Tell Us About Your “Commuter Idyll”

Before I became your editor here at Streetsblog Capitol Hill, I was a reporter for WTOP, the DC area’s “most-listened-to” radio station. Its traffic reports “on the 8s” helped feed my ire toward auto-centrism – they wasted one out of every 10 minutes of airtime on an unintelligible litany of route numbers and exits. Meanwhile, I only got 35 seconds for actual news stories.

Did you give this up for a healthy bike ride or relaxing transit commute? We want to hear about it in our new “Commuter Idyll” contest. Photo: ##http://blog.allstate.com/road-rage-the-ultimate-accident-2/##Allstate blog##

WTOP assumes that most of its listeners are tuning in from inside their cars, and for that reason, the station focuses heavily on commuter issues. About 80 percent of its audience lives in the suburbs, so WTOP has a soft spot for people with long, solo car commutes from unwalkable places who get all road-ragey in rush hour traffic — crawling along no matter how good the traffic report is.

As part of its solidarity with extreme drivers, WTOP is launching its second season of what it calls “Commuter Idle” (I think that’s a pun on American Idol), in which listeners compete for the worst commute. They tell their horror stories of traffic jams and delays, and guess what the winner gets? Aside from radio fame and a limo ride to work, the unfortunate soul with the worst commute gets gas money. A thousand dollars to pour into their hellish daily slog.

Ah yes, that’s better. Photo: ##http://main.stylelist.com/2010/06/04/the-weekender-take-a-bike-ride/##Stylelist##

Here at Streetsblog, we don’t “idle-ize” horrific car commutes. While one can sympathize with people who end up with long treks to work, especially if their financial circumstances and the sprawl of their region conspired to eliminate other options, “extreme commutes” are nothing to glorify.

So we’re taking this opportunity to launch what we’re calling “Commuter Idyll.” We’d like to hear from people who’ve made changes in their lives recently to make their commutes more enjoyable and less time-consuming.

Did you give up the drive for a refreshing, invigorating bike ride? Did you start taking the train so you can relax or read a paperback on your way to work? Did you move closer to the office – or get a new job closer to home – so you didn’t have to cover impossible distances?

Leave your story in the comments. Give as much detail as you want. Instead of gas money (who needs it?), we’ll mail you a copy of the anthology, “On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life,” to which Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield contributed a chapter.

You could be Streetsblog’s first Commuter Idyll contest winner!

UPDATE 5/9: We’re still happy to hear your story, but we’ve chosen our winners and the contest is over.

  • Andrew

    I’m a resident of the Glover Park neighborhood in Washington, DC and work in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Although my drive to work was only four miles, sometimes the drive could take up to 40 minutes just being able to turn onto M Street to go over the Key Bridge. In addition to my commute not making sense environmentally, as an entry-level worker, making a monthly car payment and paying for parking at my office didn’t make sense for me economically. This spring, I decided it was time to sell the car and trade it in for a SmartTrip card and a membership to Capital Bikeshare. Since I have ditched my wheels, not only am I richer and happier with my decision, I feel healthier making the walk to and from the bus or biking into my office every day. Taking public transportation also makes me feel more invested in the city I live in.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Back when I worked in Rosslyn, VA. I was able to move into an apartment in Court House which turned my commute into either a 10 minute walk or a 2 minute bike ride with views of DC that was downhill one way and flat the other. How you ask? My apartment building was on a hill so the 3 story elevator ride flattened the otherwise uphill leg.

    It isn’t my current commute (I moved to NYC where I now have a comparatively hellish 20 minute subway), but I do miss it.

  • Anonymous

    Last year I moved from the suburbs of NJ to Riverdale, NY, just north of Manhattan, but my job is still in NJ. I tried driving it a while, but pretty much any way I went it would take 45 minutes on a good day, and sometimes nearly 2 hours. It’s also rather difficult to get to NJ via transit from Riverdale. Towards the end of last Summer, I started cycling down the Hudson River Greenway to the 39th St ferry to NJ, a 45-minute bike trip plus 10 minutes on the ferry.

