Catching the Current

Reversing the Streamline stereotype

by Felicia Hamilton

Sitting in the break room chatting with the new kid, I off-handedly mention my ride to work that morning. I get the typical reaction:  eyebrows raise, mouth quirks, and an incredulous query. “Really?” he asks. “How does that go?” It’s as if I told him I rode my bike in sub-zero temperatures,  hitchhiked, or rode a skateboard through the snow. But no, I just rode Bozeman’s fare-free bus, the Streamline. 

Photo by Ben Stolin

Photo by Ben Stolin

During the summer after graduation, I depended on the Streamline to get to and from my jobs on a daily basis. I’d occasionally used the bus in college, but always had a notion that the bus is for other people, and driving myself is somehow better.  After I used the Streamline regularly for a while, however, I realized two things: 1) most of my preconceptions about the Streamline were wrong, and 2) when I was proven wrong, I grew as a person.

One of my biggest misconceptions was about the people. I’d heard stories about public transportation involving unsavory characters—a common perception. Yes, some of them make me want to step away and avoid eye contact; but the majority of my fellow riders are just like you and I. We’re normal people who ride for different reasons, such as environmental responsibility, having no access to a vehicle, or to save money.

Riding the Streamline

The Streamline’s bright interior

Another myth about public transit is that waiting around at a bus stop wastes precious time. I learned, though, that this dependence on the bus schedule—and being subject to its inconsistencies—actually improved my time-management skills. Not only did I become conscious of how long I spent on my daily tasks (if I didn’t, I might miss my ride), I also discovered that there is time to stop and smell the flowers along the way. I learned that if the bus were five minutes late, I could use that time to read a book, strike up a conversation with the person next to me, get a head-start on some work, or just enjoy a moment to myself outside.  I actually stopped rushing around, and learned to move at a slower, more consistent, pace. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.

How much of a hurry are you in?

How much of a hurry are you in?

After these and other similar experiences, I quickly realized that my assumptions about the bus had been mostly wrong. I also now understood that with a few adjustments to my routine and lifestyle, the Streamline had become an invaluable resource. By the end of the summer, I’d saved thousands of dollars by avoiding car payments, maintenance, fuel, insurance, registration, and parking permits. I reduced my carbon footprint and took an active step to help preserve the place that I love for future generations.

With all of the routes available—including the late-night service and routes to Belgrade and Livingston—it’s possible to get just about anywhere by riding the Streamline. A few minor inconveniences are overshadowed by everything it does for its passengers and for the community. At the end of the day, using the Streamline just makes sense—so I will happily continue to endure the raised eyebrows and questions. Because the Streamline is for everyone, not just other people.

For information about routes and schedules visit the Streamline’s website.