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  • Writer's pictureJenna Broughton

Thursday Tip: Know before you go – Public transportation

A BART trashcan - need we say more!

If you live in a big city, you probably have some kind of public transportation system that could range from decent (Boston, the T; Washington DC, the Metro) to terrible (San Francisco, BART, Muni, et al.), but there are still a lot of big cities where publicly transportation is famously limited (Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle).

Public transportation systems that are new to you can be a scary thing, even if you know where you are going. I spent a few very frightened trips on the Atlanta MARTA having no clue when to pay, since depending on when and where you boarded, the payment timing could change. On the Big Island of Hawaii, the bus is supposedly very good and starts as early as 3:00 a.m., taking people all the way around the island for only one dollar. But there are no bus stops (that isn’t a joke, people just stand wherever and the bus pulls over at the nearest “safe place) and therefore no real schedule, so it basically amounts to a lot of people hitchhiking. And I can’t tell you how many visitors and residents alike I have seen trying to figure out BART. Plus those poor people who get conned into staying somewhere that sounds like it is in their desired, only to realize they are out by the airport with nothing but a subway connecting them to civilization and no quarters with which to pay for it.

So save yourself some time and a hassle, and maybe even some money, and do some research before you go! If you are used to taking public transportation in your city, you could be used to a whole different ballgame when you step onto unfamiliar bus territory. If you never take public transportation, then welcome to what will likely be the worst part of your vacation. But it doesn’t have to be, if you just look into it before you go. With a little research, you could be one of the lucky ones taking something exotic like a ferry in no time!

It may seem like a no brainer, but check to see if your destination: • Has public transportation close to where you are staying and where you want to go • When does it start and stop? Don’t get caught somewhere and not be able to get back! • What are the options – could you take a bus, train or ferry to the same destination? Sometimes you’ll want fastest, cheapest or most scenic option and that could vary • How much it costs and if it varies depending on the time of day • If you have to purchase a token, card, voucher, etc., to ride. We are becoming a cashless society, people, so sometimes your cash is no good on these things!


Extra tip – Often times, some clever developer has felt your pain and has even created an app to help a traveler like yourself navigate the treacherous and unfamiliar public transportation system. Download a mobile app for the system in your destination city, and you’ll be ahead of the game!

It doesn't even make sense!!

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