I STEPPED out of my apartment at 10am; the temperature had breached the negative. I waited for the 10:06am bus to campus provided by the Iowa City Transit and as I boarded it, I noticed a classmate heading to the same class on foot, her coat billowing.
After class, I asked her why she didn’t take the bus to class. It turned out she did not know how the bus transport worked or about the free shuttle service to the city. I have heard similar responses to the use of public transport in the past. Is there a lack of prominent public information on public transportation to alert people to its convenience?
I use the Bongo app to check public transportation schedules in Iowa but sometimes the data is scrambled, outdated and inaccurate, with15-minute delays in either direction. The digital monitor of bus arrivals may also be out of order.
I reflected on my life back home in Shah Alam. The bus stops were often badly maintained and the bus route display boards were often broken or the ink had faded away. These problems probably upscale with the rise in population of an area. According to the United States Census Bureau, as of last year, Iowa City has a population of 74,000 while the Majlis Bandaraya Shah Alam website states that Shah Alam is home to 650,000 people. The number of bus routes increases with the rise in population. Instead of a route name, MyRapid uses a number system that can get confusing and difficult to remember.
Most bus companies post their schedules on their websites. The MyRapid website allows users to input the start and end locations to find the shortest bus route within its ecosystem. It also displays fare prices as well as an estimate of the travel time.
Several third party applications available on the iOS and Google application stores allow users to plan their journey. I recommend Moovit app and website as they include train and walking routes into their calculations which are useful if your destination is not connected via a direct route. These solutions rely on the public to actively look them up while most will check the display boards for schedules.
If you are a student, who travel to and from campus regularly, and you may even have a car, why should you use public transportation? Actually “Why aren’t you taking the bus?” is a better question.
Let’s start with a downside of taking the bus.
A paper published for the Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment Behaviour Studies by Universiti Teknologi MARA in September 2013 studied traffic conditions and the different transport management at several universities and provided empirical evidence on campus bus service efficacy as well as the green gestures in ensuring a sustainable environment.
It found that though 51.5 per cent of students travelled on campus buses, student satisfaction with the services averaged at 3.24 from a maximum of five. Ridership between peak hours and off-peak periods varied significantly. While the seating capacity was 40 passengers for most campus buses, the number was greatly exceeded during peak hours. This caused congestion at waiting areas and overloading on buses. The mean score for waiting time and punctuality of bus service came out the lowest compared to other aspects at 2.77 and 2.84 respectively.
The lack of easy access to accurate information and these findings show the reason why one does not care to find out more about public transportation.
However, there are many advantages to public transportation. My fellow students, you wake up in the morning every day trying to get to class on time, you are often sleepy from studying all night and driving a car may not be as safe as you would like. The solution is to take the bus and take a short nap on the way to feel refreshed by the time you arrive at class.
And it is a good time to read a book to prepare for class and offer some free time in your day. If your commute amounts to more than an hour, it is a time to be productive.
Emillio Daniel is an adventurous English and Creative Writing student at The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at [email protected]