It takes energy to change habits and processes. It takes more energy to start a business or venture than it does to keep it running. This is consistent with a principle in the physical world. In the face of Uber and Lyft leaving Austin, I’ve applied it to changing the landscape of transportation solutions.
First, the Physics
(Remember, you know these principles because you live them every day. You may just not know the language of the physical world yet!)
Change takes effort. It seems really hard sometimes. Once the change is in place things get easier but until then… arggh!!
It’s not just our imagination; it really does take more of our human energy and force to get something into motion than it takes to keep it in motion. The principle in physics relating to this is friction.
Friction is the force resisting the relative motion of elements sliding against each other. There are two types of friction forces.
- kinetic (sliding) friction force- when an object moves
- static friction force – when an object makes an effort to move
The static force is always higher. In other words in the physical world …. it takes more energy and force to get something into mot
ion than it takes to keep it in motion! The principle applies in both realms.
Things can get easier, and it can happen easily, if there isn’t a lot of resistance to the motion – friction – once we get moving.
CapMetro Experience AND Parenting Opportunity
I was tired of hearing my husband haivng to coax my son to get out the door on time in the morning for the drive to school. I searched for the appropriate solution and consequence. I decreed that the next time my son wasn’t ready to walk out the door at the designated time, he would ride the bus the following day. I was careful not to completely phrase this as a punishment though. It was also a way for him to have flexibility on school activities if we weren’t available to drive him. Wouldn’t it be great to have that freedom!?!
I went to the CapMetro website to map out the trip.. I planned to accompany him on the trial run. The info on the website had a Stop#. There was no such thing at the actual stop. The address listed on the website existed, but there was no stop there. We headed to a location where I knew a stop existed. Luckily it was the correct one. Make sure to notice the Route #, not the Stop #. First friction point on our actual journey.
As we boarded we discovered we had to have exact change, cash. I’m not sure if I was supposed to know that, but it didn’t jump out at me on the site. Maybe they shoud have a really big “first timer” link to explain what to expect? All I can say is, make sure to have extra quarters available.
I wondered how I was to know what the exact change was. The info I printed out from the site didn’t list the fare. That would have been helpful. When I went back to the site it did say the fare, but not about student fares. It also didn’t explain about transfers. This trip required a transfer. Again, I didn’t know or expect it, and without the needed cash on hand, we were stranded. Plus, again there wasn’t a Stop# so I wasn’t sure if we were at the right place. Make sure to bring extra dollars and quarters in case of transfers.
Thankfully the driver took pity on us and gave us a pass to use. My thanks to the driver! Know that they really do want to help you learn how to use the system.
Second Experience – Instead of Uber or Lyft
My next trip was on my own. My car was in the shop and I had a meeting that I wanted to attend. My husband offered to drive me, but it was rush hour traffic, he had another meeting at the other side of town, and I had been meaning to explore how to reduce my carbon footprint with respect to transportation, and this was a great opportunity.
But it was more than that. I remember the good experiences I had riding the Northwest line into Chicago for work every day. It was much better than driving. Time to read, rest, do productive work. Regulars playing cards together, sharing their lives. It was cool to be a commuter.
I looked up the route. I picked one that was a block from my house. I made sure I had the exact change. $1.25. I got there in plenty of time. When the bus pulled up I wanted to make sure it was going to my destination. Nope. What??!!?
I frantically tried to pull up the website on my phone but it crashed at least eight times. Probably my phone’s problem since it has crashed on websites before, but regardless, I had to make a fast decision. At the encouragement of a fellow rider telling me it was heading in the right direction, I boarded. But then I realized what he was saying – I would need to transfer to another bus and I didn’t know if I had the change for that. I got off before letting go of my quarters. Again, the driver was kind to me in my plight.
I got off and was standing at a different site, still trying to pull up the website on my phone to create a new route. I found it – with a Premium price of $1.75. It also gave me Option 2 starting from the first stop I had been at. I’m still confused about that.
I panicked for a moment, but thankfully did have the extra quarters. Once I was on the bus and sure I was on the correct route to the correct destination, I could settle in. I could write this. I could read, play a game on my phone, chat. Much better than sitting in traffic!
Make Public Transportation a Habit
It takes energy to change habits and processes. Any “bump” along the road is an excuse to give up. Now that I’ve gotten into motion though, it’s easier to keep in motion. I now have an option for transportation that I never had before. An option for heading downtown for an evening without needing a designated driver. An option other than Uber and Lyft, while that gets sorted out, and beyond.
Once I became familiar, once I was in motion, I could see how easy it would be to use CapMetro for regularly scheduled transportation. A regular bus pass instead of cash would make the ongoing frictional resistance much less. It could definitely be a more attractive option. And this makes even more sense than Uber or Lyft for regular excersions, both financially and environmentally.
My son pointed out that there were no other students riding to his school. This should change. I remember the fun we had riding on our school bus when I was a kid. The public transportation systems provide that same opportunity.
I encourage others to set up their own trial run for using public transportation. Make it cool to commute in Austin… and all cities!