    My wife and I came to NY with 2 cars, and after a while of my biking we decided to sell one. Most days, even in the winter when it was 20 degrees, so long as it wasn’t snowing, I went by bike. Now that she is on maternity leave she needs the car every day again (can’t take a newborn on transit or a bike, unfortunately), and I am committed to cycling to work every day. So far it has been great! I’ve lost weight and, paradoxically, feel like I have more energy for dealing with a newborn at night.

  • Ryan Brady

    My commute San Francisco Novato is 32 miles each way. I stopped routinely driving because of an expensive car repair, and since then I’ve taken several options:

    1. Bus ride. 1hr 50, but I can lapse into a coma before the second stop.
    2. 9 mi bike ride, and then catch the express bus.
    3. 12 mi bike ride, then catch a ferry (beautiful trip)
    4. “Easy” 32 mile ride along the frontage roads and trails (2hr 10)
    5. Moderate 35 mile ride going up Wolfe Grade and Corte Madera Blvd (2hr 30)

    Even though the travel time is about twice as long as by car, EVERY SINGLE ONE of these options is preferable to getting in that box and going bumper to bumper for even 5 minutes.

  • GuestCommenter

    I did have a great ride in to work today, now that you mention it.

  • I have an extremely easy commute in Austin, TX. 10 minutes bike ride through a quiet neighborhood to the bus stop, then a twenty minute ride to work. Some days I do wish it was a little longer so I could doze! If it is really nice, I’ll ride all the way home, which takes me about 45 minutes through downtown hike and bike, and then funky s. Austin neighborhoods. Versus sitting in traffic on Lamar, I think its a win.

  • I live in Los Angeles, in the Baldwin Hills area sort of on the cusp between South and West L.A. My old job was a 15-20 minute drive or 30-40 minute bus ride. Not bad. I recently changed jobs though, and my new job is a 10-15 minute bicycle ride, all on pretty calm, quiet back streets, some of it on separated paved park paths. The best part is that on the way home, if I have a bit of spare time, I can take a detour which makes it a 30-40 minute trip, 90% of which is on single track dirt trails through greenways and park lands, with about 1000 feet of climbing (and descending!). I have an OK “hardtail” mountain bike which does the trick, but I might be one of the only people anywhere who may actually need a fully suspended mountain bike for their work commute!

  • davistrain

    I realize that this is “preaching to the wrong choir”, but some workers don’t hate their motorized commutes. They look upon driving to work as a “people-free” time when they can sit in a comfortable seat and listen to their favorite talk radio bloviator or music source, without wondering whether that weird guy who just got on the bus or train will sit next to him and make his morning miserable. And as far as bicycles are concerned, to many people they are for kids, poor folks, and Mormon missionaries. Being retired, I don’t really have a dog in this fight. I sometimes think of my first wife, who was of the “I’d rather die than take a bus to the hospital” persuasion, after a number of unpleasant bus rides as a teenager. (let the flaming begin)

  • Miles Bader

    My commute via train is about half an hour, and I time it to miss the worse of the rush hour, so the trains aren’t too packed. I always go to the end car (even quieter), and love, love, love, just leaning against the window, reading a book in the morning sunshine (although there are usually empty seats, for whatever reason, I like to stand)…. it’s honestly the most peaceful and stress-free time of my entire day… :] Walking from home to the station, and to my office building (about 10min each) is also very pleasant, a sort of pick-me-up, especially in brisk spring weather, a chance to bop into random shops along the way, etc.

    For many years I had a walk-only commute, a pleasant stroll through residential neighborhoods on narrow streets with no traffic at all, but although it was very convenient (wake up 15 minutes before that meeting … ><), I really missed my train time during that period, and am glad to have it back!

  • There can be only one – http://www.sf2g.com/

  • Joe R.

