sarah harriger

The last time I rode the GET bus regularly was in high school. I would ride from downtown to East Hills mall. I recently re-discovered public transportation in Bakersfield.

I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of utilizing public transportation when I visit larger cities like San Francisco and Portland, but I fall short locally. When I decided to become a greater supporter of the GET bus, I didn’t realize how much I enjoy the ride. It brings me back to the years I spent in college, free of the stress that comes with dealing with car insurance, upkeep and having to maneuver through the city to find parking.

Public transportation is an integral part of our community. The Golden Empire Transit District provides millions of rides in a year and nearly 18,000 rides in a day. According to the Transportation Performance Index, public transportation can “propel economic growth” by providing mobility options that contribute to employment, health and economic stability. The GET bus also gives back to the community by partnering with the city and Caltrans to improve local bus stops and sidewalks.

Unfortunately, GET bus ridership has decreased in the last few years and funding from the state is dependent on ridership. GET has to provide 20 percent of the funding through fare prices and 80 percent of funds are provided by state, more specifically assembly bill 1113, which implements a tax on diesel fuel. Now more than ever with a growing population, heavier traffic and some of the worst air quality in the United States, it is important to support the local transportation system. I implore you to give it a try because the more we ride the more services GET can provide.

Surveys have been conducted over the years and GET is rolling with the times to provide the most up-to-date transportation. You can now download the GET bus app and find out current estimated wait times for your stop. Or you can download Token Transit to buy your pass, in case you don’t have the $1.55 on hand. Need more information, check out Facebook, where they post activities and contests to win free bus passes.

So maybe taking a traditional bus is not your cup of tea. In the next year, GET hopes to launch a new transportation option called Micro Transit. Micro Transit has been a big hit in pilot cities all over the United States. Sacramento launched its version in February and the service has exceeded expectations. According to Sacramento Regional Transit, the routes have been expanded six times since the program was launched. Think of Micro Transit as the public version of Lyft and Uber carpool, except the price is more competitive. You can order a ride using an app, and smaller busses and vans will be covering specific regions where you can get picked up at your door and dropped off at a designated location. All of the final details are still in the works, but the hopes are that the cost will be somewhere between $3 to $4 per ride.

Of course, as with anything in life, the GET bus is not perfect. Sometimes there might be delays, the weather might not cooperate and you might have to sit next someone you don’t know. But all of these things only enhance the experience. Immerse yourself in your community and support local public transportation. Meet someone new, read a book or turn on that podcast you’ve had a hankering to listen to. Yes, in this hot weather it is not ideal to walk to your local stop, but the bus is cool, the company is good and your step tracker will applaud you. GET on board, Bakersfield, and enjoy the ride.

Sarah Harriger is a graduate student in the online master's in social work program at the University of Southern California.