It was November 2012, and I had spent most of the morning walking up and down Washington Street, stopping at various convenience stores and rifling through their shelves in search of engine oil. My car wouldn’t start. It was looking less and less likely that it ever would again. My stepfather, a mechanic, had me check numerous lights, gauges, and fluid levels before sighing heavily at the end of the line. Time of death: 9:17 a.m. I called both of my jobs with the bad news: I wouldn’t be making it in to work that day.
Replacing my car was out of the question, so I needed an alternate mode of transportation. After a few minutes on the IndyGo website, I discovered that the two bus stops across the street from my apartment on the east side were part of the Blue Line. The bus would come every 15 minutes, and it would take me approximately 40 minutes to get to work each morning. The Blue Line was my savior.
Having ridden grimy public transit in New York City, New Jersey, and Chicago, I was prepared for the worst. But I was pleased to find the Indy buses well-maintained and clean. I couldn’t understand why more young professionals I knew didn’t ride. Unfortunately, I soon found out: While getting to my downtown job would be a breeze, traveling just about anywhere else in the city was very tricky. Never mind the three transfers I needed to make to get to my favorite restaurant in Broad Ripple; I was more concerned that I couldn’t tell exactly when the buses I needed would arrive or depart. In a nutshell, for me, these are the biggest problems IndyGo faces: routes and frequency. Sure, I’ve dealt with the odd guy, smelling vaguely of hotdog water, leaning into my personal space and asking if I’m single. As far as life on the bus went, though, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. What irked me was the poor availability of service.
After two months of regularly riding IndyGo, I landed a great new job. With my salary, I could have easily afforded a car payment. But riding the bus was effective enough at getting me to work, and I was saving a lot of money. Not to mention the fact that I had grown to enjoy elements of my commute. On the Blue Line, I found a bus driver who would argue Marvel vs. DC comics with me at 7:45 a.m., as well as a new friend I began to meet for tea or tacos. Unexpectedly, I transitioned from a rider who was transit-dependent to one who was making a lifestyle choice.