    Because I work from home now I have no commuting stories for the present, but I’ll relate my stories from the past (commuting to high school and then to college). I commuted for 3 years to Bronx High School of Science from Flushing. It took roughly 1.5 hours each way. Now this was during the time when the subways left a lot to be desired (1977-1980). Yes, trains broke down a lot. They were always covered in graffiti. Half the doors and lights didn’t work. Still, I found my “train time” great for catching up on school work, or even just decompressing from the stresses of life. It was infinitely more pleasant than taking a bus. In fact, I did have to take a bus to the subway. Thankfully, that ride only lasted 10 or 15 minutes. Buses just aren’t conducive to studying or really relaxing with the constant stop/start motions, plus the potholed city streets. The trains were also great for socializing. Coming home with my friends each day was like a big hour long train party. I still miss those times. Again, that wouldn’t have been possible in a place where you take a bus, or your parents drive you to school.

    Fast forward to college. I slept away for the first 3 semesters but life in a small college town wasn’t for me. I also couldn’t afford room and board any more, or rather my parents couldn’t afford it any more. I then decided to commute each day. This was from Flushing to Princeton, NJ. On an average day it took 2 hours each way door-to-door. This actually wasn’t bad considering I was covering a distance of ~65 miles. I was going against normal commuter traffic, so I rarely had any delays on the Northeast Corridor. The local train took an hour out of Penn Station to reach Princeton Junction, and the shuttle to Princeton took 5 minutes. I made it in an hour, 50 minutes door-to-door sometimes (usually on the return journey) when I caught all my connections right. Amtrak even honored NJ Transit passes on their trains. As a result, I occasionally took one of the Amtrak trains which only stopped at Newark, then went 38.4 miles non-stop to Princeton Junction (and one of them once covered this distance in only 23 minutes, start to stop-that’s an even 100 mph average speed). Being a train buff, I was in heaven. Besides studying on the trains, I would sometimes watch the Metroliners flying through Princeton Junction at 125+ mph. Those were a sight when there was snow on the tracks and a mini-blizzard would follow after the train passed. None of this would have been possible any other way. In fact, the commute wouldn’t have been possible without the great train service. Driving easily would have taken 3 hours each way. Besides the fact I didn’t have a car or license, I didn’t have 6 hours a day to kill. Of the four hours I spent commuting on the train, probably at least half of them were productive (either doing school work or catching up on sleep). Had I not been a railfan constantly looking out the window at things, I’m sure I could have made even better use of the time but I don’t regret it.

    I’m glad to work from home now in a way, but I still miss my train time. Being on a train just seems to be a great stress reliever. Maybe it’s the peaceful back and forth motions, the relative quiet as you move above or below the hustle of the streets, or something more. Riding a bike is kind of like that too, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a path away from motor traffic. It’s a shame so many Americans just don’t realize what they’re missing being confined to their cars, often stuck in heavy traffic.

  • where in SF is 12 miles from the Ferry?

  • carma

    my commute doesnt involve a car, but it can still be hardly called relaxing.

    i have to take a bus to a train station where i get on the local to get off 3 stops later to transfer to another train and after getting off at port authority bus terminal. i transfer to yet another intrastate bus to take me to NJ. 4 legs and a total of 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    no seats usually and a lot of downtime waiting for transfers. but guess what. it still beats a car. why? because of the wonders of smartphones and ipods. i can do something productive with these devices like becoming fluent in japanese, studying while on the transit leg.

    cant do that while driving i bet.

  • Andy

    After reading the comments, I’m so glad with the decisions I made. After graduating from college and having the opportunity to move anywhere I wanted to, I landed in Ithaca, NY with my girlfriend. We found an apartment that gives her a 5 minute walk to work, and I have a 3 mile bike ride to my primary job.

    This spring I took a part time job at a bike shop farther out of town, that extends my commute by several miles but it’s a beautiful bike ride along the river and through the hills, and I love having no traffic later at night. It’s taken some time to adjust to a longer bike commute, but I love any time I get on the bike.

    I did take the bus home occasionally in poor weather (torrential rain or blizzards) as my home and job are directly on the bus line, but the racks only hold 2 bikes, and after waiting for a bus only to have to decide between waiting 30-60 minutes for the next one or just venturing home by bike, I collected the gear to make my commute acceptable in any condition (fenders, generator lights, great jackets, etc.). That has helped a lot to not worry about the drizzly days when I want to go for a long bike ride, now that I’m prepared to handle it.

