Monday, June 20, 2011

Honks, Just Part of the Commute

Back on the bike again, riding into downtown from Oak Cliff. I only got one honk today, which is good and that occurred on the Houston St. bridge connecting Zang to Market St. in downtown. I was in the right most lane and had taken the lane, traffic merged on my right with their own lane which was clear ahead for the faster moving vehicles. I don't know if it was force of habit or what, but a couple of cars slowed down to merge behind me aggravating a motorist behind them.

I stayed in my lane until the traffic cleared and then signaled and moved into the far right lane. Other than that the commute was a piece of cake, and riding downtown was a treat as always.

I really should count my blessings like Keri of Commute Orlando. For every rude person I encounter, I have many many more polite and civil interactions with motorists. They appreciate the signaling, lane control, predictability and most of all a 'Thank You' or wave from me when they give me the right of way.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Hope I Spoke Well

No matter who you are or where you go, in this day and age, somebody has already spoken on your behalf.

It's simple enough to detest bigotry and prejudice, in principle most of us do. But it's impossible to think that somebody would see past his or her own experience and world view simply to evaluate you as a unique individual and person of worth.

The other day, I met a rather rude gentleman on the train riding south from Park Lane. I had asked a simple question, and his response was hostile. As off-putting as the experience was, I had to realize that the sum of his experiences in his life up to that very moment were the determining factors in his response.

He didn't know me or if I had ill intentions toward him, so what did he have to go by? I think only the overt and obvious things: I was riding on public transportation, I was Male, White, my dress (I may have looked like a middle class hipster?). Could one or more of those groups have left him with a bad experience? Maybe, I'll never truly know.

In the end, he was having to make a complex decision on limited input and time, and let's be honest here, it would have been a burden to him to expend the energy to get to know me as an individual, especially in such a short time.

I believe the world is an exceedingly complex place that is so large and diverse in its peoples and experiences that we lack the mental capacity to understand it all. To 'fill the gaps' we tend to embrace world views that simplify and divide and categorize the world around us. Once we have this world view in place, we engage a confirmation bias to confirm that world view. So even if we don't realize it, we are speaking on behalf of a multitude of groups simultaneously. Depending on the chosen world view of the observer, our actions might actually negatively reinforce hateful stereotypes by providing the biased proof that the individual seeks.

[I should note here that hateful stereotypes extend beyond the colloquial racial ones. These take other more socially acceptable forms like political, gender and lifestyle bigotry. Why it is that we clearly oppose one but fully engage the others is a mystery, perhaps we just have a need to be filled]

It is a tremendous burden to see the world as it truly is: a messy, complicated and indistinguishable affair. In the end I cannot ask any person to abandon their way of seeing the world to be a better human being. However we can acknowledge our shortcomings in this way and maybe leave a little room for expanding our horizons and accepting new people.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Adventure Update

Had a great time in Forth Worth at the Flying Saucer! The train ride there was good and enjoyed a few beers and met some interesting people!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Public Transportation Adventure Day Tomorrow

Since my wife has gone to Orlando to attend a wedding expo with her sister, I have decided to have some fun of my own and have a public transportation adventure tomorrow. First, to start out the morning, I'm thinking about making a bike ride over to Oddfellows for bignets and orange juice (not a coffee person), and then take the bus into downtown for work. After work on Friday, I'm going to hop on the TRE to Fort Worth for some beers and bar food at the Flying Saucer and maybe spend a little time in Sundance Square before heading back home.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Frustration

Before I begin, I want to say that this is not a catharsis post. I don't want to vent or complain, but merely point out a reality with public transportation in Dallas.

DART is an amazing, forward thinking entity that laid the foundations for light rail nearly 20 years ago. They have a remarkable ability to plan for the future and to provide Dallas with a world class public transportation system. Compared to where I used to live this system takes the cake. And the platter. And maybe some embroidered napkins. But it is far from perfect.

As I like to joke, my bus in the afternoons is 'Reliably Unreliable' in that it is consistently 10-15 later than the designated pickup time. For the first week, I just assumed that the bus wasn't coming after 10 minutes and I would try to catch a bus elsewhere. Getting home could sometimes be an hour long ordeal. I finally learned to be patient and wait until the bus arrived, and this has made the experience better.

This issue lies at the core of problems for DART. DART is expansive with service to anywhere in the metroplex, but getting from one point to another can involve a lot of moving parts. As we all know, the more complex the machine, the more opportunities exist for failure. For example, if I wanted to get a haircut at my barber shop of choice, and I left from the office, I could take a train directly there that has frequent and consistent service. Now, to get from the barber shop to my house would involve two pieces: The train going to either the West End Station or Hampton Station and a bus bringing me into my neighborhood. Getting a train to either station is a simple matter. Getting a bus at a time that is convenient to train arrival times is not for my neighborhood.

Add to this the fact that almost none of the buses and trains arrive precisely as scheduled, and you leave a traveler with little confidence that he or she can make it from one point to another in a timely fashion. As an anecdote, consider what is required to get from a suburban location without a train station handy to DFW. One must either catch a bus to a train station to get to Union Station, and then take the TRE to Centreport, then catch a shuttle to a remote parking lot, and then jump shuttles to finally get to the intended terminal.

The DART rail is going to make this easier, but not by a lot. When their train is complete, one will need to jump trains from either the red, blue or green lines in downtown onto an orange line train, and bear in mind that one must first get to a train station via bus if they don't live near one.

At the end of it all, this just underscores the incompatibility of a sprawling suburban metroplex with a sophisticated public transportation system. If you look at other systems in areas of high density, they aren't necessarily as amazing or extensive as the one here in Dallas. Rome has a simple 'X' shape. Chicago has a loop and 'L Train.' What these have that Dallas doesn't yet is a population density that can utilize public transportation for travel within a small area. The fact that I need to go to another part of town to get a haircut challenges the system beyond that for which it was primarily intended, as a means of commute to relieve growing pressures on the road system.

The DART is simple for one way commutes, but the destinations of those commutes demand that people move outside their current location to meet any other need. I can't yet do all of my dining, shopping, haircuts and entertainment in the West End, and I may not ever be able to do all of those things here. I'm a firm believer in economics, and people will utilize this system more as it makes sense for people to do so. But right now, I'm not surprised that a staggering majority of people forgo the experience of public transportation in favor of driving themselves. Given that the complexity of the system can increase travel times five-fold depending on the location, it does not surprise me that commuters opt for the frustration of traffic over the frustration of lost time.