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Letters to the World


Another random carfree musing

Filed under: Car-Free,General — codeman38 @ 5:14 pm

From the Washington Post, found via BoingBoing: Lawmakers Find $21 a Week Doesn’t Buy a Lot of Groceries

[Ohio Representative Tim] Ryan and three other members of Congress have pledged to live for one week on $21 worth of food, the amount the average food stamp recipient receives in federal assistance. That’s $3 a day or $1 a meal. They started yesterday. […]

According to the rules of the challenge, the four House members cannot eat anything beside their $21 worth of groceries. That means no food at the many receptions, dinners and fundraisers that fill a lawmaker’s week. […]

“No organic foods, no fresh vegetables, we were looking for the cheapest of everything,” [Massachusetts Representative Jim] McGovern said. “We got spaghetti and hamburger meat that was high in fat — the fattiest meat on the shelf. I have high cholesterol and always try to get the leanest, but it’s expensive. It’s almost impossible to make healthy choices on a food stamp diet.”

I think it would be interesting if lawmakers could participate in a similar challenge, but this one relating to transportation. They’d be deprived of the privilege of driving a car for a week; instead, they would be forced to use public transportation, on a limited budget, to take care of all the tasks they needed to accomplish. And not on Washington’s Metro, either, but instead using their respective hometowns’ transportation systems and their own two feet.

Perhaps this would help shed some light on how horrifically underfunded many public transportation systems are and how they vastly underserve the very communities that would otherwise make more extensive use of them, as well as how pedestrian-unfriendly so many modern roads are by design.


The dull life of an Athens non-driver

Filed under: Car-Free — codeman38 @ 1:27 pm

Once again, I’ve been left to feel like a second-class citizen— OK, maybe not that extreme, but definitely like an outcast— simply because I’m unable to drive a car.

I saw an ad in the paper for a new Apple Mac retailer called PeachMac that’s going to be opening in Athens, Georgia later this month. The shininess of new computers (and accessories for my older one!) beckons this easily distracted geek, even if I can’t even remotely afford a new computer at the moment.

Except that, although the store (1850 Epps Bridge Parkway) is considered to be in Athens, it isn’t actually in Clarke County. And thus none of the bus lines actually run there. The nearest bus stop is a mile and a half away. At least this road, however, appears to have sidewalks and crosswalks, unlike…most others in Athens, so I could walk there if I were ‘together’ enough (though whether it’d be bearable in 80°F weather is another question entirely).

I suppose I could catch a taxi there if I really wanted to take a look…

(As an aside, am I the only one who thinks it doesn’t make sense that we have a unified city and county government, but not all of what’s considered part of Athens is actually in Clarke County? Does this make sense to anyone?)

Sigh. I need, at the very least, to learn how to stay balanced on a bike. (Oddly enough, I have no trouble with pedaling; I do absolutely fine on exercise bikes and with training wheels. The issue is purely one of Not Falling Over.) And hopefully the driving lessons this summer will prove more fruitful than my last several attempts…


Yet another random non-driver observation

Filed under: Car-Free,General — codeman38 @ 11:34 pm

To get between Athens, Georgia, and the Atlanta airport (which also serves as a station on Atlanta’s MARTA rail system), Greyhound is $40 round-trip, and involves a transfer that makes the trip take about 3 hours each way. There’s also a direct shuttle to the airport, but it’s $40 each way.

Just for clarification, this is for a trip that is less than 80 miles.

And no, there’s no rail connection. The state government keeps talking about it, but it seems like it’s just going to be one of those things that’s forever under deliberation.

Am I the only one who thinks this is just a bit ridiculous? It really does seem to me like non-drivers are being treated somewhat unfairly here… I have no problem with paying a slight premium for the service, but it really does seem like it should be either more affordable or more efficient than that.


One less thing to gripe about…

Filed under: Car-Free,Grad School — codeman38 @ 11:39 am

Yes, it’s official. Athens, Georgia, will now have bus service running off-campus until 11 PM.

More detail from this Athens Banner-Herald article (registration or BugMeNot required):

Beginning Aug. 14, Athens Transit will start a new night service that will extend hours for many of the most popular routes.

Instead of stopping the routes 1 (North Avenue), 2 (East Athens), 5 (Beechwood/Baxter), 9 (Macon Highway/Five Points), 20 (Georgia Square Mall) and 25 (Lexington Road/Gaines School) around 7 p.m., buses will continue until 11 p.m., according to Margaret Pettus, a dispatcher for Athens Transit.

Most of you probably don’t even realize how elated I was to read this. I may very well be enjoying life in Athens starting this fall. This will also make me feel a whole lot less stressed, as I actually have time to decompress in my apartment after my assistantship before I go off about town…


Still more pedestrian ramblings

Filed under: Car-Free,General — codeman38 @ 5:52 pm

Argh. What will it take to get this town to actually run buses at halfway reasonable hours? I’m sure that a good number of people would get more use out of a bus running at 8 PM than one running at 1 PM… seriously, if you work 9 to 5, there’s not really any time to do anything else! And if you work past 6:30 PM or so…good luck getting a taxi; I read an article in the local paper a while back that some cab companies have flat-out refused to give people in other parts of town a ride at night because they were too busy escorting drunk students home from downtown.

