke down all the time and I had to sit on phonebooks to drive it until my grandfather took it down to Mexico for reupholstery. The high school I went to was on the top of a hill. Around this school, there were speedbumps every fifty yards or so–so even when I got off the phonebooks, sometimes, my car would die (with a line of rich kids’ cars behind me when it went over a bump and I would have to get out and push it. The moral of this story: The embarassment of the bus paled then. I started thinking lovely thoughts about riding it again. Oh, the lovely bus days… Just kidding. Barely. But I loved that car too–even knew I could drive exactly 37 minutes before it would overheat. And, at least there wasn’t a long wait with multiple transfers when I wanted to go somewhere. Always liked subways and such when I go to larger cities. San Diego–public transportation–it lacks. I did have a boyfriend once who wrote me notes from Romeo (him) to Juliet (me) folded like hearts and enjoyed pursuing any number of inappropriate activities when I was riding the bus and… Oh, I won’t go there. But that was one of the better times on the transit. 😉 Otherwise, I just enjoy the elite modes of hoofing it and driving. Nothing else here works consistently or well.

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SusanHenderson January 22, 2008 at 7:28 am

Really great conversation going on here. I’ll be able to stop by this evening – lots going on until then.

Patry Francis Blog Day now has over 300 bloggers involved, including THE KITE RUNNER author, Khaled Hosseini! Keep spreading the word and let’s see how enormous we can make this day. And remember, everyone who signed up agreed to blog about her book on January 29th, which is one week away….

See you this evening.

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SusanHenderson January 22, 2008 at 8:57 am

Oh, hey – congratulations to
Enrico and Ronnie for Ratatouille‘s Oscar nomination!

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Kimberly January 22, 2008 at 9:38 am

Isn’t it funny. Like a chain-smoker… I no longer notice the smell.

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Ric January 22, 2008 at 11:18 am

Mass Transit? Public Transportation? I’m ten miles from everything and there is no way to get there except by car – I have three and the monthly insurance bill is $400.
Still, there is an Amtrak train that runs through our small town – goes to Chicago every day – and it’s a fun ride. We’ve done it a number of times when Daughter lived there. Much cheaper than driving, and the views are right out of Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans. Wish it went more places.

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jessicaK January 22, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Living in Brookline, a town contiguous to Boston, I walk, mostly. Except when I’ve had to drive my son to and from school 17 miles each way, which I did until yesterday. He now gets picked up in a town-provided van. I will no longer have to drive 70 miles a day.

What will I miss from all those rides? The conversations about music in the mornings when my son plugged his iPod into the lighter socket so I could listen too, and pointed out guitar riffs or introduced me to bands I’d never heard of such as System of the Down, Modest Mouse, Jurassic 5 (He has wide, varied tastes). He’d play the opening phrases then jump to the next song—“music ADD” he likes to call it.

I will also miss watching the landscape changing in the country, a novelty given that I live in urban surrounds. Where I live, we have plenty of trees and parks but even more brick and pavement to kick around.

That said, I will not miss the argument we had in the car when my son got so mad at me he threatened to jump out while the car was racing at 45 miles per hour. At that very moment, a big hawk or mini-vulture-type bird lit on the side of the road intent upon something. Did it hear our argument? Was I the hawk and my son the prey or vice versa? After we saw the hawk, things calmed down in the car. The day ended up okay.

Truth is: I like walking best. For instance, that’s when I can hear Chickadees in the trees on the way to the library. When they chirp or twee, the sky seems to balance itself and me along with it. I like checking out the state of the snow banks on the way to the grocery store. Have they shrunk or grown since my last jaunt to the post office? Walking makes me feel I’m blending with the world.

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chuckles January 22, 2008 at 11:24 pm

can I just mention – that image at the top of this post, must be the most oppressive looking bus stop I’ve ever seen? What a dehumanizing way to relegate the users of public transportation to a lesser status. Sorry, it creeps me out!

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Nathalie January 23, 2008 at 4:18 am

The form of public transport I am using more often these days is the subway (both under and above ground). There is an above ground line that allows me to get from my outer suburb to the centre of Rome is a little less than an hour.
I like this line because of extremely varied sights it affords, both in and out.
It goes through loads of suburbs inhabited by immigrants: the cars are a real Babel tower, full of colours and a huge variety of styles and languages.
As for the world unfolding outside, we go through bits of both antic and modern ruins: The line passes through Roman walls at Porta Maggiore (do not miss the baker’s mausoleum right outside the wall!) and further along the way the tracks go along some derelict shantytowns put together by gypsies and other poor immigrants.
This was a big shock to me the first time I saw them and since then I have witnessed half-assed efforts of the municipality to do away with those under pressure of the public (there was a murder recently involving one of the gypsies and a vast outcry – it is heart breaking to me to see that the authorities are trying to do away with the shantytowns for reasons of safety for outsiders and not for the sake of the inhabitants themselves). The efforts are not very conclusive – money is missing to build suitable lodgings for all the persons living there. That most of these people are illegal immigrants of course does not help.

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troutbum70 January 23, 2008 at 10:58 am

No public transport for me on a daily basis but I do have stories. I had gone to New England to watch the leaves turn. It was fun, but I wondered why we couldn’t watch them turn while standing in one of the many streams fishing. Anyway we spent the last day in Boston and rode the subway there. The people were in there own worlds and no one spoke or looked at anyone else. I saw a Hooker and I asked how she was doing and if she was working or heading to. My girlfriend was mortified. I looked at her and said. “What?” A women who had been reading giggled and I asked her if her book was good. She said she had just started but it seemed good. Being silly I said it was my first time on a subway and I winked at my girlfriend. She seemed not to suprised by my statement. I played the awe struck tourist until we got to our stop and I wished the hooker well and we went on our way.

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Darrin January 24, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Without the subway, New York would be an uninhabitable snake pit. (Not that snake pits come in the inhabitable variety.) One train event that seems to percolate to the top was a ride back from Brooklyn at some wee morning hour, where I shared the car with a few teenagers dancing around their bag of mismatched, half-filled bottles of booze, as if they had just gotten off their busboy shifts and had ripped off the bar. I worked in a restaurant when I was their age, and that’s how I may have recognized the loot… anyway, they wanted to share their booty, and they insisted that I slug some down with them. With the help of their rum smiles, they christened a suit-wearing man, the only other person in the car, as “Bill Gates. C’mon, Bill, drink!” Bill eventually capitulated. Then they turned to me, waving the communal rum bottle in my face and shouting “Brad Pitt! Drink up!” I couldn’t spoil their happy hour, so I complied. Must have been that pomade I was wearing.

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