Well, it has been a month now that I have been riding the MAX bus to and from work as part of Green Commute Month, a challenge put forth by our regional planning agency. It is not as much of a hardship as it first may sound. Our regional business service offers a “reserve-a-MAX” for those over 70 years of age without a bus stop within ½ mile or with a certified disability. Apparently, age counts. The reserve-a-MAX offers point-to-point service when scheduled a week in advance. Frequently, I am the only rider on the 25-passenger, handicapped wheelchair-equipped bus. My fifteen-minute commute gives me some guilt pangs. It has been an interesting experiment in urban living. As I have gotten to know the drivers, I have learned the stories of their struggle for affordable housing and their preference for fixed routes versus the random reserve-a-MAX schedule, with most preferring the former.
They say that if you do something for 21 days it may become a habit. I have now found that on the days I don’t take the bus (1-2 days a week working from home), I miss it. The point-to-point service is great. It feels a little like having a limo and driver although the vehicle is far from a black Lincoln Town Car one can always imagine it is.
The scheduling process is a bit of a challenge. It requires booking a week ahead beginning on Monday at 6:00 AM the prior week. It turns into a speed-dialing race to be one of the first in the phone queue. Despite my best efforts, I have never been below number 4 and often am caller 10 or more. This requires being on hold for up to an hour. What this tells me is that there is a great deal of demand for this service and a limited supply (there are only 12 reserve-a-MAX time slots per day.) The majority of users of the reserve-a-MAX service use it for medical appointments that often fall outside of fixed bus routes.
What else have I learned in my month-long experiment? For $2.30 each way, I have the benefit of not owning a car and not paying for insurance and maintenance. For $60 per month, I can purchase an unlimited reserve-a-MAX pass. The fixed route bus is $.50 per ride for seniors with monthly passes available at a reduced rate. I have learned that the service is a very inefficient use of my time. Waiting for the bus going to and from the office plus the scheduling issue requires 4-5 hours per week. Using the fixed route business is even more time-consuming because of its hub-and-spoke design requiring a transfer between routes when necessary. Shopping for groceries can prove a bit of a challenge with bag limits on the bus and limitations of physical space. Home grocery delivery has been a blessing in this regard.
I’m hoping my next adventure is going to be commuting on an electric bike. Stay tuned!