The other day on the light rail I sat near a woman. Let’s call her Sally Jesse. Sally Jesse spun her head around every time we stopped, asked everyone around her what station we were at, and promptly swiveled around to stare at the roadmap. Then a full 3 stops before Sally Jesse made her exit, she went and hovered around the door to make sure she wouldn’t miss her stop. Unfortunately, the driver made a somewhat abrupt stop in which she almost fell over because she wasn’t very good at light rail surfing. First timer.
She isn’t alone. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) 30% of transit riders in 2007 reported that it was their first year riding. It’s a great option for commuters to consider and heres why.
Increase the lifespan of your car: Stop and go traffic is really hard on your vehicle. The constant acceleration and deceleration puts undue stress on your engine and wears down your brakes.
Saves gas: Let the government cover your gas money by hopping a ride with everyone else. You can also feel good about yourself for going green.
Say buh-bye to rush hour: Remember that scene in Mission Impossible 3 where Tom Cruise pretended he worked for the Department of Transportation and said that you could see the ripple of one car braking for miles? “Traffic has a memory,” he said. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to get away from the constant waves of brakes? I’m sure the people on MARTA chuckle to themselves as they pass the mess of humanity called Atlanta rush hour.
Save some money: Just looking at gas, public transportation was less expensive for my husband and I even if we carpooled. And it’s not just cheap professional students who are getting in on the savings from riding public transportation. The APTA report noted 10% of riders have a household income breaking 6 figures.
Give yourself some extra time: My husband has gone through his whole MCAT prep book solely during his commute this semester. Imagine what sort of books or newspaper reading can get done when you don’t have focus on the road.
Let’s say you are like Sally Jesse and are a little bit inexperienced at riding. Here are some things to get you started
Do some research online: Virtually every city has pricing, maps, and times listed on their website to give you and idea of what you need.
Call someone: Personally I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to researching routes. Many cities have 800 numbers to call and an operator can tell you exactly what, bus, metro, or light rail stops you need.
Be prepared for the walk: I see it all the time downtown. Suits with tennis shoes. It’s a funny sight, but functional. For a stop a couple of blocks away from school or work, I couldn’t imagine going any other way. Walking a couple of blocks can really be annoying in nice work shoes or heels for the ladies. Just be sure to keep an umbrella handy.
During your ride: Listen to your favorite podcast on your ipod, bring the book you’ve been meaning to get to, read the newspaper, or get your Sudoku fix out of the way. Personally, I mentally run through what I want to get done that day. You may find that your commute is somewhat relaxing. It sure beats coming home frusturated from the rush hour battle home.
If you live in an area with good public transportation, go ahead and run through the numbers. Try a test run even. Is commuting less stressful? What’s the timing like? Can you see yourself doing this everyday? Do you save money? If you have to commute, the switch to letting someone else do the driving may really work for you.
Image courtesy of Lance McCord