week without a car — harder than it sounds

The week without a car was going great until Thursday afternoon.

As I’d already figured out, the bus would take me to and from work reliably. In fact, I prefer commuting by bus: you don’t have to pay attention to traffic before the a.m. coffee has kicked in. You can sit and relax or catch up on reading news. Last week I downloaded The New York Times app for my Blackberry and instantly became one of those guys who appears to be permanently attached to his phone. I was on my way to proving to my boss I could give up a car for a week.

Then, Thursday evening, my wife suggested we go to the farmers market in Valley Junction and just like that we’d hopped in the car and were on our way to fresh asparagus and juicy hot gyros. I didn’t even realize I’d failed the no-car-week challenge until we’d driven half way there.

Two observations: One, you never really know how dependent you are on your car until you go without it. And two, while great for direct commutes, the bus is not as convenient when you want to run errands. Or at least it feels that way to someone who’s used to relying on a car. I did manage to stop for a haircut on one bus ride home last week, and I found it easy to meet people for coffee or lunch so long as we somewhere along a bus line, often downtown.

The bottom line is, the bus is a great supplement to your car, especially if you live near a bus line. But it’s not a replacement, not for everyone anyway. I can’t imagine dragging home some of my Home Depot purchases by bus.

And no, I don’t feel bad saying that about the industry I represent.

That’s how transportation experts on up to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood view public transit. Not in competition with cars or trucks or semis. But part of the transportation system, each part making the whole better.