Joe White, who reports on the auto industry in Detroit, steps out his car and reflects on the city's mixed history of transit. To get the full picture, he tries to ride the bus himself.
"I experimented with commuting by bus last Friday, and I had the kind of mixed experience that explains why ridership on many public systems is only up by single-digit percentages despite all the gasoline angst. Overall, I had a pleasant, on-time ride and probably did better than break even on fares vs. fuel costs. On the down side, I missed being on my own schedule -- and I didn't really know how to work the system.
First, I had to drive to the park-and-ride stop and wait for the bus. The weather was gorgeous, but this wait would have been less fun in the wet or cold. A bus arrived on time and I hopped on, after fumbling to feed two dollar bills into the fare box. "It only takes exact change," a veteran rider advised.
Next stop: Northland Mall. Problem. The stop should have been on a street near my office. I realized, I had hopped on the wrong bus. I jumped off. I waited about 15 minutes to get a second bus to take me back to where I wanted to go, a block from my building. Once again I was grateful for a cool summer morning, as I bushwhacked from the stop to the back side of my office tower."