Forced to Drive


“Take mass transit.  Commute.  Ride a bike. Do what you must to be economically conservative.  Be environmentally-friendly. Be health-conscious.”

You’ve heard the lines and the philosophies. The old-wives-tales, so to speak. Its a nice idea. Save on gasoline. It’s healthier to ride a bicycle. Save on insurance, maintenance and repair, parking fare, fairy fair, traffic and parking tickets and legal hassles, etc, etc.  Man, it would be nice.

Since I donated my useless junk of a car to charity about two years ago, I haven’t driven a single vehicle, except the occasional loaner and UHaul truck.  Aside from the about six months of “borrowing” my brothers motorcycle, I have exclusively ridden mass transit.

Of all the pushing and pressing that the media and the rest of society do in order to get you to stop using your own gas-guzzler, I find it funny / scary how little they cater to the idea.

First of all, lets talk bicycle.  When I was a kid, I saw bicycle racks outside of nearly every establishment.  Now, I see hardly none.  Hardly anywhere.  Oh, there is the exception of course.  But since I was a kid, the number of bicycle racks have greatly diminished… in a world of progressively more and more environmentally-friendly, health-conscious, economic-conscious individuals?!?!

Mass transit stations (where I live) have specialty bike racks that are completely enclosed lockers, one-bike-per-locker.  They are costly, and you must rent them for the long term.  The capitalist profit agenda gets in the way of economical living and environmentalism.

Mass transit offers up to two bicycles on the bus at a time, fastened to the front of the bus in a specialty rack.  If there are already two bikes on the rack when the bus stops to pick you up, you must either abandon the bus or abandon the bike.

There are more accommodations made for the lard-asses and over-indulger’s and the like, the unemployed-retired-medicaid drains on society, in the way of wheel chair and front-seat space, than there are for the health-conscious, environmentally-friendly bicyclists.

Lets talk cross walks.  Half the cross walk signal buttons don’t work, and you end up waiting through two lights before you jaywalk.  They are poorly maintained. Its expected by the city that you get around in a car.

The other half of the cross walks, well, you end up waiting a long time anyway.  I should be able to get across the street as a pedestrian faster than a vehicle can get across town. That just isn’t the case most of the time.

Lets talk mass transit again.  Most bus stops are in the center of the block. So if you got off the bus at one stop, and needed to catch the bus on the other side of the street to head in the other direction, you will have to walk a half a block up to the light, wait for the cross walk signal, and walk another half a block back to the stop… just to end up ten feet from where you started.  Probably a good ten to fifteen minutes where I live.

Of course, the half-hourly or hourly bus that you would have caught going the other direction came in under a minute (as per their schedule), so unless you jaywalked in heavy traffic, it is unfeasible that you would make it across the street in time.  Expect to wait just over a full half-hour for a half-hourly bus, just over an hour for an hourly bus.

So what? Jaywalk, you say? What a joke.

Cops in my area are not above writing a ticket to someone who jaywalked after waiting ten minutes, through two cycles of the light, is pressed for time, and still carefully, cautiously jaywalks through a crosswalk on a street without any cars at 1 in the morning.

A neighboring city just to the south of here has an oddly structured layout. There is a freeway cutting through the middle of the city.  Uninterrupted, as most freeways are, all cross streets are overpasses.  There are in fact only two overpasses in the entire city. One is nearly at least a forty-five minute walk south of the other.  These over-passing roads do not have sidewalks on them, nor are there any crosswalk to them.

Low and behold, there are only two ways to legally cross from one side of the freeway to the other, that is, one half of the city to the other half.  The first is to take ones own personal vehicle, which I don’t have.  The second is to take mass transit.  Unfortunately, there are no routes that go from one half of the city to the other half across the freeway overpass.  One must literally take a fifteen minute bus ride north to a neighboring city, wait at the transit center for another bus, and take a different route south on the other side of the freeway.

I neglected the legal approach once, jaywalked across the freeway on-ramp and onto the overpass with no sidewalk.  A cop gave me a ticket.  All because I didn’t want to waste $30,000 on my own vehicle, or an hour of my life and $3 on bus fair “commuting” across the street’.

Of course, as a pedestrian I have to contend with impatient drivers.  People don’t look out for the pedestrians as often as they should. Stand by to get nearly ran over at least a few times.  Drivers will ignore crosswalk signs.  They will ignore you, and scream at you to get out of the road.

Drivers fail to realize that, assuming you and I are going to the same place, you will get there a hell of a lot quicker than I will.  So shut up already, yield me the right of way like you’re supposed to… or just do it anyway out of courtesy… and let me get to my destination three blocks from home  in a record time of fifteen minutes.

Why are you so impatient? You get around a hundred times faster than me, and you cant give me a five second head-start?  How dare you out-impatience me and rob me of my only privilege as a pedestrian: my right of way.

And as though all that weren’t enough, mass transit cuts back on their services and simultaneously ups their prices.  They do this because not enough people ride transit and, not surprisingly, profits are down.

