Sunday, September 28, 2008

burning that gas


Yesterday, we set out to buy groceries. We really tried to see if it could be done via bus. Amazing Savings? Only if you're willing to walk 1/2 mile to the store, and 1/2 mile back to the bus stop with your groceries. For us, that would have meant three bus passes to get there, and three bus passes to return home (I bought eleven passes for seven dollars). Mind you, we would also have to take a bus to downtown (a twenty or thirty minute trip that would take ten minutes in the car), and another bus to Sweeten Creek Road. Needless to say, any savings that we might realize at the store would be offset by the cost of the bus tickets @ 6(7/11)= $3.82. I know that tickets for children are available at reduced cost, but I had none on hand. I'm not about to estimate the time required for such a trip. Three hours? Four hours or more, probably.

We swung by Earth Fare next, but the best path happens to be via the river and then up Craven Street. Luckily we were in no hurry. We stopped for at least five minutes, probably ten minutes, for a train. I enjoyed looking at all the boxcar graffiti, but honestly it would have been very annoying had we been in a hurry.


For entertainment in the morning and early afternoon, we walked over to Vermont Avenue for their annual (?) block party. We don't live on Vermont, which is one of the prettiest streets in West Asheville, but we live close enough that we could sneak in. I highly recommend the annual block party. If your neighborhood doesn't have one, start one. Cakewalk! Bag toss! Ping pong! Live music and a bicycle parade! I laughed; I cried. Well, I actually didn't cry.

The Asheville Transit Authority does not run buses on Sundays. So, with a child due to return to his mother's house at 4 PM Sunday, what's a man to do? I cranked up the Toyota and headed over to Montford.

I'm blogging from Asheville Pizza and Brewing on Merrimon Avenue; after the evening here, I will drive home.

After all, while most of the Asheville gas stations are out of gas, I still have half a tank. For the time being.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Watching the Hummers

We walked in the rain a lot yesterday. But it was warm and we had an umbrella, so I loved it. While walking down Brevard Rd. a man in a huge RV stopped us and asked for directions. During this gas crisis I wonder if he was even getting 10 miles to the gallon. Then when we were waiting at the bus stop we watched a Hummer go past. A wonderful car to have when gas is scarce!

We didn't go totally carless yesterday. Ken did get in his car last night and go a few miles to buy a tv antenna so we could watch the Obama/McCain debate. We had walked to the thrift store earlier to try to get an antenna there, but no luck!

We are driving some today but consolidating several trips into one. My car hasn't been driven since at least last Saturday. Not sure we even drove it then.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Workless and Carless

No work today but we are still going to try for a carless day. We have walked up to the bakery. Will ride the bus to pick up Walter from school.

Yesterday for the first time I walked home from work. I had to stay till 6 and didn't want to wait for the 7:30 bus. The walk was 3 1/2 miles, and I got home before the bus would have gotten me there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Don't "Conservatives" Conserve?

Lean times at work today. Only those staff who could get to work without driving were supposed to come in. So there are just 3 of us in the department today. (One person did use a car, but rode in with someone who worked downtown.) Then, we are closed for the rest of the week, at least through Monday.

We discovered that the bus will stop for us on Brevard Rd. even though there are no official bus stops. Very good to know!

Walter actually rode the school bus this morning. When he's with his mom he has been walking with her to school. (I have asked him to write a guest blog for me...don't know if that will happen, but I'm hoping!)

I bought an October bus pass this morning when I got to the transit station. My ticket to unlimited comings and goings for the month. I will flash it proudly.

On the way in I was thinking back to the beginnings of the Bush presidency when Dick Cheney had those secret energy task force/ policy meetings where the public was not allowed to know who was there...and of course we assumed there were no alternative energy people there, just oil company cheerleaders...It was also around the same time period that Cheney said that conservation is fine as a personal virtue, but shouldn't be the basis for an energy policy. But you know what, I do think it should be one of the foundations of an energy policy. Sustainability should be another foundation.

As to conservation: I really don't care if you are virtuous or not, we all need to conserve energy and not act like we are the only people on this Earth. If we develop habits to conserve, then we conserve...We might not like it, but the right and moral thing gets done. The way things are now, what got done from the Bush/Cheney policy is that oil industry tycoons and stockholders got richer and richer and richer. For years and years I didn't think much about conserving. I drove too many miles...I just didn't think about any alternatives to jumping in the car. Finally the price of gas and a shortage of gas has made me try to conserve. Habits are hard to break.

