Cars make it easier for people to get around. They've made it so much easier that it's hard for someone to live without one.
Cars are a matter of faith. We drive, eat and sometimes sleep in them. They make us free. We believe in them.
But what use is freedom if you can't afford it? We're addicted to cars, and the price of our addiction is going up and up, with no end in sight. Gas prices have more than doubled in the Modesto area since 2005.
As gas prices keep going higher, prices for the Modesto Area Express have remained the same since 2008. For instance, a single bus trip for an adult costs $1.25, while it costs senior or disabled passengers 60 cents.
In Atlanta, where I once lived, the transit system charged $2.25 for a single trip in September 2010. Now, it charges $2.50 per trip.
For many people, public transportation systems are their only way to get around. Their carless lives are easier, thanks to buses. There are issues, though, that can be addressed to improve the service.
I'm familiar with riding the bus. I get around on MAX. It's convenient for me because I live on Route 25. I just wait outside my house for a bus. I can go as far as Vintage Faire or to downtown Modesto. I arrive at either destination in about a half-hour.
That's supposing that the bus gets there on time. I've waited for a few buses that arrived a half-hour late. If I had to make a connection to another bus, I was out of luck.
Buses can only provide room for two wheelchairs at a time. After that, the bus can't accept any more passengers who need the space. Although they may qualify for dial-a-ride, these passengers must plan ahead.
MAX buses might not fit on everyone's schedules. On Route 25, for example, the last bus of the day leaves the mall at 6:58 p.m. and the Downtown Transit Center at 7:15. On Sundays, they leave about 5:45 p.m. The timing affects what jobs people can take or be considered for. It makes it hard for people to work full shifts during the day.
On Route 33, the last bus of the day leaves the Modesto Junior College West Campus at 6:58 p.m. Even if your class ends on time, there won't be any connections left by the time it arrives downtown. Your best options at this point are to walk home, have a friend with a car or have money for a taxi.
Forget about planning a day trip to San Francisco unless you can get a ride or take a taxi to the transit center. The MAX buses to the ACE and BART trains leave before the regular MAX buses are operating. At night, the ACE-BART buses arrive in Modesto too late to take a regular bus back home. Your best option is Amtrak.
Since Vintage Faire closes at 9 p.m. on weekdays and at 7 p.m. Sundays, perhaps the last buses should leave then. That would give people plenty of time to work or shop up to closing time.
Overall, MAX has convenient routes for most people and a good price. Increasing hours, connections to ACE and BART trains, and disabled capacity while losing the "wait" would improve usefulness.
Boyer is a Modesto resident. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.