Thursday, January 17, 2008

You can't get there from here.

So, I miss the Petersburg bus system. Yeah, never thought I would say that. Specifically, I miss the 41. The nice, uncrowded, simple 41. And to a somewhat lesser extent the 42. Had some good meditations on those buses. I don't miss the 151 and the 152.

But, I got used the bus. And while the Petersburg bus system isn't precisely what I would call reliable, (Waiting an hour, and then there are three buses from the same route tailgating each other -- yeah . . .) I didn't have trouble getting from point A to point B. For the morning commute, generally on time even. (Afternoon and evening were another story -- but hey, there's the Metro and marshutkas to supplement the buses.)

Anyway, this all leads around to me looking out my apartment window in Memphis and noticing that buses are going by fairly regularly. So, I think to my little self -- hey, I could take the bus to school -- after all, a route runs right by the college. Eco-friendlier, might be cheaper than putting gas in my car, yeah, this could be a winning situation!

Okay, despite Memphis apparently thinking like Peter the Great, who laid out the southern portion of Saint Petersburg with the prospects shooting out from the central point of the city -- the Admiralty -- like spokes on a wheel. This makes navigation a little less intuitive than does a simple grid system. But, Memphis does this with bus routes -- everything is a ray shooting out from downtown, half of a wheel. Relatively few crosstown routes.

Anyway, the trip to and from the apartment wouldn't be too bad. One transfer. Roughly 30 minutes in the bus, and less than a block of walking. Not shabby. (Also, thirty minutes cushion time on class.) Oh, and no worries about crowding.

However -- good lord! Who set these fares? How can folks afford the bus? My fare each way would be 1.60. As best I can tell from the website, you can't just buy a monthly pass with unlimited rides. (You can in Boston -- my US comparison city.) You can buy a pass for 21 rides, which gets the base price for a ride down to 1.33 from a 1.50. Um . . . I'm having trouble fathoming how using the bus is that much less expensive than owning a car -- but by the time insurance and repairs are factored in, it might be. And, I'm not sure that my desire to be eco-friendlier over the next six months is going to include spending considerably more on transportation, than I will using my car. (Middle-class college student, my transportation situation isn't average.)

Okay, Russia spoiled me, I guess. A monthly bus pass in Peter is 385 rubles -- about 15 dollars. Probably, part of the inexpense is due to lower gas prices in Russia, and part is due to the vast majority of people in Russia using public transportation. (Incidentally, the cost of living in Peter is just as high as in Memphis.) Here, I would be looking at somewhere between 60-100 dollars on bus fares in a given month. An unlimited local bus pass in Boston is 40 dollars a month (59 dollars gets you unlimited subway rides too) -- which taking into account differences in gas prices, and probably the amount of government funding between US and Russia, seems reasonable.

Dear Memphis, unlimited monthly bus pass . . . nudge, nudge, wink, wink, you know what I mean.

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