I just returned from a transit nerd conference in Portland, where I spent some time experiencing transit envy–again (more later); some time hanging with my cousins-in-law, who now live in Portland; and not enough time admiring this cool gadget, the brainchild of Portland Transport‘s Chris Smith.
And when you ask her what kind of meeting the mommy pig is going to, she says, “A transit task force.”
One of the most common objections to getting around without a car (and specifically, to riding the bus) is that it simply takes too much time. Though this certainly isn’t always true (many commutes are faster with PT) I do concede that some–OK, a lot of–trips take longer by bus.*
And yet, I would argue that, compared to the average car-owning parent/professional, I come out ahead in the time department. How is this possible, you ask? Because the amount of time it takes to travel by car isn’t just about how quickly you can get from point A to point B.
Consider that I never have to:
• Shop for a car or insurance
• Search for parking
• Stop for gas
• Get my oil changed
• Buy new tires
• Replace brakes/clutch/transmission/alternator/battery
• Schlep to a dealer for scheduled maintenance
• Wait for a tow truck
• Wait in line for emissions testing/inspections
• Wash, vacuum, detail or otherwise shine up
• Get a ding or scratch fixed
• Deal with insurance drama after an accident
• And et cetera
Consider also that the time I spend traveling is not wasted time. I use it to:
• Spend QT with my kids (with reading, games, and face-to-face talking)
• Exercise (can’t remember the last time I saw the inside of a gym)**
• Catch up on e-mail
• Listen to messages (OK, yes, sometimes I talk on the phone. Quietly. About appropriate subjects. Hey, at least it’s legal.)
• Prepare for meetings
• Look out the window and enjoy my city
But here’s the really important part:
Given that our family saves well over ten thousand dollars per year in transportation costs, the additional money we invest will take years off our working lives.
Now that’s a time tradeoff I’m willing to make.
*Of course, this would be true much less often if buses had dedicated right-of-way, but that’s a post for another time.
**In addition to all the walking I do to and from bus stops, for most trips of a mile or less, I usually choose to walk the entire distance. It doesn’t take much longer than driving, if you factor in loading up and strapping in + searching for parking. Plus (as I mentioned), I never have to set aside time to exercise.
It’s been a slow month (and a half) for blogging. The move, which I intend to write about at some point, (mostly from a “selecting a home for a car-free family” perspective) and which is still in progress (at least, the getting settled part) took a lot out of me. That, plus a couple of consuming projects, extreme technical difficulties, and seemingly endless weekend events had me shifting most of my alt-transpo energies to Twitter.
For the time being, I have returned to writing full sentences, and I’d like to use them to tell you about:
A mad, mad man
The New York Times recently published a piece about Vincent Kartheiser, aka Pete Campbell from Mad Men. Apparently, Mr. Kartheiser, who lives in Los Angeles, has been car-free for three years. Unlike a lot of high-profile non-drivers, Vincent prefers to get around on PT.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic, you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus. Everyone’s got their own deal.”
“I like that my life slows down when I go places,” he said. “I have all these interactions with the human race and I can watch people living their life and not just in their car.”
And the best quote of the article?
“They’ve done a study and they’ve found that people under 30 no longer view cars as status symbols or even positive things,” Mr. Kartheiser said. “They look at them as pollutants.”
Talk about progress!
A diet I can actually get behind
On September 15th, Zipcar kicked off its second annual Low Car Diet. Participants in 12 cities have agreed not to use their cars for one month (through October 15th) in exchange for transit passes, Zipcar driving credit, miscellaneous SWAG, and a chance to think differently about how they get around.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Seattle participants at the kickoff, and I’ve been keeping up with their progress (speaking of Twitter) ever since. So far, I’m impressed by the creativity and enthusiasm they’ve brought to the month-long challenge. Here’s hoping that they follow in the footsteps of 61% of last year’s dieters and decide to make a permanent switch.
Citizen activism in Queens
Streetfilms has a cool new film about the Jackson Heights neighborhood, which has succeeded in reclaiming some of its public space.
Somewhere near Blanchet, two black, high-school age girls board. They use the back door, because it’s closer to them when the bus stops.
The driver immediately starts hollering at them to come to the front and pay. His tone is harsh, definitely out of bounds for the level of infraction. The girls do as he asks but do not comment until they find their seats, at which point they begin whispering to each other in earnest.
At UW Medical Center, a blonde, twentysomething woman boards through the back door, presumably for the same reason as the girls. Again, the driver starts yelling.
“You need to come up here and pay. Do NOT get on at the back!”
The woman looks surprised but shrugs and complies.
One of the high school girls mutters to the other, “At least we know he’s not racist.”