I’m going to continue to say nice things about Ride the Bus Month in Bangor, and the Community Connector in general, throughout November. Those big red buses (some are white and others are wrapped in advertising) continually make me feel good about living here. They are one of the area’s unheralded assets. Regular riders must not forget to appreciate them, even as we push for improvements.
Public awareness of public transportation is the point of Ride the Bus Month. The cheerful orange flyers announcing the event provide several good reasons to use the Community Connector this month even if you own a car.
SAVE MONEY. The American Automobile Association estimates that the average American spends $725 per month to own and operate a car. A monthly bus pass is just $45.
AVOID PARKING HASSLES. Bus passengers never have to troll for parking or worry about getting a ticket if they stay too long.
INCREASE YOUR “ME” TIME: On the bus you can read, write, knit, listen to music, do the crossword, meditate, or even nap. You can prepare for a busy day, or regroup from a stressful one, between home and work.
AVOID DRIVING IN BAD WEATHER: When storms rage, leave the driving to trained professionals in vehicles that hold the road.
SAVE THE PLANET: Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Every trip you make in a bus instead of a car reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The flyer also contains information on fees (a single ride is $1.50; a strip of 5 tickets is $6), transfers from one route to another, hours of operation, where to buy tickets, how to download the Community Connector smartphone app, and other contact information.
I’ve been using the Community Connector for ten years now, for all those reasons and more. I’ve made friends on the bus. I’ve engaged in interesting discussions on a wide rage of subjects. I’ve graded papers, and gotten some of my own writing done.
As an adjunct professor at the University of Maine, I get to ride for free. Students and employees at Husson University, New England School of Communications, Eastern Maine Community College, and the University of Maine at Augusta get the same deal. I consider it a benefit of my job on a par with the free parking most car commuters get at theirs.
What’s it worth? A single ride costs $1.50, you can buy a strip of 5 tickets for $6, and a monthly pass is $45. As regular readers of this blog know, I don’t own a car. I do have a bicycle, and I live in a household where a car is available if I need one. I ride the bus about 300 times a year. That works out to 25 rides per month, which would cost me $450 per year if I paid for them individually, $360 if I bought the tickets, and $540 if I bought a monthly pass.
Clearly, the best deal for me would be the strips of tickets. Even without a car, I don’t ride the bus enough to justify the cost of a monthly pass. But I use my bike and walk and sometimes borrow the lovely Lisa’s car – though not to go to work. Why would I take a car to the campus when it’s so easy to access by bus? Later hours would make the bus option even more attractive.
But someone who commutes to a job by bus five days a week, fifty weeks a year, requires 500 rides, which individually would cost $750 and would consume $600 worth of tickets. For that rider, the monthly pass makes sense.
It also makes sense for employers to reward employees for using the bus, as the colleges do. Every bus commuter means one less parking space the company has to create and maintain.
The Community Connector offers discounts to several members of the community. Seniors (60+), SSDI disability recipients and K-12 students can qualify for half-price fares through the Community Connector website.
And there’s an organization called GoMaine, which co-ordinates emergency rides home for passengers who use public transportation at least three times a week.
Ride the Bus Month is co-ordinated by Transportation For All. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.