Notes from a 1st time SmartCommuter

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A few weeks ago my intended, Jonathan, complained to me about having to go to a meeting in Raleigh for work, only to have to come back to our house in Durham to meet me before going on a weekend trip to Wilmington.

“If only there was a way we could meet up and start our trip closer to Raleigh,” he sighed.

“Have you checked the trip planner?” I asked.

“The what now?”

Obviously,  I’ve done a stellar job promoting alt-commuting at our house.

Sure enough, his meeting was convenient to the Triangle Transit 105  route.  When the time came, we packed our bags and carpooled together to the Regional Transit Center (I work in Triangle Transit’s admin offices right behind the RTC), and he hopped aboard the 105.  I picked him up around 5 at the RTC and we made our way to Wilmington in record time, easy peasy!

We saved 45 miles that day and kept an entire car off the road.  Beyond that, though, Jonathan’s post-commute attitude was unlike any I’d ever seen before.  He was relaxed, smiling, and in a great mood.  In our circle, he’s not exactly known for his magnanimity on the road.  I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve witnessed him deliver a Julia Sugarbaker-style rant about the merits of using your turn signal and keeping a safe following distance, all while flashing some rather rude hand gestures to other crazy drivers.  To see him so unstressed after dealing with Raleigh traffic was truly a testament to how you can take it easy on the bus.

Jonathan kept notes on his first area bus trip; his tips and observations are after the jump!
Notes from a 1st Time SmartCommuter

The 105 is a friendly bus!  I was a bit confused about how to scan my bus pass, but a friendly fellow rider showed me how to do it.

Pay attention.  I was a little nervous because this was my first time and I was going to an unfamiliar destination. I heard advanced warning for one stop, but I really had to pay attention to ensure I didn’t miss my stop.  I was also a little disoriented when I got off the bus, so if you can, it’s definitely best to familiarize yourself with landmarks around the bus stop beforehand. The directions that are produced by the trip planner are fine and were easy to follow– as long as I knew which direction north was.  Luckily, my stop at the Capitol was located at the division of North and South Salisbury Street.  If it had been somewhere else, I may have been in a pickle.  So, make sure you memorize at least one landmark you can reference to get yourself going in the right direction.

It was actually fun! My morning driver was quiet and helpful, but my ride back in the afternoon was much more… spirited than the 8 AM ride.  On my return trip the driver and several passengers were having a rather boisterous conversation about basketball.  The volume of the conversation was a little off-putting at first, but fun after I got into the spirit of the thing. Which brings me to my next tip…

Headphones are a necessity.  I left my book at home, but I did have my iPod to amuse me.  It was really nice to listen to my music without the pesky driving I normally have to do.  If talking to strangers is your thing though, the bus seems like a great place to make friends.  For those who want to make the experience more solitary, the headphones kept me casually aloof.

Street cred. When I checked in for my meeting, the receptionist asked if I had my parking pass. When I explained that I took the bus she looked almost proud of me and said that more people should be like me. It’s not every day that you get an unsolicited pat on the back from a stranger!

If you’ve tried out a new SmartCommute and have something to share, feel free to post your experience in the comments! Happy SmartCommuting!

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