Carless in Jackson


The rising price of gas may seem like a ubiquitous problem, but it holds little value for many Jacksonians. While some people spend hours a day complaining about the $2-a-gallon thorn in their paw, others stand in the hot sun, often without complaints, waiting on their daily ride—the Jatran.

Shalanda Hudson has been riding the Jatran for years. While SUV drivers shell out $45 per tank, Hudson spends the same amount for unlimited rides over a three-month period. She enjoys the economical benefits of riding the bus (not having a car also means she doesn't pay insurance or maintenance charges), but Hudson swears that the best part of public transportation is the people who use it.

"Riding the bus has introduced me to a variety of people, opinions and experiences that I would have never known if I had had a car," she explains. "People seem to find comfort in telling their life stories, and sometimes the most horrible things imaginable happen to complete strangers. I have heard countless stories about broken homes, dysfunctional families, drug use, etc. But I have also heard from people who are barely getting by, but whose stories are filled with love, happiness and optimism. It is these stories and people who have inspired me more that anything else. After hearing some of these stories, I have realized just how blessed I am."

According to its Web site, Jatran provides Fixed Route and Handilift services to citizens throughout the city of Jackson, Monday through Saturday from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. through 13 different bus routes. Hudson admits that these routes can be confusing, especially for new riders.

She says: "I would advise that if someone wanted to ride the bus that they learn the bus schedule. It takes a lot of patience and knowing when the bus should come. The bus also does not go every where. I walk about half a mile in the morning to get to my stop. It's good exercise."

Other car-less citizens forego the bus completely and rely mostly on their legs to transport them. Twenty-four-year-old Randy Perkins gets "good exercise" every day as he walks to and from his Belhaven home to work at Que Sera Sera.

"I enjoy walking short distances, talking to people in passing and listening to music on headphones" he says. "I am able to manage without a car primarily because I live in a concentrated area with a small array of merchants, a local library and some public space."

Jerryl Roberts has also managed without a car for several years. He explains that people are conditioned to "being used to zipping around," but notes that a little patience goes a long way. He says, "To me, well, it's sort of fun in a way not having a car. It has its drawbacks, but going anywhere is like a mini-adventure." For some, though, it's not a mini-adventure. It's a nightmare. Without available public transportation after 6 p.m., many Jacksonians find themselves stuck.

"Jackson is just not designed for non-car-owning citizens," Mallory Marlette, 20, says. She only recently got a car after spending over a year bumming rides from friends. Not having a car left her at the mercy of the people who offered her rides. She has a dozen horror stories of being made to go to parties with no way home. Once, a friend offered her a ride home from a wedding, only to take her to a Punk Prom party, where no one even tried to befriend her. Another time, she wound up by herself at party, forced to overhear people having sex.

But without a car, Marlette had no way home. "Jackson is just an awful place to try to live without a car," she says. "There are no sidewalks. There's a horrible public transportation system, especially if you don't live downtown."

Perkins agrees that living in Jackson can be difficult in certain areas. "As a capital and the largest city in the state, its functions make it almost necessary to have a car," he says. Citing various industries in Jackson, all of which are located far away from one another, he notes that the industry's "characteristics, coupled with a relatively small population and the contemporary phenomenon of rapidly expanding cities make it difficult for one to meet his or her needs on a daily basis without a car." Though Perkins survives happily without a car, he says he would look into getting a car if he planned on living in Jackson for much longer.

Marlette admits that not having a car allowed her to save some money, but she also notes that she usually wound up having to give money to the people who drove her to work and other places. Now that she has a car, she says, "I realize even more how awful it was to not have a car. I couldn't achieve complete and total independence before. Now I can rely on myself."

Roberts, who lives in Ridgeland now, says that he also has to rely on friends and family members to transport him. When he lived in Jackson, he rode the Jatran often. "Riding the city buses was an O.K. way to get around when I lived in Jackson," he says. "For me the biggest problem with the busses is that they only run until around 6 p.m." Getting around after 6 was hard, but he explains, "It helps a lot to plan ahead. If there is somewhere I know I'm gonna want to go, then it's sort of necessary to figure out a way to get there ahead of time."

He manages, but admits he would like to have a car. "I'm not dying for one, but it would be nice and make things easier."


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