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.