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What Took Me So Long To Become A Regular Transit Rider?

October 4, 2010 Public Transit 9 Comments

metropassI’ve always supported public mass transit, at least in theory. Sure, I’d ridden both rail & rubber tire transit from time to time in St. Louis during the last 20 years.  Getting to & from the airport was probably the most frequent reason for using transit, but even though I lived a block from the #70 Grand  bus line I’d get a friend to drop me off or pick me up from the MetroLink station on Grand.

I do recall one trip in 2007 where I walked to the bus stop, then a few blocks, to catch the bus to MetroLink so I could reach the airport. I may have done it twice but I know it wasn’t three times. From my last home in South St. Louis I’d bike over to catch the #40 Broadway bus to go downtown.  Again, this was only a handful of times.

After my stroke, in February 2008, I used the MetroLink light rail to get out of downtown a few times, especially before I started driving in July 2008 — dropping transit at that point. But two years later, in June 2010, I decided to see how difficult it would be to become a regular transit rider so I purchased a monthly pass for July 2010.

One thing I knew I’d have to let go of way my idea that I wouldn’t like the wheelchair lift on the buses because many destinations were only reachable by bus. Others were reachable by bus or light rail, but the bus was closer on both ends.

Short clip of lift in operation:


So what did I find out over the last three months?

  • Having a smart phone (iPhone 3GS in my case) with Google Maps was very helpful for determining routes and times.  Additionally, I can access PDF files of route maps I’ve saved on Dropbox.
  • Not having to pay each time I boarded made me more open to taking transit throughout the month.
  • The quality of bus and train operators varies widely, none were bad but some are better than others.
  • Using transit takes longer than driving my car but the convenience is worth the extra time.
  • The restoration of lines that came recently make a huge difference.
  • The level of ridership has been good on the many lines I’ve ridden, at different times of day & night.
  • Riders
  • The quality of the bus service is much higher than I had expected.
  • Initially it would have been cheaper to buy individual tickets rather than the monthly pass.  As my ridership has increased I’m probably at a break even point.

I feel like a regular now that I ride the bus and/or train 3-4 times per week.  I plan to keep buying a monthly pass so I don’t have to drive my car much.

For the last five months I drove my car just 1,000 miles locally (excludes road trips out of town), that extrapolates to 2,400 miles per year.  Not bad, I think.  I’d love to not have the expense of a car but due to the modifications I need I can’t just rent one as needed.

I’m fortunate that I have two bus lines each just a block away (#97 & #10) and three MetroLink stations nearby (Union Station, 8th & Pine, Convention Center).  My address got a “good transit” rating of 69/100 but is a “walker’s paradise” with a score of 94/100 on Walkscore.com.

I realize that had I been riding transit for the last 20 years I probably wouldn’t have gained so much weight, my blood pressure wouldn’t have been off the charts and I wouldn’t have had a stroke.  It took 20 years but I’m finally a regular transit rider.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Congrats on “getting it”. The two things that really work in your favor are being close to more than one route/option and investing in a monthly pass. If we had to insert $2 or $5 every time we wanted to use our cars, instead of paying $30 or $40 to fill the tank every few weeks, we'd think differently about using them, as well.

    The one challenge for many of us outside the urban core face is that service drops off significantly. While “Using transit takes longer than driving my car but the convenience is worth the extra time”, my reality is that travel times are at least twice as long, and many times, three times longer. Combine that with no direct service between home and work, and commuting remains a SOV, 5-6 days a week . . .

  2. JoeBorough says:

    maybe you should try enterprises wecar program? I hope to one day be multi-modal without having to spend thousands on a car and maintenance. Biking, walking, bus, rail, and a car sharing program.

    • I'd love to participate in car sharing but 1) the nearest cars are further then I can walk and 2) to drive with my right hand only I need a spinner knob and a crossover bar to activate the turn signals with my right hand.

  3. pauldayhq says:

    Great post. I write a blog called Choice Riders, it's about marketing transit to folks like yourself. Send me your ideas!

  4. Peter says:

    Moving post! Thanks for sharing.

  5. aaronlevi says:

    my wife and I went to a single car household about a month ago. Since she works in Olivette, I work on south kingshighway and my agency has a car that i can reserve for business purposes, she gets the car and i ride the bus. I love it actually. the soulard isn't the most timely, which gets frustrating, but it gives me a good 30 minutes plus about a mile of walking to de-stress and forget about work.

    I was just in Chicago this past weekend. from the time we left our door until we got home, we didn't use a car once (metro busses, amtrak, and L trains). it was wonderful. but being in chicago makes you realize how lacking our system is.

  6. Salvdr says:

    I have been a full-time Metro bus and Metrolink rider for three years now. I am blessed to have the #10, #13, and #18 bus stop at the intersections of Lindell Boulevard and Taylor Avenue which is one block from my home where I can hop aboard the bus to go to the CEW Metrolink station for a connection to downtown, the airport, and west to the doctors offices in Webster Groves as well as the Repertory Theatre and Opera Theatre at Webster University. Ten months out of the year I walk those same seven blocks to the CWE station, to and from work and to the airport with my wheeled lugguage ticking behind me. I previously also took the #10 bus into the city and walked the seven blocks to my office. A benefit of working for the state of Missouri was a parking pass to a dedicated downtown garage or a Metro Monthly Pass. I saved money for both the state as well as myself by choosing to take the monthly pass. My car is five years old and only has 25,000 miles on it.

  7. Salvdr says:

    Also Metro provides the Guaranteed Ride Home program. A wonderful no-cost benefit in case of emergency at work.


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