Sunday, November 24, 2019

Get on the Bus

We in Columbia/HoCo are good at many things but there is one glaring example where we fall short. Folks, we need to learn how to ride the bus. I’m talking public transportation and I mean everyone should know how to use it and consciously choose to do so. And I mean me, too, as I have never ridden the bus since I have lived here.

There’s a general sentiment that our area was developed in such a way to be public transit averse. There’s certainly some truth in that. I know I haven’t ridden the bus because I’m not at all sure if it even goes where I need to go. And many people recoil from public transit as somehow dirty, uncomfortable, and inconvenient.

“Public transit. It’s not for me, it’s for those who have no other choice.” Not exactly a winning slogan.

The other evening when my family was celebrating my daughter’s birthday at Seasons 52 at the Mall,  the parking situation was crazy and we were close to being late. My husband texted me: just do the valet parking. I’m not sure we would have made it to dinner if we hadn’t. The restaurant comps the fee.

So here comes one of my whimsical ideas that will undoubtedly tick someone off: what if we taught people how pleasant, comfortable, and convenient riding the bus could be by creating a bus system just for the Mall? Think of how there are a variety of parking options at the airport. One involves satellite parking and being transported by a shuttle to your destination.

What if you could easily park your car and get around the entire Mall property easily because of well- orchestrated bus service? I might even forgo my ban on Mall visits between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And what if kids grew up having a fun experience of riding the bus at the Mall and carried those expectations into adulthood? What if adults came to see how a bus at the Mall could be as appealing as valet parking? Sponsoring such a service would be a win for the Mall. And with all the bright minds we have promoting Downtown Development, I feel sure they could devise a Fun Bus and a Fun Bus experience that would make people want to come down and try it out, tell their friends, and come back again. Take selfies. Post to Instagram. And so on.

I know that Howard County is working on improved transit plan. But one of the most important parts of the success of such a plan is widening the scope of those who want to use it. While the big picture concepts are percolating, why don’t we start small with a project that many folks would use?

It’s time to get on the Fun Bus, Columbia/HoCo.

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