Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Arrival

In English class once in high school, we had a discussion about what it means to have arrived. You have to say it like that, with the italics. I can't remember which literary character or author had done the arriving in our discussion, but I never forgot the phrase. To "have arrived" means something along the lines of  having "achieved the ultimate success."

A few days ago, sitting at the office reading Web development blogs, it occurred to me that I am an IT professional. And the thought immediately followed: "I have arrived!"

I was going to blather on about how cool it is to be an official computer geek, and how I like design but am not always as fond of designers, but it wasn't coming out well...

So instead, I'll talk about arrival of another sort: the sort that you do in an automobile.

After 6 weeks of employment at the university, I think I've finally got a handle on bus transportation.

There are six different buses that can transport me a reasonable distance to and from work and home. These six buses serve three different stops that are close to my house, and 3 different stops close to work. It took me quite a while to figure out which ones were going to get me to my destination most efficiently. This was especially difficult since the buses with the most direct route home also only service the stops that take the longest to get to.

The campus shuttle is an obvious first choice, since it's free, and drops me just a 2-minute walk from my office. It also arrives at the closest of the three stops near my home. The problem with the shuttle is its roundabout path to my house, which takes 20 minutes to traverse (for a total time of 28 minutes, including walking and waiting at the stop).

There are 2 Metrobuses that travel between my neighborhood and the campus area. Unfortunately, the stops near campus require an 8 minute walk to the office and a 10 minute walk from the office (different stops inbound and outbound), and Metrobuses make a lot of stops and don't follow the schedule very strictly. To catch either of these buses, I have to leave the office around 4:35, and I get home just about 5:00. It's a 25-to-30-minute trip—potentially shorter than the campus shuttle, but higher stress because of the unpredictable schedule, and it costs $1.50 each way.

My most recent discovery, which really puts an interesting twist on things, is that the county bus 17, which costs only a dollar to begin with, is free for University affiliates! It runs the same route as one of the MetroBuses, but it's usually less crowded and makes fewer stops. Leaving the office at 4:32, I have made it home by 4:56 taking this bus. 24 minutes! But I really have to book it to the stop, since my workday ends at 4:30. Its real benefit comes in the morning, since it arrives in my neighborhood about 10 minutes after the campus shuttle does, and gets me to the office 5 minutes before! The catch is that I have to cross a busy street to get to the stop, and yesterday, the bus actually came while I was still waiting at the crosswalk. I had to dash across the street, blocking traffic, in order to make it onto the bus.

So my conclusion after all this transit research, is that the 7-minute variation in transit times is negligible, and I should choose my routes based on cost and convenience. In the morning, that means shooting for the early campus shuttle, but on those days when I'm having trouble with my hair or clothes or alarm clock, I know I can fall back on the county bus, or if I'm really running late, the MetroBus.

In the afternoon, I also choose the campus shuttle, but if the weather's nice and I've got my walking shoes on and I want some exercise, I can hike on over to the public bus stop and take the county bus home. But even this plan presents a dilemma, as this afternoon, I walked to the public stop, intending to take the county bus, but a Metrobus came first! Should I wait the two minutes for the free bus, or save 2 minutes and lose $1.50? I chose to lose the 1.50, because I started to fear that maybe this was the day the county bus would never come.

I guess I still don't have a handle on any of it.