Why are conservatives called conservatives if they don't believe in conservation?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Counting Cars

This morning was CALM getting ready to catch the bus. And I hadn't planned the night before. I just got up earlier! I'm learning, slowly.

We were early to catch the bus this morning and the bus was about 10 minutes late. The paper finally ran an article (of sorts) about riding the bus. It was a little blurb reporting that buses were late today because lines of cars filled with people trying to buy gas are blocking the streets. I believe it, because that's what I saw when we were riding home last night. Cars were even blocking an intersection near one of the gas stations.

Since we were early, I counted cars while I waited at the bus stop. I stopped when I got to 120. In my unscientific count, there were 100 cars with just 1 adult in them; there were 20 cars with more than 1 adult. I have to say that two weeks ago, I was in a car with just 1 adult. But I am trying to change my habits. I really thought, with everyone panicking about a gas shortage, that I would have seen more carpoolers. I did see more people on bicycles. And there was actually another person at the bus stop with us.

Here are some things on my wish list for Asheville:

A transit system with more options--longer hours, buses more frequently, more bus stops.
Buses that use alternative fuel
A county-wide transit system
More sidewalks
More bike lanes and bike paths
Citizens and leaders who believe in making alternative public transportation a priority.

Monday, September 22, 2008

To Panic or Not to Panic

To follow up from Friday.

I have a wonderful boss and a wonderful co-worker and they both said, "Leave 10 minutes early to catch your bus." So I did! Everyone I emailed regarding a ride at the last minute responded, but none were going my way at the right time.

Back to carpooling Monday morning. I planned, planned, planned the night before. Ironed my clothes. Made my lunch. Put some items in the car already. Still, I had to put my contacts in at the Y and bring my breakfast with me...Sigh...a sad scramble.

The gas situation seems to be worse instead of better. Long lines at the stations that do have gas. Many do not have gas in the Asheville area. Waynesville and Franklin had gas this weekend at much lower prices than Asheville.

Today's carpooling was a little calmer. Partly because I planned the night before...partly because the clock in the living room that I thought was 5 minutes fast had been set to the correct time and I didn't realize that I needed to be panicking!

Speaking of panicking: Panicking seems to be the order of the day. Many stations are out of gas; there have been fights at at least one station; otherwise calm people are scrambling to top off their gas tanks...Our local paper runs articles about all this panicking, but has yet to run an article about conserving, carpooling, riding the bus, bicycling or walking to work. (Or if they have run this article it hasn't been on the front page and/or I haven't seen it.)

It is scary to think of not being able to get to where you want/need to go. We need "green" alternative transportation methods so badly. Does anyone really believe that gasoline supplies are going to last forever...that "drill, drill, drill" is what our energy policy should be? (Actually I'm afraid lots of people believe this.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Spilt Milk Angst and Flexibility Woes

So, if you were driving down Brevard Road this morning at 8:21 am, you might have seen me trotting to the bus stop, piece of apple pie in one hand, travel coffee mug in the other, trying to have breakfast on the run. My hair was NOT brushed and my contacts were NOT in and the food didn't taste as good as it does when I'm sitting down! I was afraid I might not make it to the bus stop in time, but turns out I had 4 minutes to spare! I brushed my hair when I got there. Couldn't quite get my contacts in though.

As the bus started pulling away, a young woman came running from the grocery store with a bunch of filled grocery bags. The driver picked her up. She scrambled onto the bus and said, "You could have helped me." I wasn't sure who she was talking to. I thought maybe someone she knew on the bus. After she got off at her stop, her milk had leaked onto the next seat. (A nice person helped with her bags getting off the bus.) Then I started feeling guilty. Had she been talking to me in particular? Of course any of us should have jumped to help her. But she didn't seem to be struggling...she seemed to be managing...but then I thought, man she had already bought groceries this morning before I had even brushed my hair. I will be more aware next time. (She had eggs in the bags too. I hope they made it home.)

The bus filled up again.

