By Katherine Bielawa Stamper
8:00 a.m. I arrive at the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) bus stop in Williston Village, near the Old Brick Church. The 30-minute walk from my house provides free exercise.
“Is this the bus stop?” I ask a fellow commuter.
He looks up from his book and says, “Yes.”
Another traveler, silver haired and sporting business casual, crosses Route 2 to join us.
8:05 a.m. The blue CCTA bus pulls up on schedule. We amble on. I pay $1.25 for a ticket. Fellow passengers flash bus passes and take their seats.
8:07 a.m. We stop at the intersection of Route 2 and Old Stage Road to pick up a young woman clutching breakfast and a book. I make a mental note to remember this bus stop, which is closer to my home.
We set off towards Burlington. I unfold the newspaper tucked under my arm to read about Afghanistan, ignoring the traffic outside my window.
We roll along Williston Road, with its array of homes and businesses. I look up occasionally from my reading as we drop off or pick up riders. The bus is not full, but there’s certainly a respectable showing. We approach downtown around 8:28 a.m.
Growing up on Boston’s North Shore, I was accustomed to catching a bus outside my front door. I rode to my job at the Carmelite Gift Shop, where I sold church candles and vestments to priests. I also took busses to neighboring Salem with its beach access and, most importantly, commuter train station. Boston—offering culture, vitality and edginess—was a mere thirty minutes away. I seem to remember a ticket to Beantown cost $2.50.
Studying and working in urban areas in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, I grew accustomed to busses, trains and subways. A car was never a consideration, not that I could afford one as a student or young professional.
Moving to Vermont twenty years ago required a bit of a transportation reorientation. Our state’s rural nature, relative lack of sidewalks and limited public transportation came with a jolt. I initially learned the area on foot, walking from my apartment in South Burlington to a volunteer gig in Burlington. My husband—who had a job—needed the car. (Plus, it was standard pick-up that, despite my best efforts, I always managed to stall.)
It took me two months to find a job. I rented a car for the first few weeks of employment and applied my first Vermont paycheck towards the purchase of my own wheels. The spiffy Toyota was totaled during its inaugural winter in Vermont. Fortunately, I was not. I hit a patch of ice in Stowe. I now know—and swear by—the value of snow tires, studded snow tires.
My husband and I embraced the beauty of our new surroundings, buying a house in the more rural stretches of town. We enjoyed mountain views and wild blackberries in our back yard. We spotted numerous deer and even the occasional moose.
It’s funny how you eventually return to your roots. We moved across town a few years ago to enhance our family’s “commutability.” Our daughter traded a long bus ride to walk, bike or scooter to Williston Central School. Enhanced physical fitness and self-confidence born of greater independence were positive byproducts.
My husband bicycles much of the year to IBM, commuting along Old Stage and Mountain View Roads. It saves gas; it also promotes physical and emotional well-being. I bike and like to run errands on two wheels when time allows. Shaw’s is a 15-minute jaunt; Passport Video and the Dorothy Alling Library are even closer.
Although bus service from Williston Village is limited to Monday to Friday, during traditional work commute hours, I am grateful for the option. I avail myself of the bus when my schedule allows, saving fuel and the quarters I stash to feed Burlington’s voracious meters. In summer, bus service allows young Willistonians or older folks unable to drive the option of an inexpensive lift into Vermont’s largest city for work, volunteering or a little fun. It’s a resource that merits our attention and our support.
Too bad my commute sends me to Lamoille County three days a week. If only there was a bus!
In the meantime, I’ll ride the Williston bus when I can. You come, too.