By Robin Tannenbaum, Guest Columnist
For the past three years, I have commuted by bus between my house in Westbrook, to my office and then over to my son’s daycare place in downtown Portland. My husband and I are a one-car family and using public transportation is the key to making this possible. We live within easy walking distance from the bus stop, and while I had taken the bus alone many times as backup, when the car was in the shop, navigating it with a toddler was at first a daunting proposition.
My son Ezra was 18 months old at the time and just beginning his love affair with all modes of transportation. He seemed overwhelmed at first by boarding the bus, but soon began to love it and the view it afforded him of the other vehicles going by. After a year and a half of strapping Ezra tightly in his car seat, it felt strange and a bit scary to simply hold him on my lap on the bus, but it was also a very special way for us to be close and share that transition time at the beginning and end of each day.
Once in downtown Portland, we disembarked and I carried or pushed Ezra to his daycare, less than two blocks from the bus stop. I got him settled there and then walked the half mile to my office in the Old Port. At the end of the day I did the same sequence of events in reverse. Door to door each one-way trip took almost an hour. While the time commitment could be frustrating at first, I also knew that we were saving the expense of owning, operating and parking a second car, lowering our family’s carbon footprint and getting to know Portland in a very different way than we otherwise would have.
We made friends on the bus–both fellow riders and bus drivers— and I began to look forward to seeing my “bus friends” on each ride to share stories from the day. Our friends save seats for us on crowded days and we text each other about schedule delays. Many of the people we met on the bus were from different walks of life and we may not have met them if not for this shared experience.
The first year we rode together, I carried Ezra or pushed him in a lightweight stroller, and he sat on my lap for the entire ride. These days Ezra, a strapping four year old, walks to the bus stop holding my hand, climbs on board by himself and sits in his own seat. He practices his numbers by learning the destinations of all of the bus lines by the route numbers. He delights in handing the driver our “ticket” and is concerned when our regular friends are not on the bus that day. We share snacks and play games, and count all of the different colors of cars from the windows. I appreciate the fact that our time spent traveling to and from daycare is a special time for
us to share. As Ezra makes sense of the world around him, he sees public transportation as a fun and natural option for getting to and from the places he loves.
Robin Tannenbaum is an Architectural Designer in Portland. She lives in Westbrook with her husband and two boys. She commutes by bus each week with Ezra and is gearing up to try it with a new baby as well.