A good friend of mine recently needed make a trip to downtown Indianapolis…car was in the shop, no friend availability and so she took the bus. And it wasn’t easy.
HEC is a huge friend of IndyGo and we know they do the best they can with the funds they have. But for Indianapolis (and so many other cities in Indiana) to be 21st century cities, funding public transit has to be a priority.
Here’s my friend’s story… I bet you can relate.
My Public Transit Adventure: Lessons Learned
By Meg Denney Sinclair
Knowing that my car was going into the shop, and also knowing I had commitments downtown, I decided to air up the tires on the road bike, pull out the rain/winter gear, grab the S Pass, and head for my nearest IndyGo stop.
Unfortunately, that was the first challenge. I live in Zionsville, so there is no IndyGo stop near me. However, since I had to take my car to the mechanic on West 71st Street, I loaded up my bike, packed a backpack with tennis shoes, sweats and a statistics book, and headed out the door. I had researched the route I needed to take online the previous evening, and had even written down the stop time, plus a couple of extra stop times, just in case. The IndyGo website is very user friendly and I was able to see route stops and schedules quite easily. What was disappointing was noticing that while the inbound buses ran on a 30 minute loop during “peak” times (mornings up until around 9am or so), the outbound buses only ran once every hour. I knew that if I missed the bus headed home I would be stuck outside at a bus stop for another hour and would likely not make it home in time to pick up my car. So I made arrangements with my instructor to leave statistics class 15 minutes early, just to be sure.
The first challenge of the day was actually getting to the bus stop. There are not many bus routes that intersect one another until you get downtown, so I dropped my car of at the shop and biked the mile or so across west 71st street to Michigan Road and Westlane Road. That was scary. Pot holes were big enough to swallow my bike for lunch, and not only is there no bike lane, there is no shoulder at all! After making it to my inbound stop, my next challenge was figuring out how to actually get my bike into the bike rack on the front of the bus. I had seen buses hauling bikes in these racks several times, which was what gave me the idea to bike/bus it in the first place, but my biggest fear was that I would have no clue how to load my bike, the driver would have to get out of the bus to show me and I would make all of the passengers mad because I held up the route!
Fortunately, when the bus stopped, there was already a bike in the rack so I just looked at it and copied! There were also directions for each step so it turned out to be pretty easy.
Now for the fare. I am a student at IUPUI and with our parking permits, we are issued an S Pass. This is a pass, paid for by student fees, which allows us to ride any fixed route for free. I couldn’t figure out how to make the pass work, the driver had to show me, I held up the route, and people generally seemed okay with my cluelessness. I was surprised because the bus was pretty crowded. I settled in for the trip down Michigan Road and quickly learned how to request a stop and that I could exit out a back door. I exited the bus at 10th and Martin Luther King, retrieved my bike and headed East to FACE, a low cost spay and neuter clinic located at 1505 N Mass. Ave., about 5 miles away. I stuck mainly to the sidewalks, because there was no bike lane and traffic was crazy.
After volunteering at FACE for a couple of hours, I biked it back to campus and attended my class, left early and made it to the outbound stop at Indiana Ave/West Street with 15 minutes to spare for my 2:51pm stop time. I definitely didn’t want to cut it too close because if I missed it, I was stuck downtown until 3:51pm. Finally, at 3:25pm, after waiting for almost an hour on the sidewalk with not even a bench to sit on, I called IndyGo customer service to see if the bus was actually running. The customer service rep., who was extremely friendly, told me the bus was running 28 minutes behind and had just arrived at the Ohio/Pennsylvania stop. Finally, at 3:35pm, I loaded my bike on the rack, and boarded the bus, only to find every seat on the bus full. I stood for a stop until someone exited and then I was able to squeeze in between a lady with some sort of cart with her and another lady rocking it out to an MP3 player. At least the bus was warm, because after an hour outside waiting, I was frozen!!
The rest of the route proceeded relatively uneventfully, I exited again at Westlane Road and Michigan Road, braved the pot holes and maniac drivers on 71st street and retrieved my car from the mechanic.
I would have to say that while the bike ride was somewhat hazardous, overall the trip was relatively easy. I definitely will utilize IndyGo and my bike again, only I will make sure that I have nothing planned so that if I do happen to miss the bus or the bus is running late I won’t be placed in such a bind. While I love the thought of helping the environment by using mass transit, the truth is, I’m addicted to the convenience my car affords me but IndyGo can’t. I guess that makes me a fair weather bus rider.