By Eric Nelson
Four-thirty on a Thursday afternoon and I’m Cape Cod bound on a commuter bus, inching away from Boston in rush-hour traffic. I look out at the cars slowly passing us, or being passed, and the drivers all look familiar. I’ve been commuting for too long. The faces in the bus look familiar, too. We’ve all been doing this for years.
I examine the faces of the car commuters more closely. Most look hypnotized, or somber. Some drivers are talking on the phone, or texting. No-one seems especially pleased with their situation. On the bus, most commuters sit quietly while the day-trippers chat. Fortunately, there are mostly commuters. They normally read, or sleep, or stare at some electronic device. I always try to write or read, but often drift off to sleep, which is a pleasant option only when not behind the wheel.
Traffic delays are usually just due to heavy volume. Our bus holds 55 passengers, and it’s normally close to full. Sometimes, when neighboring passengers are coughing and sneezing – obviously sick – I’d rather be in a car by myself than this mobile petri dish. But mostly I’m quite content to ride the bus. Besides, the average diesel bus gets approximately 6 mpg so it takes about 10 gallons of fuel to get 55 passengers 60 miles to Cape Cod. The vast majority of cars around us are holding just one person each. Even if they all get 30 mpg, it would take about 2 gallons of gas per car, or 110 gallons total, to transport the same number of persons to Cape Cod. And the longer the delay, the more fuel used and greenhouse gases spewed.
We normally get to our destination about around the same time each evening and I, for one, feel rested and relaxed. By taking the bus there is less pollution emitted and fuel consumed, no stress and time to read or reflect. Sometimes it’s easy being green.
About the author: Eric Nelson works in the Ocean and Coastal Protection Unit of EPA New England in Boston, but prefers being underwater with the fishes. He lives in a cape on Cape Cod with his wife and two daughters, and likes pesto on anything.