Calvin students should ride the bus

Every once in a while, I’ll tell someone I took the city bus to get to a given event. Depending on who I’m talking to, this might be followed up with a look of surprise and a “You could have told me you needed a ride!” There is kindness in this response, but it overlooks one important fact: the bus is a ride, and a perfectly sufficient one at that. 

It’s hard to say exactly why not everyone considers the bus to be a normal way of getting around. In a car-reliant city like Grand Rapids, catching the bus might seem inconvenient or intimidating. Worse, I’ve noticed a quiet classism that runs under resistance to public transportation — a fear of being packed in with strangers so unlike oneself. 

The bus, however, is a great way to get around. I’ve navigated almost four years at Calvin with no car, relying on the local Rapid system to get to off-campus jobs, the grocery store, friends’ houses, coffee shops, really anything. Just like any form of transportation, it has its drawbacks — but it can be a better experience than driving a car. With such a great deal available for Calvin students — just fifty cents per ride — I recommend giving the bus a chance next time you’ve got somewhere to be. Here are just three reasons why.

“The bus is a ride, and a perfectly sufficient one at that.”

1. Lower your carbon footprint

It’s no secret that personal vehicles are a major contributor to the climate crisis. Unfortunately, they’re pretty hard to avoid in a country like the U.S. where public transportation infrastructure is limited outside of major cities. Even the most environmentally conscious among us must resort to some car use every once in a while. 

Luckily, city bus systems offer a greener alternative to personal vehicles. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 16 million metric tons of CO2 are saved annually when Americans opt for public transportation over personal vehicles. In other words, if 20 people hop on a single bus rather than drive, that’s 20 less cars emitting carbon into the rapidly warming atmosphere. With United Nations climate reports getting more and more dismal, now is a great time to incorporate climate friendly transportation into your life. 

“This can be a good antidote to hyper-individualism and all too common feelings of isolation.”

2. Connect with your community

One of the best things about the bus is that it offers another way to connect with neighbors in the community. I can’t count how many interesting conversations I’ve had while waiting at the bus stop or how many old acquaintances I’ve gotten to catch up with due to an unexpected reunion on the bus. Even if you don’t chat with anyone, taking the bus is a reminder that you exist within a web of shared needs with people you might never meet at school or work. This can be a good antidote to hyper-individualism and all too common feelings of isolation. 

3. Enjoy convenience (and embrace inconvenience)

A major reason people don’t take the bus is that it’s perceived as inconvenient. While this is true in some cases, public transportation offers its own kind of convenience. I often spend my commutes to work reading for class, something I wouldn’t be able to do while driving. I also never have to look for parking if I need to go somewhere congested. 

That being said, some inconvenience isn’t the end of the world. It can be a good thing to wait an extra five minutes for a late bus and notice something new about your surroundings: a cool architectural detail, a shop you might want to check out, leaves changing color for fall. 

So whether you’re looking to decrease your carbon footprint, connect with the local community, or give yourself some extra time to get stuff done, take the bus. The 24 line, which runs on Burton, and the 6, which runs from Woodland Mall through Eastown to downtown, both stop right in front of Calvin. Both of these offer ample opportunities to explore the city. Rapid WAVE cards with the Calvin discount are available at the Service Learning Center