Ecolane works with both rural transit as well as larger metro transit agencies, and understands the challenges that both types of organizations face. With transit route planning and coordination being what Ecolane software is all about, projects that bring attention and focus on those activities are of interest to the company. When Ecolane heard about William Freedman’s journey across the United States utilizing only mass transit services, Ecolane was excited to sponsor, support, and follow him along the way.
A journalist and author, Freedman embarks from Long Island, New York on October 19th, 2015 and over the course of more than two months, will take his custom-planned “cross country local” all the way to San Francisco. His plan has him arriving on or around Christmas Day, having traversed the entire North American continent.
Freedman, 52, got the idea for his challenge while riding New Jersey Transit on his way to a technology conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “I’d just taken the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station, walked up a flight of stairs and got on New Jersey Transit. This made me start wondering; where do the mass transit connections end?”
He knew that he could stay on New Jersey Transit all the way to Philadelphia and that Philadelphia’s transit system (SEPTA) would take him toward Lancaster, where he could hop a bus to Harrisburg. He asked himself the question, “Could I make it coast to coast?”
After a significant amount of research and weeks of poring over countless maps, he discovered that making the trip was possible. At least, it was possible in theory. Freedman committed himself to finding out more and the project became a reality.
“What ultimately made this possible was the rapid expansion of rural transit as a result of increased federal and state funding, mainly in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Rural transit has been snowballing since the 1990s but, even so, nobody could’ve done this five years ago,” Freedman said. “In addition to more fixed routes, most transit authorities offer dial-a-ride vans that take you from wherever you are to wherever you want to go within their service area – which likely abuts or overlaps another provider’s – and you don’t have to be disabled to use demand-response transit.”
Even with the expansion of rural transit in the United States gaps still remain. “The part I’m still concerned about is getting from Deming, N.M., to Benson, Ariz.,” Freedman said. “That’s a hundred miles [of backpacking] through the desert.”
He won’t be relying on a strict definition of mass transit. Some of the methods of transportation Freedman plans to ride along the way include airport shuttles, church buses, motorcoaches to and from tourist destinations, university motor pools, Native American tribal transit systems, preexisting carpools and private companies that serve the mass transit function where public conveyances are lacking. His only stipulations are that he will not utilize nationwide options like Amtrak, Greyhound or Uber, and he will only take private taxi service if it partners with a local public transportation system.
“Some counties say that, if you’re too drunk to drive, they’ll pay the cab fare to take you wherever you need to go,” Freedman said. “Circumstances might compel me to test that.”
While embarking on such a challenging journey might sound like lunacy to some, Freedman wants to draw attention to the challenges of mass transit but also to it’s incredible growth and future potential. “As often as possible, I want to simulate a daily commute. That means trying to keep my traveling to under 90 minutes in the morning and again in the evening but that’s pushing it. An hour and a half on a bus might make sense to a New Yorker, but the national average is more like 25 minutes.”
Follow William Freedman’s journey via the channels listed below, or stay tuned to Ecolane’s blog where we will be updating his journey and interviewing him along the way. By bridging the continent on his ‘Cross-Country Local’, Freedman will show the world the power of mass transit. Ecolane is proud to support his efforts.
Twitter: http://bit.ly/1NkC6r4 #xclocal
Photo used is from William Freedman's Facebook page "Cross-Country Local".