Posted: January 8th, 2010 under education, parenting, socialization.
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If you can’t drive, and probably won’t ever drive, then learning to use public transportation is a necessity.   We’ve worked on this since our son was quite young, and by the time we faced the “how to get him to his classes in the city” he had been on buses, trains, subways, and airplanes (oh, and ferry boats) so we did not expect much difficulty with this.

Until we realized just how cockeyed the nearest public transportation system is (Capital Metro, in Austin, Texas.)    The nearest “entry point” for us is about 20 miles away, the north end of the western branch (which goes farther north than anything on the I-35 corridor which is ridiculous, but that’s only the beginning.)     There are express buses from this northern terminus that head into the city.  Along the way, there are “transit centers” where someone can catch conneting buses, but…the express buses do not stop at all of them.  In fact, they don’t stop at the most useful one (the North Lamar/ 183 one)–they zoom right past that.

All week,  the other parent has been rising early and driving our son down to Leander to try to work out a route that will get him to class at the Northridge ACC campus on time.   From the website, I had picked out a route that looked promising…but wasn’t, because the express bus doesn’t stop at the North Lamar transit center.  (There’s a bus from that center directly to the campus.)   Nor was the secondary route (from the Arboretum transit center with two transfers) because a) one of the bus stops was out in the open with no weather protection at all and a longish wait, and b) the route took too long.

The route that works is express bus all the way into downtown (MLK and Trinity, I think they said) and then a bus that goes all the way back north (Northridge ACC is off Metric and N. Lamar) and the only one that gets him there on time gets him there by 8 am (which means leaving here at godawful in the morning…I think it’s the 6:20 express or something like that.)

On the other hand, the good news is that he qualified for a disability card and the drivers on the Leander-to-downtown route are now beginning to recognize him and his dad, and be aware that they’ll have an autistic man riding that route alone in a few weeks (we hope–his dad will go with him all the way until he’s fully independent on this.)  Though getting the card required two trips downtown (further down than the connection to the bus that heads back north.)   He knows how to use the card now and doesn’t require any prompting.   (There are good things about quickly forming routines…)

We could of course drive him all the way in and back, but we think it’s much better to try to get him using the bus independently now, in a city where we have friends he can call on in emergencies (as well as us–only 40-50 miles out.)    This morning he came bouncing in and announced “I LIKE bus trips!”

Current issues on the socialization end–working on appropriate conversation starters and responses on commuter buses (“Not everyone wants to hear that you’re starting college.  That’s for friends.  ‘Good morning’  or ‘Good afternoon’ is OK.  Many people don’t feel like talking in the morning/afternoon.”)

But this is another big step on the way to independence.  However the classes work out, if he can learn to navigate the bus system on his own, he’ll have gained another important skill.


  • Comment by AnnMCN — January 8, 2010 @ 8:52 pm


    I think being able to function on mass transit is one of the most useful and most under-rated skills. When I moved from the ‘burbs closer in to Atlanta after the kids were all out of high school, the possibility of catching the bus or train was a huge lure. So many people sneer at transit thoug

  • Comment by AnnMCN — January 8, 2010 @ 8:55 pm


    oops – my keyboard has been flakey, and my comment posted before I was ready.

    Anyway, I love hearing what is going on with your son. I must have missed the decision to take classes. Is he still working at the pizza place?

  • Comment by Ellen Beeman — January 9, 2010 @ 8:39 am


    This is really great to read about. I wish the bus system was less frustrating, though.

  • Comment by Elizabeth — January 9, 2010 @ 9:26 am


    I tell myself (and him) that the shortcomings of the system are additional learning opportunities. I think this goes over about as well as it did when my mother said that to me.

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