For instance, just to get to work, I have to take the West Market Street bus downtown, transfer to the West Wendover bus, travel to another transfer point out West Wendover, and get off the bus near the store.
More extensive travel makes it worse. To get to Jamestown, a small town between Greensboro and High Point where I had business last week, I had to take West Market downtown, transfer to the High Point Road bus that travels to the southwestern sector of town, transfer to the High Point Road Connector, which transports people out to the Jamestown campus of Guilford Technical Community College, and then transfer to a Hi-Tran bus run by the City of High Point that meets the GTA bus at GTCC.
Of course, all these transfers and whatnot take time. Lots of it. Getting to work consumes an hour and a half. Getting to Jamestown was the better part of two hours.
And that’s if I hit all my transfers on time. Buses break down, get stuck in traffic, and have their share of fools and crazies that delay the bus. Even a few minutes’ delay can spell the difference between waiting a few minutes for a connecting bus and waiting a full hour.
I’ve heard people who used to live up North who now live in the area express bafflement that the buses down here take an hour between trips and then don’t go everywhere they should. They’re used to having buses run every 15-20 minutes and getting off within no more than a couple blocks of their stop.
By contrast, the bus from the apartment runs only once an hour, and the nearest stop is a half-mile away. On weekdays. On weeknights and on Sundays, the nearest stop is a mile and a half away. Needless to say, we don’t get out much on weeknights and Sundays.
Another problem is that, although Greensboro, feeling its economic oats, has undertaken a frenzy of building, the best jobs and shopping are seldom built within easy reach of the bus routes. In fact, it could be said that developers seem to go out of their way to place businesses nowhere near the bus routes. No doubt due to a biases perception against poor people.
A case in point: some years ago, the library system had a branch in the Northwest part of town directly on a bus line, and in the Southwestern part of town, only about a block from a bus line. A new library was built out on New Garden road, miles from any buses whatsoever, and another was built farther out in southwest, again nowhere near a bus line. The two on the bus routes were of course promptly closed. That effectively cut off research and reading opportunities for poor people living in two sections of town.
Well, since the buses are woefully inefficient, what alternatives are there for getting around in Greensboro without a car? There is bicycling, of course, but since Greensboro was designed solely with cars in mind, bike trails and road space is in short supply. And drivers around here tend to regard bicyclists as little more than speed bumps. Everyone here who rides a bike has at least one horror story involving a driver.
Walking is a good option: it’s great exercise and gives you time to notice and appreciate your surroundings, but besides being slow, the aforementioned problem with insane drivers also applies, as sidewalks are in short supply, forcing you to walk close enough to the road to be clipped by large vehicles, or on the roadbed itself. And we won’t even mention the occasional heckler who decides to enhance his enjoyment of the day by hurling invective -- or worse -- at you. And during the summer months, North Carolina temperatures can make extensive walking life-threatening.
In the city’s defense, however, changes are coming. GTA just approved a new initiative to make the buses run every 30 minutes, but of course, that involves a fare increase. And the city has begun an effort to put in more sidewalks along areas with heavy foot traffic.
Still can’t wait to get my Trusty Steed back under me, though. That ought to cut transit time considerably.
*Mostly condos, but there are a few high-profile shopping venues under construction. And a giant skyscraper in the middle of downtown, after lying dormant for many years, is finally going to be rebuilt soon. Naturally, few of these places are near the bus lines.