Like most colleges, the University of Colorado at Boulder is not automobile-friendly. That creates a parking problem for students like myself who don't live in Boulder and must commute. The answer in this case appears to be to take advantage of the fees I pay that entitle me to ride the buses almost anywhere they go in the Denver metro area. Parts of Boulder have excellent bus service. For most of the past two weeks, while math camp has been in session, I drove up to the south side of town, parked in a small Park-and-Ride lot, and took the circulator up to campus. There's a bus stop almost directly in front of the Economics building. Riding the bus is... different.
You have to realize that (1) I grew up in a small town and then the suburbs where there was no bus service, (2) when I went to college, I always lived within bicycling or walking distance of campus and downtown, and (3) I worked for 25 years in suburban New Jersey and Denver, at locations where the buses didn't go. Or at least, they didn't go there in a sane fashion. It was possible to get from my house to my first Denver work location by bus -- but it took three transfers and two-and-a-half hours if everything ran on time. And if you missed one of the buses in particular, you were stuck because it only ran once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
The answer to the question of how to get from point A to point B in Boulder by bus is not always obvious. Last week I had an appointment to donate blood (if you live in the Denver metro area, please call Bonfils and make an appointment; they seem to be rather short on supplies these days). I didn't have my full map, but knew which routes went in the general direction I wanted. Unfortunately, the quick and efficient way to make the trip is to start out in the opposite direction from campus. By the time I finish the Ph.D. program, I ought to have this down cold.
The other thing is the people that ride on the bus. Last week, I had brief conversations with a 60-year-old woman who has lived in Boulder all her life who lives in a converted garage and makes her living cleaning houses and babysitting, a mentally handicapped man who will be going to New Hampshire on his own next month and is incredibly excited by the prospect, and an out-of-work cowboy just in from El Paso looking for an old girlfriend and their two kids that he thinks live in Boulder. Automobiles, the suburbs, and working as a professional doing applied research for large corporations insulates you from a large part of the population.