I am somewhat ashamed to admit that although I am an avid “transit advocate,” I rarely utilize Indianapolis’ public transportation system. So, last week, I made the conscious decision to stop talking, and start walking (…and riding the bus). I hung up my keys, parked my car in my garage, and dedicated 48 hours to living as a car-less Indianapolis resident, navigating the city by only foot, bike, or bus.
I’ll admit, the next 48 hours were challenging. I had to commit extra time to traveling, had to brave the snow and rain, and had to scour my couch cushions for dimes and nickels in order to pay for bus fares.
Despite a few minor setbacks, my 48-hour experiment was successful and insightful. I won’t spend the next 250 words boring you with every detail of my experience, but I will share a few tips and insights I learned along the way.
1. Plan Ahead
When using public transportation, planning is everything. On a typical commute downtown by car, I am able depart my house at my discretion, leaving just enough time to hop in my car, park, and arrive at my destination on time. However, while commuting by transit, I found myself spending extra time scoping out the most efficient routes, researching departure and arrival times, and constantly checking my watch to ensure that I left my house with enough time to walk to the bus stop, arriving 5 minutes early to make certain I would not miss my ride.
2. Be Flexible and Have Patience
During my experiment, I found departure and arrival times to be more approximate than fixed. More than once during the 48 hours, the bus I was waiting on arrived early, and I found myself running toward the stop, arms flailing, yelling at the bus driver to “WAIT FOR ME!” Conversely, I also found myself waiting at stops about 5-10 minutes after the scheduled departure time, causing me to arrive at engagements 10-15 minutes late. Luckily for me, the parties I met with were understanding of my lateness.
3. Quarters, Dimes, and Nickles will become your New Best Friends
A one-way trip on the IndyGo bus costs $1.75, and they don’t give change. Having exact change ready to pay the fare will help to make your commute a smooth one.
4. Appropriate Attire is Crucial
As you may remember, the weather on last Thursday and Friday ranged from snow, to sunshine, to rain. More than once I had to trudge through partially shoveled sidewalks, and hop over puddles to make it to my destination. Due to the unpredictable weather in Indiana, wearing appropriate footwear, dressing in layers, and carrying an umbrella are essential for any transit rider.
5. I am Thankful I have the Option to Drive
I would love nothing more than to be able to give up my car, and live my life as a true car-less Indianapolis citizen. Unfortunately, the current transit system in Indianapolis does not allow for that. I am thankful that when taking the bus is too difficult, expensive, or time consuming that I have the option to drive from point A to point B. However, due to physical or financial restraints, countless numbers of Indianapolis residents don’t have this luxury.
Having relied on public transportation for 48 hours, I can only begin to understand the challenges of the system and those who use it. I have gained a much greater respect for those individuals who rely on the system as their main source of travel. I am hopeful our city will soon recognize the importance of investing better transit system, and we will begin to see changes and improvements to transit in Central Indiana.
Carly Weidman is an Indianapolis native, Ball State Alumni, and IU SPEA Master of Public Affairs Graduate. A strong proponent of sustainability and smart growth, Carly works to promote local and state public policies related to transportation, the environment, and sustainability, and strives every day to find new ways to live her life more simply. Stay up to date by following her on twitter: @carlyweidman.