For Your Health, Get Out Of Town

What’s the best way to avoid being laid low by the flu bug as we head into flu season?  It might be that getting out of town is more effective than getting a flu shot.

crowded-subway-istock-458985557A recent study has concluded that big cities have longer, “more vicious” flu seasons.  One of the researchers in the study explained:  “Larger cities have more organized movement patterns, and these patterns connect pockets of high population density together.”  The density factor is significant given how flu is transmitted.  As the researcher noted:  “Flu spreads from person to person by virus-bearing moisture droplets that an infected person exhales or coughs or sneezes out. This creates what you can think of as a moving cloud of risk around an infected individual.”

“A moving cloud of risk around an infected individual,” eh?  Make you want to go sit on the bus or the subway with a bunch of potentially sick strangers, doesn’t it?

None of this is a surprise to anyone who’s had kids, because it’s just the “preschool effect” writ large.  Once your kids go to preschool and are exposed to a bunch of other germy, sniffling rugrats, you suddenly notice that everybody in the family, including you, is sicker than they’ve ever been before.  Preschool undoubtedly helps to build up the immune system of children, because it is a living testament to the communicability of every different kind of cold, contagion, and virus.  Cities, and particularly mass transit settings in cities, are like one big preschool, where that “moving cloud of risk around an infected individual” is a lot more likely to find you.

Last winter’s flu season was a particularly savage one, and is estimated to have caused 80,000 deaths and a record number of hospitalizations.  If you want to avoid the bug this year, you might just want to get the heck out of town.

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CMAX

Recently Kish and I went to a show at the Riffe Center, across the street from the Ohio Statehouse.  We noticed a new Central Ohio Transit Authority sign, for “CMAX” as well as our old favorite, the CBUS.

CMAX?

It’s a new concept for COTA — a rapid transit bus line.  The CMAX will make fewer stops, at major destinations on the most congested bus lines, with the goal of reducing travel time, reducing congestion, and creating better conditions for pedestrians.  And, from the COTA website linked above, it looks like the ultimate plan is for the CMAX to include improved technology — like, perhaps, wireless options on buses.  The Bus-Riding Conservative has long held that offering wireless could be the key to making riding buses really attractive to the Gen Xers, who he thinks would happily choose an option that would allow them to check out all of their social media contacts while they are commuting.

The first CMAX line will run along Cleveland Avenue, connecting downtown to Polaris Parkway — a route that COTA estimates serves more than 220,000 residents and 170,000 workers.  The sign at High and State is for one of the stops at the downtown end of the route.

I have to give COTA credit — with the CBUS, the Airconnect bus that links the airport and downtown hotels, and now CMAX, our local transit agency is making a good effort to redefine “the bus” and provide service that is more targeted to what the community really needs.  Here’s hoping that CMAX is another success story.

Aboard The CBUS

Yesterday was one of those hot, muggy days that seem to immediately drain you of energy and leave you coated in sweat at the same time.  We were interested in heading down to the Short North, but walking there would have caused us to melt into the sidewalk.  And driving to the Short North on a Gallery Hop day is a colossal pain.  So, what to do?

Enter the CBUS.

IMG_6855The CBUS is a “circulator” that runs on a continuous loop on High Street and Front Street between German Village and the Brewery District, on one end, and Victorian Village and Italian Village on the other.  Along the way, it has stops at Columbus Commons, the Ohio Statehouse, the Arena District, and the Short North.  And there are no worries about reading a confusing bus schedule, or getting on the number 4 bus when you should be getting on the number 23 bus — the CBUS has different, readily identifiable markings, the CBUS stops are marked with a special circular sign, and the CBUS just goes on the same route all day long.

The CBUS was the perfect option for us — but the only real issue was whether we could overcome our anti-bus mindset.  This sounds like a minor thing, but it really isn’t.  If your vision of a bus is a dirty, beat-up contraption filled with smelly, misbehaving passengers, it’s not going to be your first transportation choice.  But we decided to give the CBUS a chance — and it turned out that our preconceptions about bus travel were all wrong.  (I recognize that the Bus-Riding Conservative will be insufferable after that admission.)

The CBUS is clean, bright, and blissfully air-conditioned.  The upcoming stops were announced verbally and shown on an electronic crawl screen at the front of the bus, so you always knew which stop was upcoming.  Our fellow passengers included couples, families with small kids, and Columbus visitors heading to an event at the Convention Center, which also is along the route.  There are multiple stops along the way, and you can signal the driver when you want to stop by pulling a little cord that runs behind every seat.  And the CBUS is free.  Free!  What could be better than that?

One other thing about the CBUS that the BRC has emphasized:  it runs almost exactly the route that some people have proposed as the route of a street car/light rail system, and it does so at a tiny fraction of the cost — and without ripping up the streets and installing rail lines and paying for the construction and the train cars.

We liked the CBUS so much that, on our ride back home, we talked about how we can use it even more.  I’m guessing that most users of the CBUS have that same reaction.  It  promotes the interaction and flow between core downtown neighborhoods, and it also makes non-bus-riders like us a bit more amenable to potentially using the Central Ohio Transit Authority options to meet our other transportation needs.  That’s the whole idea, I think.  I’m not sure how long the CBUS will be free, but I hope it continues — it’s a great idea and way to introduce the non-BRCs of the world like us to the possibilities and advantages of mass transit.