Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting around on public transport

I’ve been relying on busses and trains to get around Cambridgeshire for the better part of the spring now.  After a while there,’s a rhythm to it:  it’s relaxing to sit on a train and watch the fields roll past, reassuring to see the big double-decker bus rollup to the stop on the appointed dot of time.  A lot of the time, it makes me wish that we had better public transport in the US – once away from the car, I really don’t miss the independence a lot.

Public transport works best for long-haul trips, like Maastricht to Amsterdam, or Shepreth to London.  I check the published schedules (National Rail or NS), show up five minutes ahead to time to buy a ticket, the train glides in, there’s workspace and the occasional coffee vendor on board. Easy.

Short trips around town are something else.

Round trip return, Shepreth to Cambridge, £4; one-way £3.90.

Bus in from the Park and Ride – well, only a round trip is available, £2.65 from the machine (exact change only), £2.80 from the driver.

The normal 15 minute trip from town center to Barrington an take much longer…walk to the stop, wait 15 minutes for a bus, miss the train, wait a half hour for the next local run, then 10 minutes to the stop – easily four times the duration.

I used to argue that public transport in Seattle was great for radial trips into and out of the city, but that circumferential trips between the suburbs were impossible.  Here, it seems more long / short: the further you go, the more direct and reliable things get (more like air travel).

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