Thinking of using public transport to get around but you're not sure about the process? Here are some tips to help you stay safe on the ride and arrive on time.
Get the app.
Paper maps are a thing of the past, with many transportation systems offering online schedule information and apps to help you plan your route. Check the websites for the providers in your area and download the apps to make it easy when you’re on the go. You can also check OneBusAway to see if your city or town is listed.
And if you need more details, Google Maps (available online or for Android or iPhone) is a great way to get directions to your destination, whether you’re walking, driving or using public transport. This can be especially helpful if you are using a rideshare service or cab and want to make sure your driver is taking you where you want to go!
Review your options.
Not sure which public transportation provider will work for you? Start by googling the name of your city and public transportation information to see what options are available.
Look at the location of the stops (and any transfers you might have to make), the cost of the service (daily to yearly), the payment options (passes, cash, or bank cards) and the overall schedule, which might be different for weekends compared to weekdays. Bringing your bike with you? Check if the provider has storage for it or will allow you to take your bike onboard.
Timing is everything. You want to make sure that you arrive at your destination on time, especially if you’re using the service to get to work or an important appointment. If there are a lot of stops between where you got and where you get off, the trip could take longer than you expect. It can also make a difference if you’re traveling on weekdays (rush hour could mean more passengers) or on weekends (possible changes in stops or routes).
Also, how close is your departure stop to where you live, and your arrival stop to your destination? Will you have to walk several blocks coming or going? This might not sound too bad in the summer, but if the weather is cold, rainy or snowy, it will make for an uncomfortable time. Look at the different routes to judge if there’s another one closer, even if it means you leave or arrive earlier than needed. And always check the forecast in case bad weather is expected.
Costs can vary. Generally speaking, buses are cheaper but slower, while the subway or metro system can be more expensive but also more convenient and faster because they don’t travel on city streets, according to USA Hello. However, you need to learn how to read the subway map, know which platform you should be on, and what line your starting station and destination station are on, as well as where you might need to change platforms or lines.
While some services may require exact fare in cash (drivers don’t give change), metro cards or passes can be an easier way to go. Check the website of the transport company to find out what the
fare costs and how to buy your pass or card. If you’ll be traveling that route regularly, it may be cheaper to buy a month pass.
Finally, take a practice ride or two during the same time of day when you’ll be using the bus or subway on a regular basis, says USA Hello. Not only will you get a better idea if you need to allow more time, you’ll also become more familiar with the route and the service itself.
Stay awake and aware.
While it might be tempting to put in your earbuds and zone out for the trip, that’s not necessarily a good strategy. You need to keep yourself safe and your belongings secure, and that means paying attention to your environment. The following tips will make sure you and your possessions get to your destination and back home again without incident.
Choose a secure waiting spot. When waiting for your bus or subway, either stand near other patrons or in a well-lit area, recommends the Pennsylvania Dept of Transportation. If you’re the only one at the bus stop, stay in an occupied building until it’s almost time for the bus to arrive.
Pick a safe seat. Aisle seats are better, since you’ll have a good view of the other passengers and not be boxed in against the window, according to the Springfield, MO Police Department. If possible, sit near the driver, but not right next to the door because that makes you a target for a “snatch and run” thief.
Keep your personal items next to your person. This means on the floor between your feet or on your lap. Don’t put your bags on an empty seat or if you’re standing, draped over your shoulder with your bag on your back. And make sure your bags are securely closed, not wide open.
Skip the bling. Wearing expensive jewelry is just begging people to help themselves to it. Either tuck it out of sight or leave it behind. The same goes for your wallet. Keep it hidden, either in a secured pocket or inside your jacket.
Go with your gut. If you feel uneasy or think you’re being followed, do something about it. On a bus or subway? Either move to another seat or get off at the next stop, even if it isn’t the one you wanted. In a cab or rideshare? Get out as soon as possible. Waiting at the stop? Look for law enforcement or go into a building or restaurant. If you miss your bus, you can always find another or call a taxi. A suggestion from Drift Travel is to carry an emergency safety device such as those listed on Geekflare or Wired.
Stay in touch. Have someone you can contact just in case. Most cell phones come with location-sharing apps, enabling you to share your location with someone in your contact list as well as some form of an emergency call system.
Know your ride. If you’re using a rideshare service, check that the driver, car and license plate match the one on the app. Just seeing the logo on the windshield isn’t enough. Then, take a picture of the vehicle and license plate so you can send it to someone—just in case.
Know your route. Don’t settle back and relax once in your cab or rideshare vehicle. Instead, use Google Maps to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. If not, get out.
Keep your destination private. Her Packing List recommends setting your destination near but not at your real destination—for example, a nearby hotel, store or restaurant. This way, the driver doesn’t know exactly where you live—an important consideration especially if you’re a female and regularly use the service.