The United States is a society dependent on cars. It’s widely known that public transportation pales in comparison to other regions like Japan, China, Europe, and even our neighbor Canada. This is problematic notably because it causes intense traffic and air pollution. In 2015, Governor Jay Inslee has secured bipartisan support, $16 billion, to expand its public transportation sector to make it so public transportation is more clean, attractive, and easy to use. So how is Washington’s public transportation keeping up with daily life?
“I don’t have a license or a car, and my parents work when I get off school, so they can’t pick me up,” Darya Hasanbekava says, a senior Marauder and a regular bus rider, ”I live outside of the district, so I need to take public buses, instead of the school bus.”
Mariner High School students, unlike Darya, hardly use public transportation because of other alternatives. A survey was sent out to English classes to see how students went to and from school. Students who had multiple methods of transportation were not able to be fully taken into account. Here are the results:
Despite providing school buses as free transportation, a large number of students use cars to get to and from school.
The Puget Sound region of Washington has multiple bus agencies to choose from: Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, and Sound Transit, among others. It can be intimidating to keep track of these different buses, but it has become somewhat easier with the help of the ORCA card. The ORCA card makes it so you only need to pay money for a single card to travel on any of the fares from the previously mentioned agencies. ORCA also applies to Washington’s ferries, so both your bus and ferry fares are covered.
“Most of the time [it’s convenient], yeah,” Darya confirmed. “If you have an ORCA card, it’s relatively easy to ride a bus home.” ORCA cards automatically cover fees for two hours after an initial charge, so once you pay you’ll be good to go for the rest of your route. Bus fare usually run from about $1.50 to $1.75 for children. “The scheduling is consistent aside from the instances where the buses are late or they just never show up.”
Washington has expanded public transportation, even over in Eastern Washington. However, are all of these efforts enough to convince car riders to switch over to buses? The main issue with buses is the frequency and how long it takes to get from point A to point B. The biggest reason why more Americans prefer cars over buses is the flexibility that comes with it.
“From here to Seattle? It takes about an hour and depends on the time you go,” Darya says, “Like, when you go at two, there’s huge traffic there… it takes longer, like two hours.”
If we go on to Google Maps and get directions from Mariner to the University of Washington, driving a car will get you there in 30 minutes, depending on the time of day. Taking a bus, on the other hand, takes a whopping one to two hours. This may change in the future with continuing progress, but now, it’s questionable if a substantial amount of people would transfer over to buses. Staying on a bus for a few hours surrounded by unknown faces may be off putting. For some people like Darya, however, long rides may not be a big deal.
“If you ever took a bus to Seattle, there are two story buses, so when you ride on the bridge you can see the whole view. I find it relaxing. “
To those who believe that being on a bus filled with strangers is concerning, Darya explains, “They’re fine. There were a few instances where there was a weird person on the bus—just randomly start a conversation about, I don’t know, the political state of our country? I take buses a lot, and I can say that it (suspicious activity) never happens, aside from awkward conversations.”
Although public transportation may not be appealing now, there are some features you can still look forward to. Many of the light rails are concentrated in Seattle and provide the ultimate convenience that public transportation has to offer. The frequency of the urban trains range from every six minutes to every fifteen minutes, which means waiting for the next bus doesn’t take too long. Sound Transit will expand this light rail system to Everett once there is voter approval. However, it may be questioned how much of a difference it will make since it is estimated to take an hour to get from Everett to Seattle, though, it may also increase the frequency of bus routes within Everett.