I earned my dinner tonight…
Having had much crap to lug this morning, I took the Big Blue Bus into work. Perhaps because I don’t use the bus as my main mode of transportation, I have rather positives feelings towards them, the Big Blue in particular. Being able to read on the way to the office or an appointment feels like a downright luxury compared to having a staring war with the license plate in front of me when driving. And while public transportation doesn’t inspire the feeling of personal freedom the way a bike does – particularly when waiting for the damn thing – the bus subs nicely on those days when I just don’t feel like pedaling.
In any case, riding the bus in means, naturally, riding it back. Alas, upon arrival at the bus stop at 6:08PM in downtown Santa Monica, I realized the next bus was not due to show for another 30 minutes (which of course meant at least 35 minutes in real time). I mentally chewed this over while sitting on the bus stop bench. I could: 1) wait it out in situ, 2) wait it out while doing some window-shopping on the Promenade, maybe even grab some dinner, or 3) WALK HOME! Which I did! All 2.2 miles of it! And I’m pretty sure I beat the bus, even at my little short-leg pace!
As usual (for me), along the way I was tempted to stop and spend my allowance in many businesses (a latte here, a cookie there, and maybe a shirt?!). I managed to resist this time, what with a giant tote on my back and a large sack already in hand, but this experience confirmed what many studies have already shown: building infrastructure to support alternative modes of transportation (meaning cycling and walking) brings dollars into the local economy. Case in point: during a recent trek down Westwood Blvd between Ohio and Pico, I bought a Coke and baklava at Pink Orchid Bakery and Cafe and an $8 bar of fancy chocolate at the excellent Wally’s Cheese Box. None of these purchases were planned (Lesson to readers: maybe walking is actually bad for personal finances?).
Even more important, bike lanes and pedestrian facilities create more jobs than roads constructed expressly for cars. In “PEDESTRIAN AND
BICYCLE INFRASTRUCTURE: A NATIONAL STUDY OF EMPLOYMENT
IMPACTS,” a study by the Political Economy Research Institute, the following results were found:
…bicycling infrastructure creates the
most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1
million, the cycling projects in this study create a total
of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is
located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average
of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails
create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million.
Infrastructure that combines road construction with
pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer
jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only
projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per
During my amble, I came up with a list of things for which to be thankful. I thanked the ocean for the weather, which, after my weekend in Austin (where the heat and humidity envelop you like a sweaty fur coat; side note: I actually really like Austin), felt almost chilly. I thanked the time of year, summer, for the long days. I gave a silent big-up to Santa Monica’s safe, pedestrian-friendly streets (at least on the route I took). And I patted myself on the back for wearing the right shoes. Finally, I was grateful for the opportunity to work off maybe 5% of last night’s glutton fest at the Melting Pot and, indeed, the self-appointed right to pig out again tonight (too bad my fridge held only bread and peanut butter).
P.S. Though this post may not sound like it, I officially and fully endorse the Big Blue Bus system. It provides lots of lines reaching all corners of the Westside, stops at convenient locations, is equipped with bike racks, costs a buck to ride, and represents a practical automobile substitute for Santa Monica residents. I hope that increased ridership and support will allow it to improve upon what I think is its only flaw – infrequent nighttime and weekend schedules.