Today my friend, Bennett, and I used public transportation to get to work and back. We both live in English Village in South Huntsville and both work at TSC/Phase IV Systems on Triana Boulevard near the middle of town. The journey started in my back yard at 6:00am. We walked about 0.75 miles to the Super Walmart on South Parkway. We paid our dollar and boarded the #10 route shuttle at 6:23. There were four people on the bus when we got on, and we picked up six others on the route. The bus riders obviously knew each other. Jim, a young professor at Virginia College, liked to talk about NASCAR. He was not very happy the Kyle Busch won again last weekend. Leroy was a bit of a loud talker that discussed the finer points of trying to provide food for an entire family for less than $20 a day (He was really proud of the fact that he knew where to get thick Ribeye steaks for half of what they cost at Ruby Tuesdays). “Smiley” is a twenty-something that turned the volume up on his ipod (trying to drown out Leroy’s talking) and just smiled whenever anyone looked at him. The riders were friendly, and Bennett and I felt comfortable participating in the conversations. Most of the riders got off at Parkway Place Mall and waited to catch another shuttle.
Bennett and I stayed on for one more stop. We pulled the cord to let the driver know that we wanted to exit the bus. He stopped on the parkway in front of the Walmart on the corner of Drake and the Parkway. We walked down Drake to the edge of Braham Springs Park. We cut through the park and ended up on Ivy Street. A homeless guy asked if we would sell him a cigarette. Neither of us smoke, so he was out of luck. We continued our 1.25 miles journey to work and arrived at 7:30. It was a beautiful morning. The walk felt great, and conversation with Bennett is always entertaining!
Getting home was just as easy. We left Phase IV at 4:30pm and walked back to the Walmart on the corner of Drake and the Parkway. The route #10 bus arrived at 5:02 at the spot where we were dropped off earlier. We rode with four other riders back to the Super Walmart near our house. We got off the bus and walked home. I walked through the back gate and into my back door to the screaming of, “DADDY!” by all three kids. They wanted to hear about the bus ride adventure as if I had just got back from scaling Mount Everest. It was great!
- Instead of the Jared “Subway Diet”, Bennett suggested we start the “Huntsville Transit Diet”. We ended up walking a total of about 4 miles during our transit. The number of holes in the routes will definitely give you the opportunity to walk off a few calories.
- I loved the experience of riding the Route 10 Shuttle. I felt strangely urban walking and busing through town. I found out that it is very easy to get to the Target Shopping Mall (Target, Barnes and Noble, Rave movie theater), my church on Airport Road, and Parkway Place Mall, all on one route. Unfortunately, the buses do not run past 6pm or on the weekends, so it will be difficult to take advantage of the access to these places during working hours.
- Huntsville is now the 30th largest city in the US by land area, and our public transportation is very weak (being kind). It’s about time for city leadership to step up and addresses this issue. Give us a viable system, and I bet that people will take advantage of it.
- The current bus route does not go out to Research Park. This is the second largest research park in the nation and we do not have any public transportation to get the workforce there. Everyone is forced to drive their car to work – there is no other viable way to get there. This is appalling. Again, it’s time for our city to grow up (Metro public transportation between Huntsville, Madison City, and Madison County is an ideal solution – I hope we can find leadership that will actually sit down together to consider such a solution).
- Bennett pointed out that two different Wal-Marts were our starting point and ending point on the bus ride to work. I am still trying to figure out what this says about our city.
- The busses are clean and safe and the existing routes (at least route #10) are efficient.
- I wish there were buses going in opposite directions on each route. You have to go all the way around the horn to get back home on a particular route.
- My five year old son is now looking forward to the adventure riding of riding the bus across town with his father. I am looking forward to taking him and the rest of the family on Route #10 to a movie and ice cream in the Target Shopping Center.
I want to challenge all of you to try out Huntsville’s public transportation system. It is functional at best, but it won’t get any better unless we adopt it and make it ours. Once you ride it a few times, write letters to the city directors with kind suggestions on how to improve the routes. We can help Huntsville grow up into the city we are being called to be, but it’s going to take some sacrifice! Join me as I continue to take Route #10 to work periodically (saving a little gas money in the process)!
What are your thoughts?