Now for the flexibility problem: I need to stay at work till 6pm this evening. A bus going my way leaves at 6pm. It would take me 10 minutes to get to the bus stop. The next one does not leave until 7:30. Sometimes I wouldn't mind hanging out in town for 1 1/2 hours, but since this time I didn't arrange to have anyone to hang out with, I'm not too thrilled with the idea. I emailed some folks from the Share the Ride site to see if it would be possible to get last minute rides out of far no luck, but hey, I still have an hour or so before the hour of reckoning!

It's the end of the work week and I have met my goal for the week...through carpooling and Asheville Transit. It took some adjustment...but I am looking forward to next week!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Still Striving...

Today was a carpooling day. This getting up earlier and planning has not gotten easier yet, but I am trying not to whine about it! I have to try to actually PLAN at night. Like make the lunch I'm taking to work. I should pick out and iron my clothes the night before, but I am not organized enough to think about what I'm wearing the next day. What if I pick something out at night and then am not in the mood for it the next morning?!

I didn't have time to put my contacts in this morning, so I ran out the door with the case in my hands. By the time we got to the Y, I thought I had lost them but found them in the back seat. I only had 15 minutes at the Y to actually do anything, but, hey, I got a great shower!

Our parking deck is awful right now. All the workers on it are wearing masks. I did not have a mask. Riding the bus is nice this week so we don't have to deal with the parking deck construction.

I put two new links on the blog. Strive Not to Drive NC and Blue Ridge Commuter Connections. I'm curious if carpoolers really are able to connect on the Strive Not to Drive site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Carless Day

No live chickens or goats on the bus ride in today. But there was a live cat in a carrier. On the ride home from work I learned that if a guy yells out the window to his brother that he is visiting his PO today, that probably means parole officer, not post office!

Seriously, though, another quite pleasant experience riding the Asheville bus. I almost missed it getting home from work but caught it in the nick of time. Riding the bus involves a lot of walking, I'm finding out. And a heck of a lot of planning, which is not my strong suit. I didn't go straight home and will have a mile and half walk back home, unless I pay another dollar (which I won't). The walking is good for me and it's a beautiful day.

The bus was full both ways today. I had to stand part of the way. I am celebrating this, as it shows that the buses are well-used!!

Here is the link for the Asheville Transit Authority in case anyone is interested.

Here you can see fares, schedules, etc. I learned that some employers participate in a Passport Program so their employees ride for free. I don't believe Buncombe County does this yet, but maybe we could rally Buncombe County employees to persuade them to join.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Because of the latest gas crisis (Hurricane Ike, prices in Asheville going way over $4/gallon and many stations with no gas at all) I've decided to make a more conscious effort to conserve gas and to think about how I get from here to there. I'm starting this blog to record my efforts and thoughts.

So, yesterday, Monday, September 15, 2008 I resolved to try to avoid going to work with just one person (me) in the car. That narrowed my options to carpooling, riding the bus, walking or riding my bike. I got a jump start on my resolution on Sunday, when I worked at the West Asheville Branch library, and was able to walk there. (1 1/2 miles). Walking downtown to my normal job, however, would be a bit trickier. So Monday was my late day at work. I decided to ride the bus. I caught it at around 10:30 and got into town at 11. The bus stop is right beside a gas station; this station had no gas at all. I was the only one at the bus stop.

The bus was almost full, which made me happy! Some cute little kids on it. One older black man who had 4 bags of groceries from Ingles. Some people who obviously knew each other yelling back and forth. A basically pleasant experience.

After work, I walked to Asheville Pizza and met Ken and Walter. We ate and all rode home together. My other option, of course, was to ride the bus home. Then I would have had to walk home in the dark (approximately 10 minute walk). Not sure how I feel about this possibility.

I have to confess that this is only my third time riding the bus in Asheville and I've lived in Buncombe County a long time. I'm not proud of my lack of public transport use. One of my excuses is that for a long time I lived where there was no bus service. Another excuse is that I am a pretty typical middle class American in that I like to have the freedom to jump in my car and go wherever I want without thinking about it. So now I'm thinking about it...

Today Ken and I rode in to work together, dropping Walter off at school on the way. The only extra effort on my part was getting up a little earlier. All for a good cause! After work, we'll ride to the Y together, then I'll drop Ken at volleyball and he'll get a ride home later. Then I'll go to some grocery stores that are on the way home...

Tomorrow has the potential to be a carless day. We'll see...