Management & Operations

Planes, Trains and Buses

Posted on September 19, 2007 by Janna Starcic, Managing Editor

For me, going on vacation usually involves overpacking, which I did, overindulging in wonderful foods, which I did, and getting around my adopted city via public transportation.

I’ll admit, back home, I drive my car to work — although sometimes it feels like I’m sitting on a bus since I can pretty much see the back of the person’s head in the car ahead of me when I’m stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway.

Living in Southern California has its perks, but getting around by bus or rail is still not as convenient as driving. It’s usually when I get out of town for a conference that I get to see how great it is to use public transportation.

This summer, I traveled to Europe, where I visited the Netherlands, England, Wales and Ireland. In the Netherlands, I used the rail system to traverse from the town where I was staying to visit Amsterdam. Purchasing train tickets and finding the right train was fairly easy and getting off at the right stop was even easier due to plenty of signage and stop announcements — something I would miss later on.

Round and round
During our stint in England we rented a car, so no transit story there except to say that I have newfound respect for anyone who can manage to survive the numerous roundabouts.

We drove through the beautiful Welsh countryside to catch a ferry to Ireland. The amount of time it took us to get to our hotel on the outskirts of Dublin proved to be a journey itself. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was pretty frustrating.

All in all, we took three different buses before reaching the hotel. Taking luggage on a bus is always a challenge, especially if no one helps you lug it up the stairs — another reason to pack light. Once we finally arrived at our hotel near the airport, we were so exhausted that we decided to eat at the hotel restaurant — it was serving California/Asian cuisine. The world really is shrinking.

Buses were the way to go to get to center of Dublin, where all the major tourist attractions were. With help from the concierge, I knew which buses to catch and where. The only problem was that the drivers didn’t call out the stops. Nor was there signage indicating upcoming stops, so we were at a loss to know when we should get off. I’m typically not afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to directions, but being a tourist, I sometimes get intimidated.

Last stop!
The ride into downtown was basically a crap shoot. I tried to read the street signs on the way, but that didn’t help. Then I surveyed the passengers and tried to see who else looked like a tourist and would probably be getting off at my stop. My friends and I just decided to risk it and guess which stop we needed. At one stop, it looked like the bus was emptying, but we remained in our seats. The driver looked back at us and yelled “Last stop!”

I did manage to eat some traditional Irish fare during my stay and to get a better handle on riding the buses too.

When I travel and learn how to maneuver through my new city using public transportation, I feel a bit of a thrill, that I’m not really a “tourist,” but a “regular” in a way. Unfortunately, my trip to Dublin was too brief for me to feel that I was at one with the town. I definitely have a greater appreciation for bus and rail systems that make it easier for patrons to ride. Something seemingly small, such as calling out bus stops, can make the difference between a good ride and a stressful one.

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