Feb 18th was the day I pulled up to the Mills/Virginia intersection on my bike, and soon after that another biker pull up along side me. We exchanged a quick glance. Before I could turn away, he said “Hey.” He had something else to say though, “Are you Brent Buffington?” Being unaware of how or why this would be of any concern to him, I assumed the best intent on his part, “Yes” I said. ”Well, I just read your blog last night.” This was Ben. Who later in the day came back to comment on my blog so we could follow up. Prior to this, I had had a lot of conversations and discussions about this whole project with my friends, co-workers, and my family. During those conversations I thought to myself, this is why I’m doing this. To dialogue about how we commute in Orlando, to examine our public transit system, and take a close look into each of our own travels. However, this morning was the point when I realized it had reached a whole ‘nother level. One I hadn’t anticipated. I knew it could make its way to the far reaches of my Facebook friends, but this morning, this was rewarding. Even on my ride home that night, I managed to stop at a light with another biker in front of me.
Feb 19th was a close call. I left my house a little late, and was hoping I could make it to the Lynx Station on time. Sure enough, as I pulled in on my bike, the bus began to pull away. There is no way of stopping him at this point. I pull a u-turn in the station and start riding my bike towards the first pick-up on its route. It worked. Going home that night I decided to be a bit adventurous (not really), but I took the 7 route instead of 4 route. Both go to Lynx Station and the Florida Mall, but one goes down OBT, the other down Orange Blvd. I typically took the OBT line because the Orange route runs a few minutes longer in travel, and has less departure times, but figured taking a night route home wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Feb 20th was a nice day. Biked to my bank in Baldwin Park, then to get my haircut off Mills, and ended the trip at Blue Bird Bake Shop. Seriously, I can’t resist that place.
Feb 21st was a day set aside for my long trek to Lake Mary and back. Alas, I did it all for my dental hygiene. I set up the dentist appointment over 6 months ago, not knowing I was going to be doing this experiment. Planning the route out required 3 routes. About 2 hours each way. At first I was not amused, but then I remembered why I was doing this. This scenario is exactly what I wanted to see play out. How does life’s normal demands (beyond a daily commute) affect how I travel. After waking up at the butt-crack of dawn to catch the bus for my 8:30am appointment, I was able to kind of zone out on the bus with some music. The entire bus was full of other people who were commuting to work, and for them, this is a daily occurrence, not just one day of a month-long experiment. This is their routine. The atmosphere was somber. Everyone probably suffering from the lack of coffee, like me. Like always, I plan for the bus to be late, so when it is one time, I have some time to kill. After the dentist (which was not good news, I need to be flossing more; as should you) taking the bus back took a tad longer because there are more pick ups and drop offs during the day time. Overall, it wasn’t torturous. I managed to read a lot of my book, read the New York Times, and listen to a podcast. Would I want to do that daily? No. Do I see how some people can do it daily? Heck no. If I had to commute to Lake Mary from Downtown each day via the bus (in its current setup) I’d lose a lot of my time, and thus eventually draining me.
Feb 22nd was an early morning bus to work. Nothing crazy there, but the ride home was probably the longest time that route has taken. I think we managed to pick up at every stop, eventually being crammed in like sardines. Thankfully the night ended up at Red Light Red Light.
Feb 23rd. This Saturday was planned out to be a super fun trip to Jacksonville with my friend Pam, Maggie, and her son. Our carpool was on a mission to see a screening of a documentary called Eating Alabama. We arrived, just in time to see it! Except, it was cancelled a few days prior. In order to salvage the trip, we ended up spending the rest of the evening in St. Augustine. Trip saved
Feb 24th was a normal chill Sunday. Biked to church, then hung out with my sister who was in town to celebrate her birthday we me.
Feb 25th I biked down to East End Market to film and document them pouring concrete in along the floors and elevator shaft. Snagged a ride to and from work with my roommate.
Feb 26th. Biked to station. Bus to work. Then the flip to come home. By this point, as you can see, I’ve managed to settle in. It has become a routine. You understand the ins and outs of using the bus. Where its strengths and weaknesses are. You can leverage the bus to your advantage, and also learn to rely on your bike in the other situations.
Feb 27th. My roommate drove me to the airport for my flight to LA. Upon arrival, meeting with my father in the airport (he was here for a convention and we were able to sync our trips up) we secured a rental mini-van. As you can tell, my experiment in regards to Orlando is now over.
Feb 28th Los Angeles is an amazing city. Prior to this trip, I had a preconceived idea of what the city was like. Thanks to movies and TV, I had no real idea of what this city was like. It has a really nice vibe to it. Variety and diversity are an understatement. I think if you had to assemble a United Nations, and only selecting from people living in LA, you’d be able to secure about 95% of the UN. If you want it, this city (or a short drive outside of) has it. However, this is a city that is completely dependent upon cars. While they have a bus and metro line, from talking to people who I had meetings with, they made it clear to me that, like in Orlando, the majority of people use a car and the few use the public transportation. As if driving everywhere isn’t bad enough, it’s like parking in New York City, and at times a nightmare.
If I’ve learned anything it is that if you rely fully on one mode of transit, you’re not doing it right. A balanced system looks like one that takes advantage of the strengths of each mode, and recognizing each of their weakness. With the car, an individual can become solely reliant and overlook the negatives of taking your car places where a bike or pre-routed bus can take you. This same mode though, can allow you to make it to a meeting on-time when you weren’t able to arrive via one of the other routes; or take an entire family to a destination that is 45 minutes away. It is also clear that what works for me, doesn’t work for you. There is no black or white solution to this, its grey; and that grey is up to you.
What does a balanced system look like for you?
That is it. The experiment is done.
But it isn’t over.
I have a huge list of topics, issues, ideas, and notions to discuss in the following weeks. This series of epilogue posts will hopefully continue to prompt people in Orlando to think about how they’re commuting and using their vehicles.