God, I love public transportation.
I struggle with embracing Cincinnati's bus system, what with its poorly designed wheel-and-spokes system. That said, it's a great service for people who really need it (including me - I was bus-bound for 2.5 months in 2007 when my car's turbo blew up. I was grateful for the public resource).
The thing is, I wish ours was a system that was used more by people who wanted it, instead of just needing it.
I just got back from spending almost a week in San Francisco, where public transportation is a way of life. The people don't just dig their trains, trams and trolleys because it's environmentally friendly - the truth is, riding public transportation is infinitely more convenient, too.
We flew in to Oakland before noon, and only had to hop on a quick bus before we piled on to the BART. In all, our trip from baggage claim to hotel lobby took about 35 minutes.
We really only needed a car for our one daytrip to Sonoma (though Wingman held on to it for two excursions to see high school pals elsewhere in the Bay area), and so the rest of the time we decided to stick to the MUNI. I was chomping at the bit to get the MUNI Passport; I discovered its significant convenience when I visited San Francisco just over a year ago. The pass (1, 3 or 7-day options) allows you to ride an unlimited number of buses, trolleys, and streetcars - as well as San Francisco's classic cable cars, which carry a hefty, $5 one-way fee.
My three-day pass was 20 bucks, and over the three days of use, I more than made up for my investment.
The other, super-cool thing about traveling around a city with excellent public transportation - many smartphones (Droid, iPhone, etc.) feature a Google Maps option that will give you a transit option, complete with walking directions to specific bus/streetcar stops.
We were quite the pair - pulling out our dueling smartphones, racing to discover the directions to our planned destination first.
The thing is, people in these big, freakin' awesome cities champion their public transportation because it's. so. easy.
Forget driving in circles, looking for an open parking meter or the cheapest parking lot. And ditto for dealing with road rage-laden traffic jams and idiots who don't know how to drive.
Public transportation gives you an opporunity to get to your destination swiftly, simply and with complete sanity. Bonus points for the chance to indulge in some pleasure reading.
The other thing that pubic transportation complements - getting a chance to actually see the city. Had we been trapped in a car the entire time, I likely wouldn't have noticed the lovely street detailing in the otherwise grungy Tenderloin. I wouldn't have known that the names of the streets were engraved in the concrete at almost every street corner.
I wouldn't have had the chance to let my eyes linger a little longer as I peered in the shops, restaurants and businesses we passed.
Public transportation also gives you a chance to rub elbows with real humanity. We saw beautiful and interesting people of all colors, backgrounds and social classes. We had the chance to eavesdrop on a few hilarious conversations.
We got to know a little bit more about life in San Francisco thanks to public transportation.
I am really hoping Cincinnati steps up its game and rolls full steam ahead with big plans for public transportation. A streetcar system could do wonders for our communities, and would likely be the first in many significant steps to improve our fair Queen City.
And someday, maybe some 30-somethings from San Francisco will come and get the chance to learn a little bit more about life in Cincinnati.
And maybe, just maybe, they won't leave.
Kate's Random Musings by Kate the Great is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.