Sunday, July 13, 2008

School Buses, Crossroads and Three Kids on the Bus


Yesterday, the TU published a letter from a Clifton Park fellow who's thinking creatively. He proposed suburban folk run errands on yellow school buses throughout the day to save personal gas money and also contribute to their towns' tax bases. An interesting concept, and one that has apparently been tried before...in fact, here's a study published in 1999 on that very topic.

Capital Region suburbanites choosing yellow buses over their personal vehicles doesn't strike me as something that would actually happen. Let's see what kind of dialog is explored via the TU's Capital Region at a Crossroads series and blog.

Speaking of buses, I bought my nine year old daughter a CDTA Summer Fun Pass for the 2nd year in row. $17 for two months of rides is quite a deal if your child will be getting around via public transportation. Though the kid prefers car rides, when Mom's the parent in charge, the choice is bus or foot travel.

Friday, I picked her and two friends up from camp at 1:00 p.m. I gave them multiple options for afternoon activities: going swimming at Lincoln Park pool or Mater Christi pool, walking to the transitional baby Pine Hills branch of APL and filling out their reading records for the Summer Reading Program, spending some time at the NYS Museum, visiting a park, or taking a "bus adventure" -- they all voted for the very nebulous "bus adventure." My only plan in place for this was purchasing 2 $3 day passes for the friends, and taking them on at least 3 rides to be sure I got my money's worth -- anything else about the adventure remained tbd.

Highs and Lows of the Adventure
  • A Walk to the Muddy Cup from camp to fuel up on coffee, where I run into a friend I've been meaning to contact because of her wealth of information about one of my too- many- volunteer-projects. The kids and I hang out on the comfy Muddy couches for a while.
  • Catch a bus for a quick ride home to drop off lots of camp bags. Purchase the 2 $3 passes for the rest of the adventure.
  • The girls keep themselves occupied with hand-clapping chants and games while we wait and wait for the Number 4 heading downtown. I wish I'd brought something to read! When the bus arrives, I give a quick tutorial on how to use their passes. A friend of mine is already on board-- we chat about parenting, work and summer happenings.
  • Get off at Lark and Washington for Destination Number 1: Crisan for must-have gelato. (Thank you All Over Albany for introducing this fabulous spot to us!)
  • One of the kids is hopeful that a book she ordered is finally at the Main Branch of APL. We walk over to the library, and while the ordered book is still "on order" the three kids find a spot on the floor in the corner of the children's room-- each set of eyes glued to a book they've found on the shelf. It seems nobody remembers that the plan was a bus adventure, which is just fine with me. Eventually, we head downstairs and they pick a dvd to watch for the evening's sleepover. We find ourselves still at the library for last-call-at-the-checkout-counter, leaving a few minutes before 6 p.m., just as a Number 2 is pulling up to the Washington Avenue Armory bus stop.
  • I know these kids have never taken the Number 2, making the new-ness an adventure in itself. I give a quick re-cap on how to swipe a bus pass. As a mom, I do have an ulterior motive -- my kiddo has a birthday party to attend the next day, so taking the Number 2 to the last stop serves the practical and the adventurous.
  • The walk from the bus to the re-designed Colonie Center is the safest walk I've taken from a street bus stop to a mall since I started this Capital Region bus riding thing last May.
  • Typical mall experience. My kid has to go to the bathroom -twice in 10 minutes, one of her friends is "starving", my daughter and I can't agree on where to purchase the birthday gift, we're accosted by the people who sell dead sea skin products, and the other kid really wants a piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. We settle our issues, and I decide we're buying dinner at Friendly's, and we'll grab a piece of cheesecake "to go" on our way back to the bus.
  • All is well at Friendly's, while the service is slow. 2 kids decide they'll get ice cream after dinner, the other one holding out for her cheesecake.
  • I check the time. 7:53. I check the bus schedule. Next Number 2 pulls out of Wolf Road at 8:15... and after that there isn't another Number 2 until 9:50 -- too late for me and three young girls to be taking the bus. To catch the 8:15, we cannot walk out of Friendly's after 8:03. The waitstaff hasn't yet taken the ice cream order.
  • I have both the 1 and the 55 schedules with me, yet, I have no clue about whether either of them stop at the Wolf Road side of Colonie Center, CDTA's customer information line has been closed for 53 minutes and I don't want to "wing" trying to catch a different bus line just so they can indulge in mediocre ice cream and cheesecake. (I called the helpful customer information line on Saturday and learned the Number 1 stops at the Wolf Road side, but not the 55 -- that, you still need to catch on Central Avenue.)
  • I'm surprised to find these kids, who are not used to scheduling their lives around a bus, are incredibly good sports about the change and will wait until next time for the ice cream and cheese cake. I feel like a responsible grown-up since they already had Crisan's amazing gelato.
  • Same bus driver on the Number 2 back downtown, remembers us and remarks, "You still have your crew." The kids have become pros at swiping those passes.
  • We manage to get downtown in time to run the very short block and 1/2 and catch the 8:40 Number 3 at the "Quail and Central" stop. In truth, we're running to the stop where the driver takes a break on Quail between Bradford and West Streets, and our run adds to the adventure.
  • We get home well before 9 p.m. -- perfect timing to watch that dvd borrowed from the library.
At the end of the day, I spent more money than I'd hoped to, the kids had fun, and nobody complained that we were taking the bus. All in all, a fine adventure around Albany.

1 comment:

tixchik said...

oh! i heard about Crisan... i definitely want to go there... glad your adventure went well!