Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Global Warming Wednesday: Reducing our auto footprint

I was just about to write a post on our recent reduction in car use when I saw that the BlogHers Act Canada June Challenge is about reducing one's auto footprint.

When we first got to Springfield, we found ourselves driving a lot more than we had in Toronto. Not a big surprise. We had walked a lot of places in Toronto. When we had the time, two miles was a fairly standard range. Although Springfield is a small town population-wise, it is spread out. Scooter's school is close by, as are a couple playgrounds, but two miles gets us nothing more than more houses and playgrounds.

Now Springfield does have a bus system, but my initial consultations of the schedule showed that it wouldn't do much for those "quick" dashes downtown to the stores (15 minutes each way to most places). But as we headed to summer and a more open schedule, not to mention more expensive gas, I began to think that maybe I should take another look.

So Scooter and I took the bus a couple times for discretionary adventures--the library, the coffeeshop, fun like that. But trips that were very open-ended in terms of time. As in Toronto, Scooter enjoyed riding in public transit. And I discovered that the Springfield bus system is actually quite pleasant. (Plus, at least for the time being, it's free. Relatively speaking. The system was recently revamped and tax money funds some part of it for now. The powers-that-be want to keep it that way, though they'll probably have to add a surcharge to local utilities.)

I looked more closely at the schedule and determined that I could use the bus system to get Scooter to and from his daycare this summer. The one dead spot was after dropping him off; I had generally been planning to head downtown and work there for a few hours, as I tend to have more productive bursts in the morning, away from the house. But in order to get there via bus, I would have to wait over 30 minutes. So I tend to walk the 2+ miles and count it as part of my exercise program.

So far, most of the trips have gone rather smoothly, with the exception of two legs from the daycare back home. I made it by bus to the daycare in each instance, but ended up calling Trillian to come get us. The first time, I called her from the bus as hail fell thickly upon the bus. It did end by the time I got out of the bus a few blocks later, but it turned out that we were still under a severe weather warning. The second time was a bit more frustrating. The bus passed us by. Even though I was in a pick-up location, even though I flagged it down (first with a smile, then increasingly more frantically). Scooter took it quite personally, so I was relieved when he was willing to take the bus again afterwards. (I also registered a complaint online and was informed by a very apologetic woman of the number for the service that picks up disabled and elderly riders--which would also be immediately dispatched if we get passed again).

We're not the only people in Springfield who have decided the bus might be a good way to go. Even on the neighborhood leg of my trips, I'm sometimes surprised by just how full the bus can get. And the popularity is a good thing--there's talk of increasing the frequency of some routes.

Using the bus extensively definitely means keeping my schedule more open, being willing to adjust my expectations to their timetable, spending a little more time in transit. Starting when we're on summer hours has made this a bit easier. But I figure that if I can switch my thinking over the next few months, this will become habit. I want this to become my default, primarily because of the environmental benefits. But whenever I start to waver, it won't take more than a little math to get me back on the bus.


cinnamon gurl said...

Good for you. Our bus service is not great. It takes about half an hour to get somewhere that takes about half an hour to walk to. I keep meaning to get a bike trailer for Swee'pea so we can bike more.

Team Serrins Springfield said...

I take the bus to work about four days a week and in the last month it has gone from being 1/2 - 3/4 full to standing room only. I don't think we're alone in wanting to reduce our carbon footprint.

Or maybe it's just the high cost of gas...