exercises in compound storytelling

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

one-car family

Emblem of Santa Fe National Historic Trail by ...Image via WikipediaA couple of weeks ago my wife was sitting in her Subaru Forester at a stoplight a few blocks from our house when her car was hit from behind by a Dodge Ram traveling at traffic speed. Her car was totaled; I've got pictured but probably won't be posting them since she's in them, etc.

We took the opportunity to try to become a one-car family. So far there are three parts to this:
I'm splitting my days: some days I go to the office, some days I don't. My office is seven miles away, uphill, about a forty-minute bike ride in the morning, and less than thirty on the return in the evening.

My wife is taking the bus some days, some days driving the car. She's dealing with Santa Fe Trails, the local bus system. It's not heavily used, and I can sort of understand why: the routes don't necessarily fit together well, the buses can be unreliable, and the drivers are a breed apart.

Santa Fe Trails has three major depots: downtown (Sheridan/Palace), midtown (NMDOT, near the intersection of Cerrillos and St Francis), and at the mall (Cerrillos/Rodeo/Airport). More than half the routes connect downtown to the mall via various routes, and NMDOT is a good place to catch buses out of town (New Mexico Park and Ride). Three routes pass through our neighborhood: one of them goes downtown, but the other two require transfers at the mall. This would be fine if the schedules meshed at the mall, but the earliest bus that would work for me would require a twenty-minute wait at the mall.

Under most circumstances I can get to the office faster on my bike than by bus.

Fortunately my wife can get to within a couple of blocks of her office on a single bus. So far she's taken the bus five or six times; once the bus never arrived, and once her driver missed a turn and compensated by driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

We love Santa Fe Trails but consider it a work in progress.

Biking is turning out to be an education too; I've had to deal with inclement weather once and a flat tire once. I'm going to need to invest in more cold-weather biking gear. I typically pack a laptop, a notebook and a handful of papers, and a change of clothes in by Osprey Astro messenger bag. I haven't had to try using it in the rain yet, but I love it: it's big enough for a wide-screen laptop, it has several pockets, all of which can be secured, its natural position is over the opposite shoulder, and it has a strap that fastens around my midsection for extra stability.

Fortunately it's possible to take a bike on both Santa Fe Trails buses and Park and Ride buses; I was able to go to Los Alamos on Monday night, returning Tuesday morning, for six dollars. That's much cheaper than I could have driven. My libertarian side is a little disturbed at how empty these buses are, though: there's no way Park & Ride is paying its expenses with tickets.

Are we saving money yet? Beats me. So far we haven't had to take the car into town for the express purpose of doing things that couldn't be done because something broke down or didn't work.

This weekend my wife needs to catch a plane, so she's planning on taking Sandia Shuttle. It's a clear win: $45 round trip vs. 120 miles estimated at the IRS rate of 50.5 cents/mile, but we have to catch it on time. We'll see how that goes, too.

We have yet to figure out how to get to Denver without taking a van to Albuquerque and a plane to Denver. It is in principle possible to take the Chihuahua shuttle to El Paso, but I've only seen the Santa Fe transit point for that shuttle; I haven't yet found its web presence or any hint of how to get a seat.

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