Changing my (traveling to campus) ways

Changing my (traveling to campus) ways

I am really lucky, this fall, to have two jobs that I love.

One of them is my main job, at The News-Gazette. I work with talented, intelligent, creative people. When my dad (who worked at an auto parts foundry for 40-plus years) told me, years ago, that I was lucky to have a job that paid the bills and that I enjoy, I didn’t get it. I do now.

The second job is teaching a journalism course at the University of Illinois. I’ve taught off and on for five years or so, and it’s energizing in many ways. To be back on the campus where I was an undergrad feels like a gift.

My classes are in Gregory Hall, and in the past I’ve almost always been able to find parking at the Main Library lot. This fall, I decided to try not driving for a change, and take the bus instead.

I used to take the bus all the time. The reason was simple: I didn’t have a car. The reason now is also simple: I found that I was leaving a half-hour before my class started in case I couldn’t find a parking space. I still leave a half-hour before my class starts, but now I don’t have to wonder whether I’ll find a parking spot – or if I remembered to bring change for the meter.

What I appreciate is how easy the MTD has made it for me to figure out how far away the bus is that I want to take. The district’s website is good for planning a trip – and from downtown Champaign, you get a choice of itineraries, all of them bringing me within a block of Greg Hall.

What I use the most is checking on my bus via text message. From the MTD’s website, you can find your bus stop’s code, send a text with that code in it, and get back a list of all buses due in the next few minutes and how far away they are.

It’s only been a couple of times, but so far, the text message hasn’t steered me wrong. It kept me from standing outdoors for several minutes Wednesday in the noontime heat. (And this will come in handy when those autumn rains come pouring down, and when the snow flies and the streets get icy in December.) The arrival estimate has been right on the money.

It takes a bit longer to get to my destination than when I drive, of course; there are stops to make, and the route is less direct and crosses streets I’d never think of trying to cross. (Although so far, crossing First Street and Sixth Street has been less of an adventure than I’d have guessed.)

Coming back from campus, I don’t even have to use the texting system: the timetable message boards along Armory Avenue and Wright Street do the same job. So far, they’ve been accurate, too.

This first week, I’ve saved perhaps a half-gallon of gas, and $4.50 in parking costs. By this time next week, I’ll have saved enough for a growler at Destihl.

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

virgil g wrote on August 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm

"This first week, I’ve saved perhaps a half-gallon of gas, and $4.50 in parking costs. By this time next week, I’ll have saved enough for a growler at Destihl."

Darn, I love your priorities. Additionally, when taking the bus, you don't have to worry about a DUI, after you drink that growler (not that you have that far to go).

Mike Howie wrote on August 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm
Profile Picture

Of course, the growler is only one example. Another reason I'm lucky: the options of location give me options for my savings.

Meg Dickinson wrote on August 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm
Profile Picture

Remember that time when I was getting ready to cover Unofficial, and you said, "Park on top of the deck on Fourth Street. It's never full. I park there all the time."

And then I got towed. You should probably stick to the bus.

Mike Howie wrote on August 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm
Profile Picture

Well, I had a parking pass in my car. Did you forget that part?

Meg Dickinson wrote on August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am
Profile Picture

I had one. Didn't matter.

chai wrote on August 26, 2011 at 7:08 am

There is at least one free Android app that pulls real-time bus data (their Stopwatch data) for any stop you want. I'd recommend that over the constant texting.

Mike Howie wrote on August 26, 2011 at 9:08 am
Profile Picture

Thanks for the heads-up. I see two of them, and I'll test them both.

John O'Connor wrote on August 28, 2011 at 1:08 pm

For iphones, the app 'stops,' which also uses data from the MTD's Stopwatch system is very good, especially if you have to transfer.