To and Fro

As I spent thirty minutes of my morning in a trolebus that was headed to the Quitumbe Bus Station in Quito, I reflected upon my experiences with mass transit, and transportation in general.  Here’s a list of the ways in which I have been moved, in chronological order:

  • car (passenger)
  • airplane
  • bike
  • boat
  • taxi (in NYC, on the Merrill Ocracoke trip of 2000)
  • car (driver)
  • Greyhound bus
  • Gator (this one is for any med-o-larkers who may be reading)
  • Chicken Buses in Guatemala (they’re called chicken buses because conductors never say no to anyone wishing to enter- they end up being as crammed as chicken coops)
  • DC Metro
  • Amtrak Train
  • car (passenger), left-side of the road (Jamaica)
  • car (driver), left-side of the road and manual transmission- don’t even ask (Ireland)
  • buses in Ireland
  • Prague metro system
  • European trains (sooo much more 21st century than Amtrak!)
  • U-bahn metro system of Vienna
  • U-bahn metro system of Munich
  • Brussels subway system
  • Paris Métro
  • buses of San Francisco
  • TriMet system of Portland, OR
  • sailboat (thank you, Helen)
  • MBTA transit of Boston
  • Buseta in Ecuador (a large van that is supposed to seat 15 or so, but proves able to fit about 20)
  • buses in Ecuador
  • metrobuses and trolebuses of Quito

I love the myriad of possibilities there are in getting around.  It’s hard to say which method is my favorite.  Each has its pros and cons.  One of my favorite ways to spend a surprisingly warm spring day is cruising in the Kansas countryside with the windows down and the music up, singing unashamedly.  My dear 1993 Honda Del Sol was the perfect car for this pastime.  But, as my car (Fiona) proved to be true, owning a car can be terribly expensive.

I can't even count how many times I had to have this adorable car towed for one reason or another.

I love both driving and riding on a boat, knowing that at any moment, I could jump off port side for a refreshing dip.  But, boats obviously have their limits (and are also a bit expensive)

Good times on the Merrill's The Gloaming (now Babs)

Mostly what I reflected upon this morning, as my trolebus took me all the way from the beautiful, historic center of Quito to the outskirts of the obviously more in need south end, was how much I love public transit.  It’s cheap, it’s a great way to get a visual tour of a city (without having to risk/endure driving in the traffic), and there’s nothing that will make you feel like a local as much as mastering the public transportation of the city you’re visiting.  Every city seems to do mass transportation a little bit differently, plus, adding to the confusion of the transit system in foreign countries is the foreign language I have many stories of PT confusion up my sleeve.  One involving a forgotten Sigg waterbottle in a NY subway (please join me in a moment of silence for Simon the Sigg). One involving a kind, French woman giving up 20 minutes of her morning to help a poor, lost stranger make it to her 7 am train to Paris.  One involving a few too many beers, a couple- far from funny or romantic- hours of the wee morning spent with a guy from DC in a Munich phone booth, and even the irony and foreshadowing of a short story.  One that cost me $30 (damn you, Prague metro police with your vigilance in catching tourists who can’t help but be confused by your system and fining them!)

Still, even with (or maybe even a little bit because of) my transit tangles in mind, I love public transportation.  Getting around in Quito was no exception.  Quito’s system is pretty easy to understand.  It helps that the city is shaped like a forefinger (as you can see in the map to your left).  There are three lines that run north and south, getting you pretty easily to where you need to go.  And one ride costs a mere 25 cents.  I would have spent $10 on a 30 minute taxi ride, but instead, I got to experience all the liveliness, closeness, and real feeling of belonging to a city that comes with using mass transit, for a fraction of the price.

Someday, I hope to live in a city that is big enough to have decent public transportation.  Right now, I’m car-less, so that someday may be closer to sooner than later.  I wouldn’t mind using a system so much that I really got it, becoming one of the people who assists tourist, rather than the other way around.

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4 thoughts on “To and Fro

  1. Well, you have definitely been on very interesting vehicles, to say the least. In Cuba, we have these long buses that seem joined in the middle, kind of like gluing two buses together, anyway, they kind of look like they have a hump. We call those “Camellos,” or Camels, as you probably know. Anyway, they are always packed with people, but it’s definitely an experience!

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