For years, I've been intrigued by St. Augustine's Sunshine Bus transit system. It's limited compared to the public transit of other cities, but I recently became determined to adjust my schedule to make regular use of it. It was estimated by Sunshine Bus Company manager George Hesson that in 2015, ridership totaled 270,000 passengers. (totallystaugustine.com)
I manage to put an outrageous number of miles on my car every month. My original plan was to start riding the Sunshine Bus last winter, but I was rear ended in the fall. Physical therapy took over my schedule for almost the entire winter season. I still feel anxious when coming to a stop behind the wheel - eyeing the rear view mirror in hopes that the approaching driver brakes in time to leave a generous car space between us.
Recently, I made good on my goal to take the Sunshine Bus to work. For now, it's only feasible once a week. There's something relaxing and nostalgic about riding a bus...or any form of public transportation. Initially, I had my bicycle in tow, thinking the closest stop to my job was a relative distance away. After my first ride, I realized the bus stopped closer than I thought. I decided that my less cumbersome longboard would suffice to get me from work to the stop in time for pickup. On my second ride, I simply carried my board onto the bus. But during that route, I learned that the bus can drop off practically at the door of my place of work. So on my third trip, I won't bring wheels.
In general, my goal has been to drive less. Filling my tank every 3-4 days has become wearisome. These last two weeks, it has been refreshing to see a full tank last 7 or 8 days. At times like these, I feel like I was born on the wrong continent. In several European cities, life without a car is achievable thanks to subway systems and several sites being within walking distance of each other.
Once again, this is a reminder that especially within its city limits, St. Augustine is like a slice of Europe in terms of accessibility by bike or scooter. It's the only area in which I park my car with the understanding that every destination will be reached by foot, bike, trolley, or carriage. Pedestrians kind of rule the road...and share it with the occasional horse and carriage :pReally though, living in parts of Vilano Beach, Anastasia Island, and neighborhoods just northeast of the city gates would be conducive to driving less and biking/walking more.
The car accident I mentioned gave me two opportunities to use Uber in St. Augustine for the first time. (Yes, I am aware of the recent slew of unfavorable publicity afflicting the company.) The number of drivers seems to have rapidly increased over the last year or so. There are some interesting studies about the cost comparison of using ride sharing services exclusively rather than driving one's own car. In some cases, you can break even (assuming you only drive 10,000 miles per year.) Uber's mission (along with that of other ride sharing companies) is to make ride sharing so affordable that car ownership becomes a rarity.
This recent experiment is only a start. It would be gratifying to progressively incorporate more public transportation and ride sharing on my commutes to the degree reasonable.