Amid much fanfare, the New Paltz Bus Loop took its maiden ride yesterday. There was so much interest in this long-anticipated project that they had to use two buses to bring all the interested people around the route. This bus is intended to reduce traffic congestion in New Paltz by giving people an alternative to taking the car, so having it launch on a bitingly cold day was better timing than planning alone could have arranged.
The bus, I'm told, will cost seventy-five cents a ride, although some people will get to ride for free - I believe those associated with SUNY, whose students were fairly hard at making it a reality. I'm also advised that this online bus schedule isn't the correct one; the exact schedule was distributed at the press conference yesterday and will presumably be made widely available.
Bus Schedule not Forward Thinking
I'm a bit surprised that considerable effort was put into printing up schedules and route maps for distribution without making online access a priority. Isn't the cost of putting it online significantly less? Wouldn't it have made sense to announce, "We have a small number of schedules available for distribution to those who don't have access to computers, but the best information is and always will be online" to continue with New Paltz' forward-thinking philosophy? I haven't seen one of the printed schedules yet - do I need to ask if it was printed on 100% post-consumer paper with soy-based ink, something that both SUNY and our local governments should be doing whenever they print anything?
Building a Better Bus
Schedules aside, I don't know if this bus is going to achieve the success that's hoped for. Frankly, I think it costs too much. If the goal is to get people that already own cars to leave them at home, then it has to be a competitive option. If gas were still at four dollars a gallon and I'm getting forty miles to the gallon, then I'm getting ten dollars to the mile. I don't know how long the route is, but let's use a very high estimate of five miles. That would mean the bus is charging me 37.5 cents a mile, almost four times what I'm paying now. Granted, someone using a longer-term perspective would factor in the savings in automobile maintenance, but that person is also paying half the price for gas as I estimated, so I think that's a wash. While I think this bus will be a welcome relief for pedestrians, I don't think it's going to create any new non-drivers.
So what can we do? Well, if this bus ran on biodiesel I think it would address that concern, and more! It could pick up oil from local grease traps, reducing the strain on our sewer system, and the price for a ticket could be reduced to a very attractive rate - perhaps a nickel would be sufficient. Additionally, the wonderful publicity of such a loop bus might very well rival that which was received by the gay marriages (and would likely be less controversial, to boot). If there's money to put towards creating this bus route, I'm sure that some can be found to make a bus that has a chance of achieving the stated goal.
The bus was a great idea. Let's try to green it up a bit and it will be a fantastic idea.