Well, I finally did it. Walk Bike Nashville’s annual meeting was tonight, and I was invited. Contemplating on how to get to a meeting downtown about cycling and pedestrian advocacy in the rain, I chose to walk a block down the road and catch the bus! How dare those that DROVE to a Walk Bike meeting!
If you look at the route maps for Nashville MTA, you immediately notice that the major arteries extend from downtown in a star pattern. A few of the routes make loops, such as #7 (my route to downtown) that goes inbound on Hillsboro/21st and outbound 21st/Belmont, then turns back around onto Hillsboro Road.
My route was a simple pattern. During busy bus hours, my #7 rolls every 30 minutes. You can get out to the bus stop, read a magazine, book or newspaper while you wait a few minutes for the bus. Bring your iPod. It’s a great way to give yourself some down time.
When I first caught the bus heading inbound, it looked like a cross between working folks riding home, school kids, and a small number of tree hugger types (like me) riding inbound. The bus moved along fast, while people caught up on reading, talked on the cell phone, or caught a nap. It was quite a nice way to spend time in traffic. I can’t believe those bus drivers can get that boat past the narrow areas on 21st. It scares the hell out of me when I’m driving my pickup through there! My ride inbound took about 25 minutes, and I walked about 4 blocks to my destination. Not bad…
After 7:15pm, buses begin running every hour. I arrived at about 7:30, so my wait was quite long. I had an interesting conversation about riding the bus with a guy that was waiting. He was just going across downtown. (he obviously had been enjoying a few beers or something.) Though it’s different than jumping in your car and taking off any time you like, it’s pretty easy to get down to Deaderick St. right at :15 after. By the way, all the buses come in at the same time, so you can make connections to other lines. I assume that people that regularly connect have bus passes, because I don’t think you can connect for free on one fare.
Sitting at the Deaderick Street location is quite strange when you first experience it. Likely, one is to become more comfortable with it with more experience. No one wants to mess with you – they’re there to catch the bus. Plenty of cops hang around down there though! Most waiting are working people. Yuppie white collar folks are few and far between down there, and even the tree huggers (like me) weren’t to be found. That’s too bad more people don’t use the system. I did have an interesting conversation with a guy about bus riding.
The buses all arrive at Deaderick at the same time. Imagine Dallas or Atlanta, where all the planes land at the same time, so passengers can transfer. Same concept. Otherwise, Deaderick would be so crowded with people waiting that it would be impractical.
The ride back outbound was interesting. One gentleman lectured the driver on Murfreesboro, how it was run by good old boys, the 5th largest city in Tennessee, and "don’t mess up or you might as well give it up." The bus driver must have been running ahead of schedule. She pulled over at a convenience store and bought a bar of chocolate while we all waited. I don’t blame her. The bus turned off 21st onto Wedgewood, then zig zag’ed over to Belmont. I finally got off at Blair to go meet Donna at her sister’s house. A 2 block walk got me to their house. I rode with Donna the rest of the way home.
- Don’t get in a hurry. Catch up on reading. Sitting on the bus reading is far better than sitting and watching TV, or screwing with the Internet! (-:
- Learn the times for your bus line, for different times of day. You have to plan a little so you don’t sit on Deaderick too long.
- Take a day off and test your route, especially if you’re connecting. That way, you don’t get stressed out while learning the basic operation of the system.
- Plan to walk a short distance. It feels good to walk. You ought to try it.
- Don’t be scared of people on the bus or at the stops. OK, lots of African American and Latino people ride. They’re just riding. Maybe they’ve had a long day working and they aren’t in good moods. Maybe they never have people strike conversations. People are people.
- All Nashville MTA buses are equipped with bike racks. If your destination is too far from the bus stop to walk, take your bike and catch the bus. I assure you it’s a short ride.
Go give Nashville MTA a try. I’ll try not to go downtown and back by car again. If you can get to work by bus, you owe it to yourself, the environment, and to Nashville, getting to be a better and better place to live!