I've been thinking a lot about the bus lately, now that I'm car-less: thinking about what makes a good bus route, how many people take it, etc.
I'm thinking about route: why the bus goes into the parking lot of one grocery store while zooming right past the other, why it stops in the Walmart parking lot and not Target's. (Though perhaps Target intersects with a different route.) Who planned this circuitous route? With what motivations?
In Minneapolis, you had to pay attention to which direction the bus was going. Here, the buses run their loops and meet up at a central transfer station. Which means that it takes me 35 minutes to get to work and only 15 to get home, based on where I am in the loop. I live 4.3 miles from campus, as measured on my bike. (which I do take when the weather agrees. Today, April 20th, it's snowing.)
I'm thinking about how many people take the bus. I like to count how many people there are, rooting for filled seats. Often the bus if half-full at best, although the morning bus driver, whom I've gotten to know a bit, says that in the 22 years he's been driving, Eau Claire (city of 60,000) has gone from carrying 300,000 people annually to over a million.
At the same time I'm rooting for more people to ride the bus, I'm also longing for a car. Because the truth is that, if I had one right now, I'd drive every day that I didn't bike and be happy about it. I'm grateful for the chance to think these thoughts and occasionally meet new people on the bus, but I'm also eyeing every Prius that passes by...