I commute 32 miles from Acworth to the best job in the world at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta. In 2008, gasoline prices started to climb, and by summer, the price was almost $4 a gallon. Each day during my commute, I noticed two things: Cobb Community Transit (CCT) buses were dropping people off on the Georgia State campus, and they were speeding along in the I-75 HOV lane while I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
I did some research and found the CCT website, including the bus schedules. To my delight, I discovered one of the CCT Park-and-Ride stations is on a route I could take to I-75, and it’s only seven miles from my home. The bus stop in town is across the street from my office building. Due to one-way streets in Atlanta, the afternoon bus stop closest to my office is an easy walk of only two blocks.
On the CCT website, I found various ways to pay for the ride fare at a discount. There is a 31-day monthly pass for $125, a 20-ride pass for $65 or simply a one-way fare of $5. After considering the fare cost, wear and tear on my car (not to mention myself) and increasing gas prices, I bought a 20-ride pass and was able to put it on my Breeze card. I was ready to give bus riding a try.
On my inaugural bus trip, I found a window seat near the front so I could easily know when we arrived at my stop. The bus interior was surprisingly clean and comfortable. An hour later, I was at my office. As I walked to my building, I realized riding the bus was less stressful than driving to work. I was looking forward to having someone drive me home at the end of the day.
Now, let me explain bus etiquette. Most bus riders are well-mannered. There is no pushing or shoving as we board. Passengers wait their turns and quickly take their preferred seats. Generally, there is little talking. Thankfully, cell phone conversations are still the exception and not the rule. We like a quiet bus.
On a typical ride to work, I leave home about 20 minutes before my scheduled bus departs. I easily find a convenient parking space in the lot, and it’s free. After walking to the covered bus shelter, my bus arrives about five minutes before departure time. We usually leave promptly according to schedule.
During the morning commute, I often read a book for part of the ride, take a nap and review work emails on my cell phone. If there are no traffic issues, I can plan on being at my stop at Courtland Street and Auburn Avenue approximately one hour after departure. I’m in my office five minutes after I step off the bus.
In the afternoons, I have to remember to start watching the time because the last bus leaves Atlanta at 5:40 p.m. The trip home to Acworth usually takes longer because of afternoon traffic congestion. Fortunately, as a passenger, my only job is to entertain myself. The ride home gives me an opportunity to decompress, review my day and catch up with reading. Even with bad traffic, arrival time to the park-and-ride lot is normally about 1 hour 15 minutes after pick-up from downtown.
CCT allows me a choice. My work and family schedules do not let me ride the bus every day. When weather is an issue, or the news tells me there is a bad traffic accident on I-75, I take the bus knowing traffic will be a challenge.
Though gas prices have begun to decline, there is still value in taking the CCT bus. The bus ride reduces my stress level. I can use my time productively for work or personal projects. And riding the bus takes my car off the road, reducing car maintenance, congestion and pollution.
By riding the bus, I can use my time wisely and enjoy the trip.
Beth R. Jones is associate vice president for finance and administration at Georgia State University.
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