Sunday, March 27, 2016

Transit Tuesday

I recently had an epiphany that has dramatically increased my use of public transportation.  That insight is essentially that doing something is better than doing nothing.  I leave about 50 minutes to get to work by car, and I almost always drive.  My job is in a low-density place that has infrequent public transit service and because the trip is about 24 kilometers, walking and biking are not choices I have seriously considered.

Once, just for kicks, I decided to take public transportation to work to see what it would be like.  Instead of a 50 minute one-way car trip, I was looking at a 120 minute one-way trip involving two buses, and getting up at 4:30 in the morning to make it work.  Determined to try it at least once, I did, and it kicked my ass.  After the odyssey was complete, the satisfaction that I gained supporting public transit paled in comparison to the massive sacrifice of time that I had endured.  I haven't done it again since.

Recently I started reading headlines about how transit ridership in Los Angeles County is declining.  Pissed off, I pulled out my transit maps again, determined to see if there was any better way of making the trip; any way to shave off even a few minutes and make it more bearable.  Suddenly it hit me.  What if instead of taking transit all the way, I only took it half way.  What if I parked in a park and ride lot and took a light rail line to the local bus line that takes me to my job?  I ran the numbers and sure enough, it was a better trip.  Instead of 120 minutes each way, I was looking at 90 minutes.

Now, 90 minutes is still a long time, not very competitive with 50 minutes.  Given that gap, I asked myself, how could I do this every day?  Then something else hit me: I don't have to do it every day.  I can accomplish a lot even if I only do it once a week.  Thus, Transit Tuesday was born.

I've done it about five times so far, riding transit to work more in the past couple of months than I have in the last several years.  Here's what I like about Transit Tuesday:
  1. It gives me a way to support a cause I care about, public transportation, even though the transit services that take me to work aren't very good.  That support of transit is in two forms of currency: actual money that helps offset the cost of providing transit service and the political currency of ridership, which makes it easier to support transit with public funds and by re-allocating road space from cars to transit.  More money and ridership for the transit system improve the odds of transit getting better in the future.
  2. It allows me to reduce my vehicle distance traveled and transportation greenhouse gas emissions by about 10% (since I drive half way to work instead of all the way one day a week).
  3. I get more exercise on Transit Tuesday, which is always a plus
  4. I get more reading done on Transit Tuesday
  5. Transit Tuesday adds variety to my boring-ass commute
  6. Transit Tuesday has started conversations with my coworkers like "Why aren't you going to your car" and "You got here on the bus?!"
  7. Catchy name!
The moral of the story is that we don't all live and work in places where transit is convenient, but that doesn't mean you can't do something.  Take a hard look at your trip to work and you might find yourself starting a Transit Tuesday tradition of your own!

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