June 10, 2009

Public Transport Takes a Holiday

[In celebration of the carbonless awards tonight: another Commuter Challenge blog post!]

With the Commuter Challenge nearing an end, I felt somewhat guilty boarding a plane for Memorial Day weekend. A commercial flight is the carbon equivalent of following a juice diet with a stack of pancakes; any headway I had made in saving the ozone would be totally blown. However, since there is no other way to get from Michigan to the east coast in a single day, I had little choice. So, as I am wont to do when overwhelmed by guilt, I made a conciliatory pact with myself: I’m not going to do any driving in Boston.

Anyone who has ever driven in Boston will recognize this as extremely self-serving.

The Google Map listing says it all: ‘slight right’ ‘jog right’ ‘hop right’—if you thought a “Michigan left” was difficult, The Bay State is not the place for you. It’s a cage match between sanity and cartography as you take your ninth trip around the Union Street roundabout, no longer wondering why everyone else is taking the train. A look at the map confirms your suspicions: the land is a mass of rivers and railroads, the highways comprised of lines around a focal point rather than a grid. The usual neat pattern of squares and right angles has been replaced with a crude sketch of a neuron. If your destination lies beyond a river, do not look for a bridge—it’s faster to look for a boat.

It doesn’t take many purple lefts before you reclaim the state motto. Massachusetts: You Can’t Get There From Here.

Unless, of course, you’re embracing the colonists’ favorite mode of transport. On foot, you can see most of the city in a handful of hours without the bothersome necessity of parking (which would cost you $20 and the time it takes to eat a midday meal). The city is only a few miles wide, so it’s not hard to cover it a few times over in good weather—and if the weather turns inclement, there’s always the T.

As much as I embrace public transportation in the Deuce, one thing we sorely lack is a subway. Every so often, I find myself missing the T—its soothing female voice, its logo, its smell. Granted, the smell is not a good one, but it permeates the brick-stepped corners of Boston and fills every available space between bagels and bus fumes. It’s like the smell of warm garbage that makes people love New York City in spite of it, because it’s a part of home—and it’s as much a part of the summer city as Kilwin’s waffle cones wafting down Liberty, or the curry cloud hanging over the library parking lot.

Not that it doesn’t have problems. The trains may run on time, but they still take nearly an hour from the terminus. If a game gets out, the cars will be so crammed with Sox jerseys you'll have to store your thoughts in someone's back pocket. And of course, the cardinal rule of the MBTA: Never take the orange line. Not even for one stop, not even to get to another line. Go upstairs and walk up the ziggurat to Park Street, even if it’s February, even if it’s a holiday, even if you have one leg. It will still take less time.

But I don’t care. I don’t care that I saw a cockroach as big as a cannoli while waiting for a train that still had wooden paneling. I’m not at all put out that the Newbury Street T stop has been under construction since February. And I don’t care that the fingers of the green line spread so far west that if you fall asleep on the E train, you could wake up in Albany.

Because it’s a sunny day, I have a coffee regular on the grass, and I’m not wasting petrol in the Roundabout That Time Forgot.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd say you have no need to feel guilty... that plane was going with or without you. And your presence added little to the carbon emitted. Now if you were to have had a big juicy steak or hamburger while on the plane... one might find you guilty.

Sarah Beedoo said...

I did not eat plane steak. Although I did have plane cookie, I regretted it almost immediately.