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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

HART attack

Bad puns, hooray!

Anyway. Around this time last year, my dear faithful Honda Civic hatchback (vintange 1990) finally gave up and died on me. At the time my bank account was drained on account of some unfortunate dental occurrences (don't forget to floss, kids! OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE A ROOT CANAL), and I don't have any credit cards, so I consigned myself to riding the bus until I could save up for a used car.

This meant two things: the University of South Florida's shuttle system, which has reasonable reach (it goes off-campus to Walmart, the mall, and a few other plazas), and the Hillsborough County Regional Transit's bus system, which goes throughout Tampa Bay and surrounding suburbs. The HART buses cover a ton of area, which is good, but are HIDEOUSLY underbudgeted and my conclusion after using HART for nearly a year is that Hillsborough County hates poor people.

Duh, Diana! you say. EVERYONE hates poor people! True. But experiencing it is a whole 'nother ball of wax. HART has over 30 mainstream bus lines; count in the flex routes and paratransit and it edges close to 60. (I think) there are 6 main transfer centers where the routes connect, as well as 4 Park-N-Ride centers throughout the county. 16 of these routes provide late-night service. There are some really good things about HART--free or reduced fares for students with valid ID, bilingual services, a variety of passes (1-day, 5-day, month-long, etc.), but the simple fact that on the bulk of the lines, a bus comes along ONCE EVERY HOUR mostly cancels out the good. If you miss that bus, you're screwed (and not in the I-want-to-hear-you-UPBEAT! "WE'RE SCREWED!" way). If you had a connecting bus to catch, you're doubly screwed. Might as well walk, because you're going to be late anyway.

So basically, in my year of public transportation use (which I admit is not a long time), I grew convinced that the people in charge of our public transit really do hate the poor. "Poor" in this case means "anyone without a car". And I realize that this attitude is really an American one at large, not just a Tampon one ("Tampons" are what citizens of Tampa are called. "Tramps" is also used)--you're walking? you're waiting at a bus stop? YOU MUST BE POOR YOU POOR PERSON WITHOUT A CAR. 'Cause you know, walking is for hobos. Public transportation is for plebes. GAH. Spare me. Maybe in the big American cities this is not the attitude (surely NYC and San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, etc. smile kindly upon those who wish to remain carless), but we are in the parochial hell that is Florida. Here, walking along a street means you are a) homeless or b) a hooker. Dig if you will an image of me sitting at the neighborhood bus stop sometime in May:

Diana: *reads, checks watch*

Dude in car: Hey, let me give you a ride.

Diana: Actually, I'm waiting for the bus.

Dude: So let me give you a ride.


I mean really. I got more catcalls, yelling and whistling, rude remarks, and slowing-your-car-to-pace-me when I was walking everywhere and waiting for buses than in the last four years of college.

Know what else bites? The stops themselves. I will hazard a guess that between my home stop and my work stop, there were roughly forty bus stop locations going one way. Out of that, perhaps one quarter were covered. Maybe half were stone or wooden benches rather than plastic ones. PLASTIC BENCHES, people. PLASTIC. IN FLORIDA. You will fry your ass off sitting on one of those. Also, this is Florida...As Eve would say, We have weather. A non-covered stop is a bitch during the rainy season (which, hello? February through October). But come on--only poor people use the bus system! Who cares if they get wet? Their clothes are crappy anyway! Who cares if they get sunburned and develop skin cancer? They're going to die of heart failure by the time they're thirty anyway! Poor people and their terrible eating habits!

Ok, that is another post entirely.

Something else that grates my cheese is that lots of lovely suburbanites in Carrollwood and New Tampa are trying to get rid of the light-rail initiative in our area. That's right, rich white people who've never used public transportation in their sorry lives. What use have they for light rail? Why should the county pour money into something THEY'LL never use? And other whitepeopleproblems.

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