(If you ask me, mass transit should be a socialized service, but that is another topic.)

Of course, people stop riding mass transit because its no longer worth it. Its not reliable.  If they swallowed their losses for a while, provided services earlier in the day, later at night, throughout the night, reaching further corners of the city and the most obscure of geography, came more frequently or at least in a timely fashion, offered more direct routes to more distant stops (so you don’t spend an hour on a bus for what would be a ten minute car ride), offered reasonable prices… I guarantee more people would ride and profits would inevitably increase.

And if they only obligated people to pay fare upon boarding, that would help them, too.  As it stands, they have a non-confrontation policy whereby anyone who doesn’t want to pay… doesn’t have to.

People stop riding because: you have uptight drivers who show little compassion and are generally unfriendly.  They will skip stops, drive by people they don’t like.  They forget to stop at stops that they don’t normally stop at, both for those waiting at the stops and passengers wanting to get off.  Buses are a mess. Passengers are smelly low-lives that threaten the comfort and safety of innocents. Routes start later, end earlier, and are being narrowed and reduced; routes are being canceled; bicyclists rejected on account that two bikes are already mounted (even though there are no wheelchairs on-board and the bus accommodates two); and prices are being jacked up every couple of months.

More over, hourly buses come by ten minutes early or ten minutes late.  I have waited 55 minutes for a half-hourly bus route.  I have been driven past, while waving and screaming and signaling a bus, all because I wasn’t precisely at the stop as they arrived… even though I was running to the stop, not more than ten feet away… and the bus was ten minutes early.  Where’s the leeway and the compassion?

I have been driven past by a bus driver who didn’t think he could stop in time, because he was speeding to make up for running late and wasn’t expecting to have to pick anyone up there.

I have reported these perfectly legitimate infractions to the mass transit organization, and I have been thus far ignored.

There are two routes I take very frequently.  The first comes half-hourly and hardly ever has anyone on it, the second comes hourly and is packed like sardines – more than four times the people each trip than the bus that comes twice as often.  Does that make any sense?  Whats more, people who rely on mass transit and are on a schedule have been turned away by drivers because there was literally no room to squeeze another sardine in. But the system refuses to buy a larger bus or make the route more frequent.

In fact, I recommended removing seats (raising them) so that people could stand. This would clear out room for more passengers. The driver turned that idea down in a flash without batting an eye at it, preferring instead to just turn people away.

Conclusion: mass transit is getting less and less reliable, more and more costly, less and less worth it.  Its no wonder mass transit is suffering losses. And its no wonder so many people are choosing to drive.

A friend of mine had some legal issues a while back involving his licensing. The story is too long to get into, but suffice it to say he was caught driving on a suspended license that he didn’t know what suspended.  He agreed that he couldn’t afford to drive any more, both financially and legally speaking; so he wanted to sell his car and start taking mass transit like me (and so he sold his car, rather quickly too).  To get out of whatever criminal charges the city was holding him to, he had to agree to get a special insurance on his license (SR-22, I believe).

His (old) insurance company wouldn’t insure him because he no longer had a car and was no longer was paying a policy.  They wouldn’t re-insure him either, because he was both a liability and lacked a valid license without SR-22 insurance (chicken and the egg, I know). Essentially, the city/state didn’t want him to drive, but forced him to insure a car he didn’t have in order to get out of criminal charges; while the insurance company wouldn’t insure him because he didn’t have a car or a decent enough license/record.  Each wanting the opposite of what they were forcing, and both mutually exclusively, each requiring the other as a prerequisite.  The bureaucracy forced him into choosing between incarceration and investing in/driving a new car, when both for financial and legal reasons he preferred to stay off the road.

They tell you not to drink and drive, and yet last call at the bar is two hours after the last bus for the evening stops running.

In addition to all the other variables one must put up with, the question is: Why does anyone walk or bicycle or take a bus? I truly do not know.  I feel the pressure to drive, though its not affordable.

People complain about the traffic, but they refuse to be a part of minimizing it.  They expect everyone else to tire, first, and use mass transit – thus emptying out the roads for themselves.  They are bull-headed and persistent, complaining that no one else uses mass transit though they themselves refuse to.

Of course, if you ride the bus, or own a station wagon for that matter, your economic, social and romantic worth goes down the crapper in an instant.

The state prefers you to drive than not.  Smog checking is a bureaucratic game, too.  I had a car that wouldn’t pass smog checks.  Neither was I required to fix the problem. All I had to do was invest a certain quantity of money into repairs after which, if still unresolved, my car was made an exception.  The profit game, the bureaucracy game. Environmental friendliness isn’t a genuine concern for the state. They just want you to drive.

My options are closing in, society verbally presses, morally and emotionally blackmails everyone to get out of their cars, get off the roads. All the while in practice they make it impossible and enforce the exact opposite policy, emotionally blackmailing people to the opposite agenda.  Which is it? Why is society contradicting itself?

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