Ah, transportation! This was the most difficult part of our first No Impact Week, and so far, that’s holding true for this round.
I had planned it all out. The girls and I would skip to the bus stop in the dawn’s clear light, and I’d get a lovely photo of the happy group of the 10+ kids at our stop helping each other onto those tall bus steps. Then I’d head home for a cup of high carbon footprint coffee (I’m weak that way) before I walked a mile and a bit up a big old hill to a meeting. I’d hitch a ride home from the meeting, and my travel for the day would be all over, with the lowest carbon footprint I could manage. La, la, la!
This didn’t mesh well with Mira’s plan for the day, which involved a sudden hatred of kindergarten, me, wearing shoes, me, catching the bus, and me (the world’s meanest mother). Ava walked to the bus on her own while I did my best to help Mira transition out of the house. No luck. In desperation, with less than one minute until bus arrival, I wrestled Mira and her shoes into our car and drove the 3 blocks to our neighborhood bus stop. I mom-handled her out of the car onto the bus just in time and waved as they drove off, Mira’s tear-stained face glaring at me through the window. I did not get a photo. I was too busy thinking that Mira might be right, I might be a true contender for World’s Meanest Mother.
Neither did I get my cup of coffee. By the time I had sent an email to Mira’s teacher, filling her in about the rather rocky start to our day, I had just enough time to find my running shoes and hit the road.
The sun was up, the air was crisp, the spiders’ webs were glittering, the last birds of summer were singing, and the world smelled like blackberries and spicy leaf mold mud. I remembered why I love walking, and how incredibly lucky I am to live here on this beautiful, beautiful island.
Just as the hill was getting steep and long and I was realizing I’d be very late for the meeting, a car pulled over and I got a ride from a friend headed my way. I got a cup of coffee when we got there, in a real mug, and I caught a ride home, in a biodiesel car, no less. Perhaps I walked and carpooled enough to offset my own carbon impact from that drive to the bus stop earlier.
I worked from home and got some good things done, no transportation required, and when it was time to meet the bus, I walked. No more completely embarrassing driving the scant blocks! There was enough sunshine to make shadows, which doesn’t happen every day – More great luck! It’s so much easier to be happy about walking to and from the bus when it’s such a gorgeous day.
The bus was late, and the parents gathered at our stop talked transportation while we waited. There isn’t a viable public mass transit option for families where we live. There are buses that run in the morning and evening commuter hours, picking people up from each neighborhood and delivering them to the ferry terminal in our main town center. But if you need to travel outside of commuter hours, or want to head somewhere other than the ferry terminal or town, you need to call 24 hours in advance to reserve a trip on the Dial-A-Ride service, which uses smaller buses. For $2 per person, each way, they’ll take you exactly where you need to go. And so long as you know ahead of time exactly when you’ll need a ride home, you can arrange that, too. This works very well for many people who don’t have private transportation for a variety of reasons, but it’s not so great for unplanned trips. And life with young children is filled with many unplanned trips.
This island I live on was zoned and developed very much around the idea that everyone would drive everywhere, and we have a long way to go when it comes to mass transit. Given the economy and our local government’s lack of funds, I’m not holding my breath for a publicly funded solution.
Some of my friends post to Facebook whenever they’re making a trip off the island and have room in their car and schedule to help with friends’ shopping lists or errands. I’ve seen other friends post to ask for a ride to the airport or the doctor, and there’s already a healthy family carpool culture that runs kids to all sorts of after school activities.
Instead of griping about the lack of family friendly public transportation options, we’re going to focus on growing a carpool/ride share/car share/”can I get you anything from town?” culture in our neighborhood. That’s possible and it won’t just lower our collective carbon footprint. I’ve seen it at our school bus stop – When neighbors see each other every day, outside of our cars, when we have a few daily minutes to chat and get to know each other, real friendships and interdependence develop. It works for kids, it works for adults, and it feels good.