On Wednesday, our third roommate, an occasional reader of this blog (and a white person), asked Chris, "So, white people don't ride the bus? You know, I rode the bus to work all summer."
"Yeah, I bet it was a Greyhound," he shot back.
"Hell, no. Not after that thing in Canada. It was a city bus."
Even in a transit-friendly area like Greater Washington, riding the bus can be a shameful thing, which I've never really understood. There's a study from several years ago - I wish I could find it now - that says two-thirds of Metrorail riders are either white and make six figures, and two-thirds of Metrobus riders are black and make less than $55,000 a year. Don't take my word for it, though: after all, when I rode the Z9 to work two summers ago, I was rubbing elbows with a mostly white-collar, briefcase-clutching crowd.
The big challenge is to make the bus attractive for people who can choose to do otherwise. I've gotten a number of comments and e-mails from readers following part one of my "Purple Line Diaries," notably about this column to the Gazette written by a sophomore at Blair who's in love with public transit:
"I feel that my use of the system, instead of limiting me to only the places the buses can go, actually gives me independence. A year ago, I had to wait for my parents to get ready before I could leave, but now regardless of how busy they are, I can get to where I want to be as long as I know the routes.WMATA and Ride-On should hire this kid to be their spokesman . . . that is, if being known as Bus Boy doesn't inadvertently destroy his social status at Blair.
If you are a parent, allowing your children to use public transportation will give you time to relax on weekends instead of grumbling your kids around town.
Many parents, I know would probably tell me that either they don't trust their kids in the system or that they think it's unsafe. However, I have used the system dozens of times and I've never felt unsafe or that I was in danger of getting lost."