Lessons of Public Transit

Photo by Matteo Bernardis on unsplash

I was late for school pickup last week. The first time ever. My son is in the final quarter of kindergarten, and last week was my first time being late. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

You see, my daughter and I take the trolley each day to pick up my son from school. We have the schedule memorized, we know the regular riders (middle and high schoolers), and we know most of the drivers.

But public transit is unpredictable.

We have had routes detoured and walked miles in the rain. We have had empty trolley rides and jam packed rides. We have experienced many scenarios in our ten months of riding.

So last week when our usual 2:51pm trolley read “full” and zoomed past us, I was not completely surprised. I called the school and said we might be 5 minutes late. But then the next trolley at 3:11pm read “full” and zoomed past, and I was surprised. My stomach felt sick as I envisioned my son looking for us at pickup.

I realized it was out of my control. My four year old asked if we would be late. My instinctual response was,”We will get there when we get there.” I believe I responded this way to calm myself and keep perspective. Other people waiting started swearing and walking off, as if this would remedy the situation.

Eventually our trolley came at 3:31pm (school gets out at 3:30pm) and we arrived at 3:47pm. My son was solemnly waiting in the office but quickly perked up when he saw us. We resumed our afternoon as if nothing happened.

This day reminded me of all the lessons we have learned from public transit:

  • Patience
  • Kids can be tough when they have to be.
  • We can’t control time
  • Some people don’t have homes, and all their possessions come on the trolley with them.
  • Not everyone smells like Bath and Body works.
  • People (including teenagers) can be courteous and will give up their seats for my daughter.
  • Our world is very challenging for the physically handicapped and services like the trolley really help their lives and mobility.
  • We are all equal on the trolley. No first class, no priority boarding.

Public transit is not always convenient or on time. Sometimes you get wet, sweaty, cold, etc. But the lessons we learn each ride are invaluable. Each ride grows our empathy for and awareness of others.

So while I don’t want to be late for school pickup again, I do welcome the lessons that come with the unexpected.



  1. Read this with great interest.
    Living in Switzerland, our public
    transport is clean, punctual and
    a dream. Your article makes me
    feel extremely grateful for the
    transport we have. Have a great


    • Hazel,
      I have definitely heard great things about public transit in other countries, such as Switzerland!! The United States definitely has room for improvement 🙂 but thankful to have some!!


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