Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In which I am a bus geek

The number 1 bus's ridership constitutes 1% of the city's total bus ridership, a very neat symmetry.  I felt silly, riding a bus just for the sake of riding it--I almost felt like I was doing something illegal.  I'm sorry to report that nothing very amusing happened on the ride. No one was crazy, no one harassed me for three dollars.  Starting from the downtown transit center, we trundled through Belmont and then went up to Piedmont Community College.  I've always liked the view of a city from a bus.  You're elevated, you're not responsible for driving, you can see more.  There's always something interesting to see in Belmont, my own neighborhood, where few people have driveways or garages, so much of life is out on the front porch.  The houses run the gamut from shacks to places that could be featured in Architectural Digest.  There are interesting bits of garden, and much creative use of space because lots are small and the area is hilly. 

It's a good thing there's a bus that goes to PVCC because it's totally inaccessible to pedestrians.  Who thought it was a good idea to put a community college at the summit of a huge hill, outside of town, and with only one road leading up to it?  Not very convenient to people who are trying to better their lives and don't have cars.  Of course, most students do have cars, and I drove myself when I was a student there, but a few times I had to take the bus, and Ian did every day.  It's unfortunate that the bus runs only once an hour, leaving students stranded whose classes end two minutes after the bus leaves, which seemed to always be the case with Ian.  Twice he tried to walk home from PVCC, once by going off road and hiking down the far side of the hill, striking out for Avon St. and the other, taking the road and nearly getting killed crossing the on and off ramps to the interstate. 

Anyway, it was fun to revisit PVCC, drive past the new science building, and be fervently glad that I am no longer a nursing student.  We dropped off and picked up a few students--proof that the number 1 bus is important to the community--and then began the long descent down the hill and back up route 20 into town.

Back at the transit center, I was afraid I'd be questioned for not getting off the bus but no one said anything and soon we began the other segment of the number one's route, into Woolen Mills.  Woolen Mills is my second favorite neighborhood in Charlottesville, after Belmont.  It's separated from Belmont by only the CSX tracks, but the geography is different.  Where Belmont is steep hills and grand views, Woolen Mills is low and oriented to the Rivanna River.  It has a similar mix of houses--a few are really spectacular.  When we were shopping for a house, we looked at plenty in Woolen Mills, but the houses in our price range were of the shack variety.   Our bus negotiated the impossibly sharp curve (for a bus) at the Woolen Mills chapel, and headed down Chesapeake Ave, with an agreeable view to Market St.
Woolen Mills

The number 1 ends with a little trip through the streets south of Martha Jefferson Hospital, with one last stop at the hospital itself.  It's typical of Charlottesville's inefficient public transportation system to have the last stop be Martha Jefferson, which is only a couple of blocks from the transit center.  If you really wanted to take a bus to MJH, from some distant neighborhood, you'd have to take a bus downtown, wait for the number 1, and then stay on it while you wandered all through Woolen Mills before finally getting to your destination.  It would be quicker to walk there from the transit center. 

Back at the transit center, I exited the bus and began my walk home.  I had walked a fair way down Avon St. and was passed by the number 1 bus, headed back into Belmont.  DOH!  I could have stayed on it and been dropped off a couple of blocks from my house.

This concludes my review of the number 1 bus.  Only ten more bus routes with which to bore you!


  1. Fun. I'm a fan of buses. One of the best rides of my life was on a nearly empty doubledecker in London. We were in the front row of the top level and had the most amazing views, including a bicyclist almost getting plowed over by our driver.

    Woolen Mills is an interesting neighborhood and one of my favorite walking/running routes goes down Market, past that little chapel, and down to the path along the river.

    Are you going to ride the trolley too? We're fans of that line and use it whenever we're off on a family adventure in which we want to walk, but the girls don't, so we compromise with some walking and some time on the trolley. Most recently, we walked to the closest trolley stop (past MJH, near the transit center, so 1 mile from our house), rode to the Corner for lunch, then walked to the UVA Chapel, where we picked up a UVA bus to Barracks Road S.S. After some book browsing, we did the reverse trip home. Totally inefficient, in terms of time, but we had a blast.

    And now I realized that I've just left a novel's worth of words in your comments. Oops.

  2. Not boring! Please keep going! I'm particularly excited for number 4.

  3. That sounds like my favorite route so far--so peaceful and residential and calm.

  4. We're right in the nexus of the route 4. It's perfect for our needs. It got even better when the route changed in anticipation of the JPA bridge closing (which is now set for 4/4/11).

    The secret to not losing my sh!t while parenting a small child? Bus pass. People watching, geography, exploration, and no pressing issues to distract me. No dishes. No vacuuming. No playing trains for the fifth hour in a row. We just make sure the seats are dry before we sit down (sadly, inebriated folks who ride the bus for warmth in the winter sometimes wet themselves as they doze).

    I buy a monthly pass now--your work ID gets you on free, I bet. But for $20, my 3yo and I can ride whenever and wherever we like. When I don't have it, I have to fill the gas tank of my crown vic once a week. With the pass, it's once a month. Last month, that tank cost $50, now it's more.

    Going to the mall on the bus can use up a whole day. It doesn't go so well when one knocks one's child into a display rig at Belk and that child starts bleeding profusely from a gaping forehead laceration. Thank goodness daddy telecommutes.

    I can also be seen schlepping a balance bike and folded kick scooter onto the bus or trolley (or UVA shuttles) while a child cries out, "I'm tired." (I'm that horrible mother who speeds down the hills sans helmet. I'll go buy one tonight. Or tomorrow. I promise.)

    I save the car for grocery shopping, though I can pick up small amounts when bussing it. I save the car for Greenleaf Park because the once an hour bus schedule can be a bear with a child my age (especially when the bathrooms are closed).

    Belmont Park is nicely served. I lived in Belmont for a couple years and have friends there. We often take the 4 just until it turns onto Avon, then we stroll down to Stoney's for a soda and continue to the park or a friend's home. Coming home, we sometimes take the 3 or 1 downtown, sometimes we just cross the street and pick the 4 back up heading toward my house. And if it's summer and kiddo is soaked, we just wait until 5pm and call home for a ride.

    My son really likes the Hogwaller part of the route 3.

    I don't have an iPhone, but I use the HoosBus app on my iPod Touch. Useful if we're someplace with free wifi.

    MJH is served by the 1A, 2A, 10, and 24.

    And the online bus tracker through the CAT website? AWESOME, even if some of the buses on the 4 seem to be lacking transponders.

    If the thumb boxes don't work, tell the driver and tell the transit center folks. You can try calling, but I think they just leave the phone off the hook. The boxes all seem to have dead batteries at the moment.

    Here's another novel!