Assignment Spotlight: Isabel Rummell

RTD Transportation Challenge

My visit to the Denver Art Museum taught me some basic things about public transit. I observed who takes public transit, how it contributes to sustainability, and how easy it really is to get around.

I decided to take public transit to the Denver Art Museum, a centrally-located area that, surprisingly, takes a bit of work to get to. Since I wanted to take both the bus and the light rail, I had to plan in advance, using resources such as the internet and information right at the stations. First, I looked up on google maps what the fastest route would be – taking the light rail F or H lines to 18th and California, but I had to get to the station first. Since I usually just walk to the light rail station when I go to work or have fun downtown, I thought it would be a nice change to take the bus to the station. It was super easy! Even though I missed the train of my original plan, it was only a 5 minute wait for the next, and modifying my plan afterwards was simple and easy.

The people on the bus and the light rail are a mix of backgrounds, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses. I went around 1:00 on a weekday, so naturally I encountered an older crowd. Most people were over the age of 30. More interesting though is the ethnic makeup of the people on the bus/light rail. Most were of minority races, and their socio-economic status (based on my observations of their appearances) were on the lower end of the spectrum. It made me think of the social justice aspects of public transportation. For one thing – and this was expected – seeing how the majority of people were of low socio-economic backgrounds made me realize that public transportation affects the lower and middle classes more than the upper class. Because people with more money and opportunities for other forms of transportation can afford other options, there are less of them using public transportation. Because people without as much money and resources have to cut some costs, and sometimes don’t have enough money to afford a principle investment in a car, they are more likely to use public transportation to get around. In this way, public transportation in Denver benefit people who, without it, would not be able to get around. This trip was also a blatant reminder that racism is real in the United States, and is real here in Denver too. Most of the people using public transportation were not white and did not have alternative options to public transportation. Even though culturally we say we don’t discriminate against people based on the color of their skin, it is apparent that they are typically towards the lower end of the socio-economic food chain, and that they are not getting the same opportunities that white people are. This was clear on my adventure riding the RTD systems.

In addition to social justice, sustainability was also on my mind as I was taking public transportation. Seeing the large amount of people on the bus and light rail made me realize that there were that same amount of cars kept off the roads. Because people were taking communal transit, whether by choice or opportunity, they were all minimizing their carbon footprints, and their community’s carbon footprint. It makes me remember what my dad said about Denver when I first decided to move here. He told me that when he was coming through Denver years ago, it had serious, constant smog all throughout the city. Now it is not like that, and I definitely attribute some of that to a well-developed transit system.

Coming back to DU was just as easy, if not easier than the journey away from it. Since I knew where the light rail was (and by now a couple different bus stations) it was easy to find my way back. I waited at a bus stop and asked a bus driver if he was going to the light rail when he pulled up, he said yes, so I got on and then took the light rail (Eagles Fly Home) back to the Denver station. From there I took bus 24 to University and Iliff, two blocks away from my dorm. All in all my trip was thought-provoking, and though it was a little scary being in a vehicle again, it was a memorable experience. After that day, I will definitely be taking public transportation again, and not just to my job, but to explore Denver as a local.

Written by Isabel Rummell, ESLLC 2015-2016

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