Ah, what’s a man’s life without a little adventure? Especially mine, and after I had been (relatively) motionless for much of the preceding month.
As I vaguely alluded to in the previous entry, I am making moves to shore up affordable and hopefully usable transportation in the city of Charlotte. A place this size can be a bit challenging to navigate, and even more so when you live towards its periphery. But, after much consultation of Google Maps, I located a Charlotte Area Transit System (Cats) park and ride within easy Uber distance of my current residence, and as I needed both to venture to the transportation center to acquire my paratransit ID and to visit Queens University so I could work on a couple of things there, I opted to chance the bus.
Naturally, I found myself drawing comparisons to that I experienced aboard the GoTriangle buses that took me to and from work for just over four years in the (of course) much smaller Durham/RTP area. Note that I am not saying either has issues per se, just that they function a bit differently from one another.
First, the similarities: on boarding the 53X, an express bus that would whisk me to uptown Charlotte (it’s our downtown but we’re just quirky like that) I notice that they too have switched to the more comfortable upholstery that most of the GoTriangle buses now have. I guess that most have gone in this direction, eschewing the bumpy bucket-type seats of my childhood. This definitely makes for a lot less soreness for road-weary commuters.
I can think of few other similarities, interestingly. Their differences were more notable. First, I suppose Cats does not have onboard WiFi. I guess this is to be expected in a larger fleet, and it is not a big deal. Second, all of the buses I boarded still have stairs one must climb to board, rather than the flat surface you step onto when entering a GoTriangle bus. I think they still lower them though. One nice difference I noted: Cats has its automated system set to call out all of the stops, stating which locations each serves as well. This means I can follow along without use of my GPS unit for the most part, insomuch as I can hear it, which was less doable on the return commutes when the A/C was set to full blast.
And hearing is in fact the greatest challenge I face when riding the fixed-route system, not surprisingly. This is why I signed up for Special Transportation Service (STS) and will see how much use I am able to get out of them. I know though that, being as we are outside of their guaranteed 3/4 of a mile from a stop, there will probably be times when I cannot get a ride through them and might want to resort to the regular route. I would say I actually got to my points relatively well, but as one might expect there were a few, insignificant glitches.
The main issue was communicating to the driver where I wished to disembark. I could tell them the stops as Google had told me, but this did not always get the desired result. Actually, the first driver on the Express route took me all the way to the transit center, and the second had no issues notifying me when I had arrived at Queens. The third told me, I think correctly, that I could catch the return Express route at the transit Center rather than doing so on 4th Street as the map suggested, but relented and let me off at the latter location. This was good, because there is a little bit of a walk from where the locals arrive to the Express routes at that very loud facility.
In the end though, I certainly was able to reach all of my intended destinations without notable difficulties. As I more fully come to understand the system, and especially the route to Queens I should have an easier time communicating exactly where I am going, but these things come in time. I am one who does not and will never mind the learning.