#1: Riding a Local Bus

Posted by Megan on April 17th, 2011

Bus monster conquered!

Riding the bus. Many of you urban folk have likely been hitching a ride on public transit since pre-teendom. The metro transit here in the Twin Cities is a complex set of arteries that can take you virtually anywhere. In contrast the city bus in the town I grew up in was a glorified van that shuttled old people from Wal-mart to the YMCA. The only bus experiences I had in my younger years were upon the yellow variety that shuttled me to and from Lakeview Elementary. I don’t have many fond memories of school bus 262. More than once I returned home weary and with gum in my hair.

I was privileged to have a car when I moved to the big city. It was a typical college student car: old enough that you didn’t feel bad running into curbs but trusty. It had massive hail damage dimples (baseball sized!) that differentiated it from any other car around. This actually turned out to be an asset as I could be easily recognized. “There is hail bop, Megan must be here already.” While having a car was certainly a wonderful convenience an unintended outcome was that I was never forced to use public transportation during my college years. My reliance on having a car became absolute. Taking the bus was never considered an option, and I often drove to places that were impractical.

I’ve always found buses to be quite intimidating. Not only was complicated route planning necessary, but you had to figure out how to use the multiple paying methods and the scariest part of all – you had to pull the “stop requested” cord to make the bus actually stop. I recognize that to most of you, this does not seem insurmountable:

Step one: Plan route
Step two: Board bus and pay
Step three: Pull cord when it is time to stop

But for me, these three steps seemed so intimidating I avoided the bus for an entire decade. In a way, this is the perfect first chapter of my 40 adventures. It clearly demonstrates how deeply adverse I am to change. It gives you a glimpse into the great lengths I will go to in avoid the uncomfortable.

Full disclosure: I actually have ridden a city bus before. For several months I took the express bus to work from a Park-and-Ride  lot near my house. This was a nice introduction to public transit. I was able address step two, but steps one and three were not in play. You simply boarded the bus all together at the Park-and-Ride, scanned a card that was provided by my employer, then everyone exited together. No route planning or cord pulling required.

Challenge one of 40 by 30: Take a local bus.
The first step was to plan my route: from the airport to my home in the suburbs. After an excessive amount of research I found that I could take the light rail train to the Mall of America, then board a local bus that would drop me off about half a mile from my home. I anticipated that I could pay with cash. I watched a youtube video to demonstrate how to use the pay machine on board. I made sure I had super crisp bills and plenty of coins just in case there was a malfunction with the bill reader. I planned my transfer and prepared for the thirteen minute layover.
So here’s how it went down:
I boarded the bus and paid
I pulled the cord a few blocks before it was time to get off
I exited the bus.

All went according to plan. It was shockingly easy. I had talked myself into thinking this experience was going to be challenging. It was going to be uncomfortable and scary. But it wasn’t. It was simple and convenient and a hell of a lot cheaper than a $37 cab ride. What exactly was I afraid of? Did I think I was going to accidentally board the wrong bus and end up in Blaine. (no sweat, I could call a friend for a ride) What if I boarded Keanu Reeves’ bus and was forced to relive the movie Speed? While it is possible that Keanu may in fact be a bus driver these days, the probability is fairly low that any bomber would target a mostly empty suburban bus. Nope – I wasn’t forced into the plot of a terrorist’s agenda. Nor did I end up in Blaine. I ended up at home, with $35 extra dollars in my pocket. I didn’t die from the uncomfortableness of something new. In fact I felt proud when I got home. While I’m not ready to turn in my keys for a bus pass just yet, I already have plans to take the bus to Twins games and actively considering other ways I can utilize public transit to limit my driving.

  • © 2011 Megan Steil