TrIP AiR: Transportation Anxiety by Nathan Selikoff

Source: http://p-h-o-t-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-a-s.tumblr.com/post/30928337853
Source: http://p-h-o-t-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-a-s.tumblr.com/post/30928337853

This is my second post as TrIP’s first AiR (Artist in Residence). Last week I wrote about my first trip of this residency, which was not super successful from an efficiency standpoint, partially due to me missing the first bus I was trying to take.

One of my goals after that first trip was to get a few things fixed up on my bike so I could increase my mobility in conjunction with the bus, for example by choosing to bike a mile to a different bus line than the one that runs close by my neighborhood. So, I put in a few new tubes, readjusted my saddle, reinstalled my back rack and saddlebags that I had used on the 1,000 mile bicycle trip my wife Amy and I took 5 years ago, and exchanged my clipless pedals for some toe cages. Now all I’m waiting on is a new headlight, and I’ll be good to go on that front.

But before I got my bike fixed up, I rode the bus again to Downtown Credo. This time I gave myself plenty of time in case the 36 bus came early (it did). In the little bit of extra time I had to wait, I struck up a conversation with a lady who had just come off a night shift and was headed to Herndon Ave near the executive airport, to take a class to get her license back. I didn’t ask but assumed she was talking about her driver’s license, not a pilot’s license, because we were commiserating about the unpredictability of the weather and the schedule when taking the bus around town. The ride to LCS (Lynx Central Station) was 28 minutes, and from there a friend picked me up for a working breakfast.

At the end of the day I took the 125 and 36 home from downtown College Park, which took about an hour. Not too bad, especially if you need some down time to listen to some music or a podcast or audio book or something.

I’m not really in the habit of walking or riding around with earbuds in, but I put them in that day to avoid having to talk to a guy that seemed like he might have been paranoid schizophrenic. When I first walked up to the bus stop he was talking animatedly on his cell phone, complaining that the pharmacy or health insurance company he was on the phone with had called him 15 times that day, which was just too much, and NO he was NOT going to give them his bank account information, because who knew what they were going to do with it, and he didn’t even know if they were who they were claiming to be!!

He kind of shuffled over to me as he was trying to ask the name of the person he was talking to. I wasn’t convinced that he was really having this conversation. He pushed the open flip phone into my face, not really asking for help so much as demanding or assuming it. By this time I had my earbuds in and I held up my hand and shook my head no, and he backed off.

I’m not particularly proud of just brushing the guy off like that. I didn’t really feel comfortable around him though. As I ride the bus I find that I’m experiencing some anxiety. It’s hard for me to just relax and not think about and look at all the strangers around me.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way (I got plenty of results when I just Googled transportation anxiety), and I’m sure I’ll get more used to it as I ride more frequently.

I remember one of the first times I went to NYC, a few years ago, and was riding the subway a lot by myself, I had to kind of debrief it with my friends who live there. At first it wasn’t anxiety-producing for me, it was more exciting. But everyone else was very disconnected from actually being there. Why is everyone on their phones or sleeping or reading or staring into space? My friends said you have to do that in order to survive being around so many people, so many strangers. It takes too much energy to engage with everyone you come across, or even a small portion of them.

Back to my trip: I finally relaxed a bit about halfway home, and as multiple buses were rolling out of LCS at 5pm, I had a great idea for a data visualization. On a dark background, draw light colored particles representing buses, which follow their routes through the city, timed and interpolated according to GTFS data, leaving fading trails as they move around. Crank up the speed beyond realtime and you’ll start to get a feel for the flows of the system as a whole. I’ve started to do some research along these lines. This beautiful project is very similar to what I’m imagining, except animated. I might just fork that for Orlando and put it up as a starting point…

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