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August 30, 2012

Users guide to public transportation San Luis Obispo County

by Molly Schiff

I have lived in San Luis Obispo for over six years now and up until a few months ago, I had only ridden the bus a handful of times. I had a car and my previous attempts at using public transportation were a bit of a disaster. I have forgotten my ID and held up the line while I scrambled for cash, requested the wrong stop multiple times in a row, and missed my stop and ended up on the wrong side of town. Since I had a car, I saw public transportation as more of a stress and hassle than it was worth.

A little over two months ago, my 1996 Honda Accord took its final breaths, and went out with a smoke-filled bang, leaving me with a $300 check from the dump and no car. I felt stranded. I lived in SLO, but worked in Morro Bay. I was left with no choice; I would have to try my hand public transportation yet again.

RTA Schedule and Routes    ||    RTA Website    ||    Passes and Fares

Fast forward two months and countless trips via bus (with very few blunders), and I am absolutely thrilled I no longer have a car. Using public transportation has a lot more benefits than I ever realized. Keep reading to learn how you can save $300 a month, read that book you have been putting off, and learn a sense of direction.

I save A LOT of money 

Gas is expensive. Cars, in general, are expensive and time consuming. Oil changes, towing, parking tickets, speeding tickets, flat tires, accidents, repairs…you name it, my Accord and I have been through it. One of the first things I noticed post-car was the savings. No more tickets, no more repairs, and best of all…no more draining my account to fill up the gas tank.

Local SLO transit is free with a student ID and for seniors (80+), and a 31-day SLO RTA pass is at mere $44. The regional pass is just $64. I was impressed with the reach of the SLO RTA, which travels to Paso Robles, Santa Maria, San Luis Obispo, Avila, Pismo, Los Osos, Morro Bay and San Simeon. Most of these areas are small enough to get around via their local bus system, biking or walking.


I now actually know my way around town

I have a terrible sense of direction. It’s almost – okay it is – pretty embarrassing. SLO is not a big town and I’ve lived here six years now, yet I would still get lost driving around town.

Instead of looking at a map I bought a GPS, with which I have a love-hate relationship. I got in such a habit of blindly following the easy automated directions (love) that I make one wrong turn and I’m completely lost (hate).

Using public transportation has forced me to actually look at a map. Now I’m a new person; I know street names and I can give directions to most places in town. If (when) I get on the wrong bus, it’s not a big deal since I’ll know where I am and what bus I’ll need to get back.


I may be becoming a morning person

If you know me at all, you know this is quite a claim. When I was younger, my parents used to lovingly refer to my state of mind pre-9 a.m. as “my coma state.” In college the classes I struggled most in were almost always the 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. lectures.

I’ve found that knowing I have to actually be up when my alarm goes off so that I don’t miss my one option to get to work on time is the pressure I need to make me alert in the morning. Combine that with the brisk walk to the bus stop, and by the time I’m heading downtown at 8 a.m., I’m usually wide awake and ready to start my day.

Another nice thing about the bus – you aren’t driving. Sure, it takes me about an hour to get to work every morning, but in that hour I’m free to do what I want. I can relax to music and enjoy the views. I can catch up on the news or respond to pending emails. I can read a book… or I can take a nap.


…and did I mention the savings? (over $300 a month!)

Being fresh out of college with my first real job, cut off from the parents monthly allowance has made me much more conscious of where my money is going. With rent to pay, groceries to buy, and not to mention those student loans to pay off, it is crucial to save money where I can. I had no idea just how much I’d be saving by using public transportation: 

- According to google maps, it costs about $16.00 a day in gas for me to get to and from work. That’s $80.00 a week. That’s a lot of money.

- With an average of 4.33 weeks in a month, it would cost $344.00 in gas money a month, and that doesn’t include car maintenance and other weekend trips. I’m paying $44.00 for a monthly bus pass. This puts my savings at over $300 a month by using public transportation, or $3,600.00 a year. I think I can let that figure speak for itself.


In conclusion…

Long story short: public transportation, especially in San Luis Obispo County, is a great resource. It’s clean, the drivers are incredibly friendly, and I’ve never had a bus be more than 5 minutes late in my 2 months of daily rides. You save money, you do your part with helping the environment…the list goes on and on. Sure, it can be crowded sometimes and I do spend more of my day traveling than I would if I drove. But with a savings of over $300 a month, the benefits clearly outweigh the hassles.

If you haven’t tried traveling via SLO Transit or SLO RTA, I encourage you to take advantage of these options. Even if it’s just a few times a month, the savings can really add up.

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