What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

13 July 2011

All the Ones

On July 4th, Chad and I had a whole day free from any outside commitments; no class for him, no internship for me. So we decided on this day to tackle the longest, and busiest, route on our list: Route #1.

The transit center at the northern end
of the route. It's a park-and-ride, and
is really pretty cool.
Actually, we were quite lucky to get a three-for-one deal on this route. There are two regular #1 routes, the 1L and the 1M, which share the middle portion of the route with some slight deviation from one another at either end. An express route, the 101, also covers this particular line, but it was not running on July 4th due to the holiday. As mentioned, this is a busy, heavily-traveled corridor through Austin, one that runs almost as far to either end as we can go on a bus; basically, we covered the length of Austin in one day. One long, tiring day.

Because of the busyness, this route runs frequently; on a regular weekday, if your travel needs take you anywhere on the shared portion of the route, your wait is likely to be less than 10 minutes. It's slightly less frequent on weekends or holidays, but we never waited longer than 20 minutes all day. Additionally, CapMetro just received a federal grant to start a Bus Rapid Transit service in Austin, and this route will be one of the first to get the faster buses. I participated in a webinar about that yesterday, so much much more about it is coming soon!

One of the shops on South Congress.
This was my favourite store that I
saw the first time I ran the half-
marathon in Austin. Please do enlarge
the picture and identify all the
famous people.
Anyway, my poor unsuspecting husband had no idea, when I suggested we take on the longest route on our free-est day that I had an ulterior motive: There are all sorts of fun shops on South Congress that I've wanted to visit ever since our first trip to Austin for the marathon in 2009. Life and forgetfulness have intervened often in the year we've lived here, but I finally managed to get myself and my husband to this row of quirky, locally owned shops. Unfortunately, most of them were closed for the holiday, but at least we got closer to them than ever before. More photos from the trip are here.

And when it comes to sights to see, that's about it. There are lots of shopping centres along this route, a few libraries, two universities and a college, but for sheer coolness, nothing beats those few blocks on South Congress. I will say that we passed a couple of liquor stores with amusing names: Metric Liquor, which is on Metric Boulevard but makes me think it's weighed in grams instead of ounces, and Passionate Spirits, which I don't want to dwell on too much. What this route does have is lots of connections to other bus routes, lots of living spaces (of the single-family house and the apartment variety), and lots of shopping centres that are easy to get into from a bus. Which is what makes it such a popular route; what it lacks in scenery it more than makes up for in function. Goodness knows I've hopped onto this route from campus multiple times, usually to get to a connecting bus. It works, and works well.

And the Super Target at the
southern end of the route. I think
all stores with "Super" in the name
should be required to have capes.
Now, this north-to-south, easy connectivity also attracts all the crazies that ride the Austin buses. Not only is this route crowded, but it's like a little "Keep Austin Weird" fest just being on this bus. We got on one that was particularly crowded, and a young man standing near the front told us to move back so people could get on. Um, excuse me? Are your feet glued to the floor so that you can't move back? I didn't stop to snark at him, though, since I was intending to move back anyway, but sheesh. Another young man, who I temporarily named Mind-Altered, was loudly regaling his friend with a roommate's story of his (the roommate's) latest conquest, and how Mind-Altered told him, "I don't want to hear this!" I wanted to ask him, "What makes you think the rest of us want to hear it?" As it happened, we ran into Mind-Altered and his pal about three more times before the day was done. At another stop, a man got on and searched about 10 different pockets in his cargo pants and knapsack for his bus fare before finding it. Then, once he got a seat, he practised martial arts moves with his arms until we got to his stop. And finally, not so much "weird" as "wow", a dozen-ish French-speaking students got on the bus and had us completely surrounded for the last couple of miles of the route. I really need to learn that language.

So, what have we learned? Sometimes the routes will be more utilitarian than pretty. And people-watching opportunities abound, no matter what.

Is there something in your city that's more function than design? Do you see/use/visit it?


Anonymous said...

Utilitarion routes aren't all that much fun for window gazing but at least you had lots of interesting people to amuse you.

Deniz Bevan said...

Sounds like a great experience.
I love catching up on your bus tours :-)
And hey, come to Montreal for the French!

erica and christy said...

What an interesting way to spend
Independence Day...hehe

Okay, so you know I live in a tiny town. I only had a bus pass for one year, in college when I was doing a volunteer experience across town and had no car.

But I was on a bus in Las Vegas when Michael Jackson was aquitted. OMG, I'm lucky to be alive!!

Su said...

@Delores: Oh, yeah. Every day! ;)

@Deniz: I'd love to come to Montreal. It would take me a few years to get used to the weather, of course, but I'm sure it would be worth it!

@Erica: Wow. Yeah, you are! Holy crap!

Misha said...

Hmm... Our public transport system is definitely not pretty. :-/

Su said...

Well, ours isn't pretty on the inside, either! ;) But some parts of town are more interesting to look at than others.