During the blizzard-like weather last weekend, I went to the bus stop by the Michigan Union and ran into a nasty surprise — there weren’t any buses coming anytime soon. That’s because on weekends, University buses don’t drive to South Campus, where I had parked my car earlier. So I spent the next half hour trudging through a whiteout in my new sneakers, which were pretty stylin’ but not as warm as I would have hoped. When I finally arrived at my destination, there was a fresh clod of snow roughly the size of Antarctica on my head. And I wasn’t the only one disappointed that day. Walking to South Campus, I saw a slew of students making similar treks with expressions that implied their hamsters might have just died. The situation left me wondering why my bus in shining armor had abandoned me.

Now, all bus addicts have horror stories about the cold winter night when their ride drove right past their stop or the time they were thrown onto the lap of the stranger sitting next to them due to some wild driving. Those I can dismiss as infrequent events. But my walk through the blizzard had its root in a more endemic problem — the unavailability of public transportation during weekends. Just ask someone living on North Campus what they think of public transportation on the weekends. If their response doesn’t contain “sucks,” “blows,” or some sort of expletive, they’re probably being too polite. The bottom line is that students shouldn’t have to wait 30 minutes for a bus that might not take them to where they want to go just because it’s Sunday.

That being said, I haven’t given up on public transportation. Most of the time, the bus is still a great way to get around. As a third-year commuter, I have thanked local drivers at least 500 times because proper bus etiquette requires that you always thank the guy or gal behind the wheel, even if that person is dead sick of hearing it. And aside from a few mishaps on nights and weekends, I’ve found my experiences with the bus to be overwhelmingly positive. The bus is easy, cheap and (generally) reliable. It also has some more sweeping benefits.

For one thing, public transportation has a positive impact on the community. It cuts down on traffic, reducing the number of cars on the city’s wacky one-way streets. Public transportation also boosts the local economy. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every dollar invested in public transportation puts six dollars into the economy. Not to mention that mass transit saves a lot of gas money for impoverished students.

Because being green is in style these days, the bus is getting sexier all the time. The APTA estimates that public transportation reduces U.S. carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually — that’s roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity used in every household in New York City, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. combined. In the fight against global warming, every little bit helps, and public transportation helps more than a little bit. Getting cars off the streets also cuts down on air pollution, so we can all breathe a little easier thanks to the bus.

Public transportation is wonderful when it works, and there are a lot of things the University does right to keep it working well. That’s why I did exactly what I should have — parked my car off campus and planned to take the bus. This particular time, I ended up cold, wet and covered in snow because there are also some things the University does that are ill-advised, like drastically reducing weekend bus availability. But public transportation works for the city and it works for the environment. There’s no reason it couldn’t work more consistently for students.

Brian Flaherty is an associate editorial page editor.

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