Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the purple line diaries

part ONE of a series aimed to find out just how bad it is commuting across Montgomery and Prince George's counties without the Purple Line.

When I met Purple Line opponents Mier Wolf and Pam Browning last summer, it seemed like they didn't know what it was like for the thousands of commuters leaving their hometown of Chevy Chase each day in rush hour traffic. Last month, I explained this problem to Adam Pagnucco from Maryland Politics Watch over quesadillas at Austin Grill, and he suggested I show them just how bad it can be.

I'd dreamed of taking Pam, Mier and other local activists on an actual bus, but Adam told me it just wouldn't work. "They won't do it," Adam says. "What you should do is ride the bus yourself and write a diary about it. Make it as horrible as possible. There's traffic, the bus breaks down, a woman forced to stand faints."

Horrible? There's no better day for a horrible commute than the first day of school, a time everyone's settling into new routines, creating a perfect storm of congestion and confusion. I had a plan for Tuesday: ride a bus from Bethesda and wait for the misery to begin. But in the midst of playing video games Monday night, my friend and roommate Chris asked if I wanted to go to the art store in Rockville the next day.

"Sure. Do you want to ride a bus there?" I replied.

"Uh, I'm white," says Chris, turning back to Super Smash Bros. "I don't take the bus."

(He's joking, I promise. I mean, he is white, and he hasn't ridden the bus much, but . . .)

Hoping for a hellish commute back that evening, Chris and I set out from our apartment in College Park yesterday afternoon for my great experiment. We would take Metro up to Twinbrook and back to Bethesda before switching to the J4 and riding it home. And while nothing broke down and nobody fainted, our journey proved to be quite an adventure, if not a super time sink.

Here's what we're trying to figure out: how can the Purple Line improve on current commutes east? How bad are conditions right now? And does my white roommate actually ride a bus?

"come on, baby, show me gridlock": My roommate and I take a trip to the art store in Twinbrook, encountering little congestion but a near-disaster on Rockville Pike.

"who rides the bus?": So who rides the bus? Two people, at least, and we look at some very, very non-scientific statistics.

Check back for new additions to this series!


Thomas Hardman said...

Heh, I am tempted to go over to my own blog and do a copycat article.

However, I have done this before, writing up my own reviews of the quality of service and pleasantness of experience.

Unfortunately, that was back around 1997 or so, and mostly it consisted of letters to the management of the Ride-On buses that plied the 48 Route. The letters to the management more or less demanded better security and a higher-quality of drivers.

My short-and-sweet summary of any article I'd be likely to write would amount to "Thomas Hardman Rides the Bus: Thomas Hardman gets his a$$ beat".

This sort of thing was so consistent back in the late 1990s that I simply walked everywhere I could walk (and I can walk quite a ways) and literally lost 20 pounds saving up my money to buy a used car. $1500 dollars later, I could and did afford to sneer at the bus and its ridership, which I generally referred to as "the War Party bus".

It wasn't too bad in the off-hours, but at rush-hour or after-school hours, you might not be taking your life into your hands, but rather like a character in some H.P.Lovecraft story, sanity was likely to be an early casualty of the experience.

To be fair, maybe they didn't do this to everybody but had something against me personally.

Scenic Wheaton said...

I can't wait to read about your adventure tomorrow. I am a fan of the J4 express!
Thank you for the nice words yesterday.
adele (scenic wheaton)