    I’ve had the joy of bike commuting for the last 5 years now, and I can’t imagine having to drive or rely on transit for more than 15 minutes. I’m so happy with the choices we made to keep our commutes active and outside!

  • BobaFuct

    I started bike commuting full time after moving to Arlington from DC, as it cut my commute distance by almost half and the route was much better. Interestingly, my wife and I chose to leave DC because it would be a much better place for me to bike commute, and it would get us closer to the trails in Virginia. Also, Arlington seems to be more motivated to develop a sustainable transportation policy that places a lot of importance on bike infrastructure (although DC is doing a lot better these days). So now, the 7 mile commute to my home office takes me 25-30 minutes, every day, no matter what. Driving, the commute can be as short as 20 minutes, or as long as an hour…to go 7 miles through mostly residential areas. And people think I’m crazy for riding a bike.

    Currently, I’m on a one year rotation downtown, and oddly enough, my commute is exactly the same distance, 7 miles, and it still only takes me 25-30 minutes a day. Working downtown, driving is pretty much off the table, as there’s a waitlist for parking spots and they cost several hundred dollars a year. So my backup option is bus>metro into work and metro>bus home. Despite the problems with metro, it’s a pretty reliable transit commute, consistently taking about 45 minutes, but I’d say I only do that about once every 3-4 weeks.

    Another benefit to my bike commuting has been that my wife and I sold one of our cars and now just have one. We still use it a decent amount, but mostly for running errands and such on the weekends or after work…so most of my driving experiences are actually positive these days, since the only time I use the car is when there’s no traffic to deal with and I’m not in a hurry to get somewhere….and WTOP is no longer on our radio preset since I never need a traffic report.

  • Dno

    This will probably feed the smug biker narrative but oh well…I hop on my bike in DC and start with a nice flat 2 minute ride through the top of Adams Morgan. Then, with monument views, cruise down 18th Street through leafy Dupont and into the central business district. It’s not a super congested road, but I still zip by cars and can do the trip faster by bike than by bus or Car2go. On beautiful mornings like today, 4-5 cyclists congregate at lights and wish each other a happy Friday.

  • rg

    I live on the far east end of Capitol Hill, 3.5 miles from my office in downtown DC. The best part of my commute is the number of choices I have. I can take Metro, take the bus, bike and even walk (at least for the trip home, when I am not pressed for time).

    We have had beautiful spring weather, so the choice this week was an easy one: bike. There is something really wonderful about a morning ride across a beautiful, historic neighborhood in the weeks when everything is green and the dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom and the heat and humidity of summer have yet to hit.

    Regardless of which choice I make, the best part of my commute is how easy it is, how little thought I generally give to it and how often I actually enjoy it. (The Post, WTOP and other similar auto- and suburban-oriented media outlets would have you believe that Metro breaks down more often than it runs. Metro certainly has issues due to deferred maintenance, but the reality is that 95 percent of my Metro trips to and from work are incident-free.)

  • Anonymous

    I love laying in bed listening to the traffic reports on the 8s and imagining people white knuckling while I make tea and leisurely pack for the day. Some would say I’m lucky to only live 2 miles from work, but it was a choice that I made and living near work is something that I value. It takes me 20 minutes to bike to my office. Many nice days (like today!) I take the long way home via the Capital Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Park. Biking through lush greenery makes me want to take the long way. That hour home is the best part of my day.

  • Anonymous

    My partner and I used to commute from Annandale, VA to DC. The drive took about an hour and a half, on average, but it could take much longer if there was an accident or two. Once it took us 8 hours to get home! I felt tired and sick all the time, and would sometimes get panic attacks while sitting in that awful traffic (I’ve never gotten a panic attack anywhere else). I tried public transit a few times, but it involved a lot of buses and trains and it was very expensive.

