When Car Is The Only Option

Surviving Without a Car in Worcester

I tend to write a lot about public transportation and why America needs more of it; however, I also tend to putter around in my car everyday. I live in Worcester, MA, a relatively large city of about 200,000, but unfortunately there are not a lot of good public transportation options here. But this week I ran into a huge mess: my car died three times and there is no fix in sight. I have been without a vehicle for about a week and have been forced to test my own theories about public transportation. I am not happy with the results.

Can't Walk

I live in a part of the city with lots of single family homes and little else. Despite the fact that Worcester has nearly 200,000 residents, many live spread out in low-density housing. That means that it is very difficult to walk anywhere. For example, I tend to start off my morning routine with Starbucks. Normally I jump in the car and drive 5 minutes. But according to Google Maps, it would take me 31 minutes to walk to the nearest Starbucks. Looks like I won't be getting a coffee.

Can't Bike

Okay so walking is off the table, how about I take my bike? Well I would love to except for two issues: Worcester is covered in hills and has almost no safe bike lanes. There are a few bike lanes throughout the city, but they tend to begin and end abruptly, which makes them impractical for anyone who actually wants to get anywhere. Take a look at some of the "bike lanes." Granted the city is building more bike lanes, but as of right now it is largely impractical to travel by bike.

Can't Take the Bus

So my third idea was to take the bus to where I wanted to go. Until I realized that the bus also is unbelievably confusing and serves only very specific areas. Basically all of the buses meet at one central location that serves as an interchange between routes. As a result it is again largely unrealistic to travel by bus. I learned that the 3 mile trip to Target would take me 51 minutes by bus. That seems like a waste of time. 

As a country we need to build better networks of public transportation. If I were a lower or middle class worker and I had trouble getting to work, this could be a huge problem. Lots of people have car trouble all the time, but if there is not a good alternative, it could have huge consequences for individuals.