“Choice” vs. “captive” ridership is an interesting comparison

by Frederick TransIT Community Relations Manager. 0 Comments

I have lived in Frederick on and off since 1981, and until early April I had never set foot on a TransIT bus. Oh, sure, I’d seen them often enough out on the Golden Mile or downtown, and I’d noticed people waiting at stops all over town and thought “thank God I have my trusty VW Beetle and don’t have to wait out in the (heat, cold, rain, snow) for a bus.” I am considered a “choice” transit rider – someone who rides because I choose to, not because I must. Many (if not most) TransIT riders are “captive” riders, who ride because they either don’t own a car or don’t have access to one most of the time.

Let me just clarify that I grew up in Baltimore County in the ‘60’s & ‘70’s, and lived in a one-car household. We took the bus quite often, to the grocery store, to the library, to visit friends and relatives. I can’t remember ever having a bad experience on a transit bus. So why, although buses are available, hadn’t I ever thought to use them to get around Frederick? I know I’d save money on gas, wear and tear on my 11 year old car, and the environment. What was stopping me?

The biggest obstacle to me utilizing public transportation at this point in my life is the fact that Frederick is a large County, geographically. I only live 15 miles from work, but the roads are not conducive to cycling every day and the buses don’t run out as far as my home. The bus system is designed to serve dense pockets of people living in more urbanized areas, and I live out in the country. Still, I could drive 10 miles, hop on a bus, and save 10 miles a day (50 miles a week) on my car. The next biggest reason I had never taken TransIT is because I have always bought into the myth that I need a car to be considered successful. This myth is created and perpetuated by all of those car ads constantly telling us that this or that car is the mark of a successful person. Or will make us more fun to hang out with. Or is the best thing to get as a Christmas present. You get the idea! The third reason is that I’ve always believed it to be more convenient to drive myself around; however, this is also a myth as parking can be a pain, gas is so expensive, and car repairs are eating up my “extra” income. That’s three strikes, I suppose….it’s time for me to think about moving into the Frederick core served by TransIT so I can use my car less and less often.

There’s no reason that buses can’t once again appeal to the masses as a way to get around, holding the same charm as the jitneys in Atlantic City or San Francisco’s streetcars. Buses are often seen as more convenient and clean than subways, and Americans in cities everywhere are starting to ride buses more often again due to rising gas prices and the sluggish economy. Even the fact that bus rides usually take longer than driving solo to one’s destination is often seen as a positive rather than a negative as we all look for down-time in our hectic schedules so we can read, putz around on our smart phones or tablets, or catch a catnap.

While many people still consider the challenges of taking the bus to be overwhelming (it can be challenging to decipher route maps, traffic can create slow or unreliable travel times, and we can’t control the temperatures or the behaviors of our fellow riders), more and more of us understand all the positives and are open to trying the bus. Riding TransIT in Frederick is very inexpensive ($1.25/one way trip, free transfers), fairly flexible (9 fixed (connector) routes and six shuttle routes) better for the environment, and allows for both physical activity (walking to and from the stops) and relaxation while traveling (read the paper, listen to a book on your tablet or MP3 player, take a nap).

So, what’s stopping you from taking a ride?

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