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the ups and downs of public transportation

valentine day commuter
Originally uploaded by iamtonyang
I have now officially been a member of mass transit for one week, and boy does it feel...great?

Boston is aptly regarded by many as a city that is easy to navigate, either by foot or public transit. So far, I agree. I have to say, though, that making the jump from personal vehicle to mass transportation does sting a bit. Even in a city with a big transportation infrastructure, one inescapable part of taking public transportation is the waiting time. From where I am living I have to take a bus to the subway station, and buses only come every-so-often. They are also fairly unpredictable (time-wise) if you are anywhere besides the starting point. As far as negatives go, you also lose your right to personal space if traveling by bus or train in 'peak hours.' The seats were made in a different time, when people were smaller, and many folks now exceed the capacity for each seat. As a smaller person, I often wind up wedged between two people. At least I got a seat, though...

On the up side, all that waiting time leaves a lot of time for reading. This makes people in Boston smarter, and more enjoyable to be around. It also seems to be less expensive than owning and driving a car, and mostly less stressful. My experience so far has been a safe, if frustrating one (getting to the bus stop at 12:05 am means waiting for the 1am bus.)

Here, again, lies a design opportunity. How could these systems become more efficient and use-friendly? What would make more people want to take public transportation? Being without a car has meant two more things: 1) My bike takes on a whole new value. It connects me to the subway much quicker than the bus. It also connects me to commerce (namely the grocery store) that would be otherwise very difficult to access. Also (2) It makes me nervous to get stranded. The subway stops running at 12:30am, so you really have to watch yourself on weekends. Of course you can always take a cab, so long as you have enough cash to pay the fare.