And it’s really bad on the weekends. Some of the routes don’t run at all on Saturdays; others (the ones that actually do run more than once an hour) run on an even sparser schedule than usual, or at the least, force you to take a more roundabout route. And forget about getting to campus from the edges of town, or vice versa, on Sundays; the only route running then is the campus weekend route.

It wouldn’t be so bad if (a) everything weren’t so ridiculously spread out, and (b) roads actually had sidewalks and crosswalks in halfway logical locations. But no, we have things like crosswalks spaced miles apart on very busy roads, sidewalks that randomly disappear and reappear, busy intersections without crosswalks… and the traffic around here scares me sometimes. It’s bad enough as a pedestrian; there’s no way I could drive in this without crashing into something! And as for the whole issue of sprawl, the nearest grocery store to campus is about a mile from the nearest edge of campus (which, thankfully, is the south edge at which I’m living)— which is hardly the most convenient distance for carrying several heavy bags of groceries. It’s even worse in the other parts of campus. You’d think the zoning laws would actually encourage the placement of a store that might, I don’t know, actually be convenient for students!

I guess I should be glad that I at least live on one of the campus bus stops, which actually does run into the night (though only to campus destinations and downtown). I seriously don’t see how people can live off-campus and survive… oh, right, they’re un-spacey enough to actually pay attention to all the unpredictable traffic, or at least they can find someone to live with who can drive them around. Meh.


Maybe I can survive without a car yet…

Filed under: Car-Free,Grad School — codeman38 @ 6:39 pm

I actually managed to walk a mile from downtown back to my apartment (stopping for dinner along the way). Not as pleasant as a bus ride, necessarily, particularly with those hills along the way… but at least I know it can indeed be done without a whole lot of difficulty. Makes me feel a little better, anyway— I’m glad that campus and downtown, at least, are quite pedestrian-friendly. Now if only the rest of town were the same way…

(Now if only they’d fix a few of the pedestrian crossing lights on campus so they actually show a ‘walk’ signal… most of them work, but one or two intersections seem to have a bit of an issue. Even calling Public Works didn’t seem to help, despite the fact that I gave the specific location of one of the broken ones. I mean, yeah, I know, just wait till it’s a green light without any arrows…but still, it’d be just a slight bit safer if they’d actually make them work like they should!)


I hate my inability to drive…

Filed under: Car-Free,General,Grad School — codeman38 @ 11:12 pm

I’m essentially chained to my apartment for 5/6 of this upcoming holiday (Martin Luther King Day) weekend.

Only the very limited weekend city buses are running on Saturday— once an hour, with the last bus arriving at my apartment at about 6:30.

And no buses whatsoever are running on Sunday or Monday. No campus buses; no city buses; nothing.

This, of course, wouldn’t be so bad if there were anything in reasonable walking distance of my apartment. There are the restaurants and stores of Five Points about a mile away… on a road with no sidewalks. I guess I could try braving walking on the shoulder of the road… And the north side of campus is about 2 miles away.

I really need to learn to ride a bike. Or something.


Yet another random thought dump

Filed under: Car-Free,General,Grad School — codeman38 @ 2:04 pm

The state motto of Georgia may be “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation,” but the drunken revelry I so frequently see around UGA is hardly wise, just, or moderate, at least as far as I’m concerned. So much for the whole symbolism of the Arch.

And sure, life may be unjust, but one would think this town would do a better job at making it possible to get places without a car, particularly with the large student population. I know I’ve said it before, but really— in lieu of better transit, are sidewalks and pedestrian crossings every couple of blocks too much to ask for?

Mrgh. I’m not asking for any preferential treatment or anything— just being able to get from store to store without either waiting an hour for the bus or trying to cross six lanes of busy traffic without getting run over would be nice! Some of us students can’t afford cars; then there are those of us who are too spacey to actually drive one without great difficulty… >_<


More fun with pedestrian-unfriendly street design

Filed under: Car-Free,General — codeman38 @ 5:17 pm

See this two-mile stretch of Atlanta Highway in Athens, GA? There are lots of big-name franchises along the way, most of which can be found nowhere else in town, including the shopping mall, Carrabba’s, and Krispy Kreme (why isn’t there a Krispy Kreme downtown?!)… but there is not a single place for pedestrians to cross. Not much in the way of sidewalks, either. In fact, the only crosswalk I know is at the easternmost point of the path I’ve highlighted; I’m not sure how much further west one needs to go before one actually finds another crossing, but I know there aren’t any in sight from the westernmost point marked.

Oh, yeah, and it’s an eight-lane highway, naturally. Which means that there’s pretty much no chance you’ll be able to cross the road without ending up as roadkill.

(Edited to improve the map; the original path had a U-turn in it which made it even longer. I guess it’s not too easy for cars to cross either!)


City designers, think of the pedestrians…

Filed under: Car-Free,General — codeman38 @ 6:07 pm

Oh, how I would love to live somewhere with public transit that was available seven days a week and at least part of the night. That, or a taxi service that was reasonably affordable. Even just having more than one or two little things in reasonable walking distance would be nice. It’s so frustrating being unable to drive sometimes. I hate my attention span. :-\

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