Riding Island Transit: A comfortable Routine

Jen, who works with Opportunity Council, is no stranger to taking public transit. When Jen was a young girl living in Minneapolis, she and her sisters would visit her grandmother who didn’t drive. They would go to the library, the planetarium, and out to lunch using public transit. Those are some of her favorite memories growing up. When her family moved to southern California, the sisters took the bus to the beach or the mall. Jen’s own kids took the bus to school instead of the school bus.

Most recently Jen’s son relocated out of the area and needed to borrow her car for a month … or maybe three. Of course, she jumped at the opportunity to take the bus. She didn’t mind. She took the bus to work from West Beach to Oak Harbor, a short ride. Although Jen took the bus in January, February and March, the worst time of year to be outside for a bus commute, since it is cold, dark, and wet out. She did assure me; however, she enjoyed the ten-minute walk from her house to the bus stop in the morning with the “fresh air, not too brisk, a little water on my face was kinda nice.”

On the bus she would wear headphones and listen to music, but only through one earpiece. She didn’t want to seem unapproachable. “It was quiet on the bus in the morning. One man would fall asleep, and the driver would wake him up at his stop. Drivers were aware of who’s riding.” She enjoyed the routine. “You have your coffee and catch the bus, and everything goes as planned.” She got to know some of the other riders. “I saw some of my daughter’s classmates. You could see the relief on their faces when they saw a familiar face.”

Jen’s daughter was a Girl Scout for several years. She would join her daughter and the scouts on adventures. On one occasion she went with the scouts on a Ride with a Guide Bus Tour to Deception Pass for Halloween stories in one of the shelters. Her troop wanted to shop for Christmas gifts for the families in Margie’s House, a shelter for homeless women and children. The girls planned their trip by bus to Walmart and figured out how much time they would need to shop and have dinner at Subway and catch a bus back. They earned their Transportation Badge taking Island Transit.

While she was commuting by bus, she got a feel for what it was like to be a regular transit rider. “Waiting for the bus you can feel all the eyes on you. You shouldn’t be looking at me like it’s a bad thing. I was happy. There’s work that we need to do to reduce the stigma of bus ridership.”

Jen has had an accomplished career, serving in the Navy, caring for her family, and earning both a master’s degree and then a PhD. She enjoys her current position and work with the Opportunity Council. She concentrates on reducing poverty in the community by providing resources and programs and advocates for equitable communities. “So, it’s nice to have free transportation.”

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