My deadline for this column is tighter than usual because I made a transportation decision that would cut the productive hours of just about any employee.
I took THE Bus to work Monday.
Unlike 80 percent of its riders, who said in a recent survey they have no other means of getting around, I possess both a car and a license.
So, this was an elective exercise to try to figure out why only 21 percent of riders surveyed do what I did: choose to ride the THE Bus to and from work.
I wanted to figure this out now because the County Commission will start talking about its budget today, about how to cope with the county's anticipated $17-million drop in revenues. And soon commissioners will turn to THE Bus, which many voters see as a tax-leeching villain. They will, I bet, cut at least $200,000 from its budget, as staffers have recommended, and probably either hours or days of service.
The timing couldn't be worse. Ridership is growing and is expected to keep growing as gas prices rise and hard times descend. THE Bus, it seems, could become the vital public service it has never really been.
But that will happen only if it is able to provide a service. As planners say, it has to be viable.
Based on what I saw Monday, I don't think it is., because the buses don't run long enough or often enough. If we want THE Bus to be a true option for commuters, we need to expand service, not cut it. We need to spend more money on THE Bus, not less.
I say this because my 5-mile trip to work took 1 hour, 27 minutes — even though I cheated.
I live miles from the nearest bus stop, a symptom of our widely scattered population that some commissioners have said makes public transit unworkable in Hernando.
They are to blame for approving far-flung developments, I say, and I'm to blame for moving to one. So, after a 30-mile circuit in the car to drop my two sons at day camps, my pretend commute began in the midst of southern Brooksville's dense population of transit customers.
The helpful woman who took my call to THE Bus (352-754-4444) told me I could catch a bus near U.S. 41 and State Road 50 at 9:13 a.m.
I kicked myself later for not also asking where I should transfer, which turned out to be a stop on W Jefferson Street.
Yes, I half-heard the driver say something about this when he pulled up there and swung the door open. But I stayed put, thinking it made more sense to stay on board until we reached the natural hub of Brooksville City Hall, which we did at 9:31 a.m.
Just one minute late, but one minute after the departure of my westbound bus. Which meant that I and a fellow passenger, Carlos Jimenez, would wait 59 minutes for the next bus.
"I'm p---ed,'' he said.
So was I. But I realized that if I'd used more sense, I could have cut my commute to less than a half-hour.
Which struck me as not bad, until I started looking at my options for getting home — something I have to think about, since it is now late afternoon.
The latest shuttle heading to southern Brooksville leaves City Hall at 4:30 p.m. To get there, I have to catch the eastbound bus at 4:06.
That means, as much as I'd love to explore this issue in more detail, I've got to go.