    After three years of doing this we finally found a house in Capitol Hill, a little over a mile from my office. Now I walk to work every day and always look forward to my commute. I get to see both the Capitol and the Washington Monument during my walk. I peruse the variety of old rowhouses in my historic district, always spotting a new feature I never noticed before, and I admire the gorgeous flowering plants that so many people have in their yards. I see the kids heading to school. I see people in the parks with their dogs, and the lady that rollerblades in the Hine parking lot every morning. I watch bakers making pop tarts in the window at Ted’s Bulletin, and workers unloading fresh produce at the Yes! Organic Market. Handsome uniformed Marines wish me good morning as I walk by, and sometimes I can hear the band rehearsing in the Barracks. I greet the friendly cats that hang out at Ginkgo Gardens, a beautiful garden center on 11th Street, and catch glimpses of muscular arms lifting weights at Atlas Fitness. Towards the end of my walk I observe the progress on the 11th Street Bridge project.

    My coworkers think it’s strange that I don’t drive– I still have a car, and parking at work is free– but I end up logging 50 minutes of exercise just from walking to and from work, and I believe the benefits are mental as well as physical. I’m much more relaxed and clear-headed than I was when I had a driving commute, and my headaches and neck pain have vanished completely. I’m so grateful that I’m able to walk to work now; it’s such a joy and it’s an opportunity that few people have.

  • Rufus

    My old job was located next to the PG Plaza Mall. Management constantly complained about the location, but it really wasn’t that bad. Plenty of transit options for us non-drivers, a number of (albeit cheap) restaurants within walking distance, and even a grocery store nearby. But management persisted in their delusion that the office shared their distaste for the place and unilaterally decided to move us to a disconnected office park outside of Largo. This was no big deal for the boss; her daily commute from West Virginia would be barely affected. But the non-drivers were out of luck. At least two (who were lucky enough to have the option financially) bought cars. The rest of us would have to rely on an hourly shuttle bus from the metro. My commute from Silver Spring would be about 2-3 hours by transit.

    I promptly quit. I made sure they knew why I was quitting. They offered me a promotion. I turned it down.

    I was lucky enough to find a job with comparable salary near Metro Center. When my lease was up I moved into an apartment on Capitol Hill, an easy 2-mile walk to work. With my office to the west, I can walk to work and home with the sun always at my back. I can hop on the train at Union Station if I’m feeling a little rushed. And if I want to bury my face in a book on the way home there are two bus routes servicing the corridor.

    I haven’t tried taking CaBi to work yet, but even just knowing it’s an option contributes to my sense of well-being.

  • Ryan Brady

    Ferry is 12 miles from San Francisco. It’s another 4 miles to my house. I guess it might be a bit confusing… usually I take the bus to work and then one of the other options back.

  • Based on net travel time: for my first job out of college my commute could’ve been classified as “elevator”.

    …though now it involves a reverse commute from the core of a city out to the distant suburbs: a 20 minute walk, a 30 minute subway ride, and a 20 minute drive. The only part I’d want to cut is that last one.

  • I walk down the stairs and make coffee and go sit on the couch! That’s my commute. It’s not too bad at all. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind a short trip on a bike though. That’s why I just got a dog, so I can do a little walking!

  • Pancake

    I pay more to live in the city because I put a high value on time and I learned that even living out of the city, the cost of owning a car or taking public transportation daily can out-cost city living. I am about a 1.3 miles from work, which I can walk or ride a CaBi to. It takes approximately the same amount of time to walk as it does to take a bus and half the time to bike.

    I’m not prone to traffic jams or metro delays, and I do relish listening to the radio hearing about the continuous issues that plague the systems because it’s something I avoid. This makes me feel a little evil.

    Some days, I even come home for lunch for a nap. That availability alone makes my form of transportation (my legs) well worth the extra money expelled in rent.

  • RidesOnFoothill

    I live in silicon valley. The commutes I’ve hated were the one where I felt like I had to drive everyday. Twice I’ve moved from ~ 5-6 miles to ~ 3 miles distance and been able to change from mostly auto to mostly bike.

    6 years ago my company moved us to a new site, and my distance went back up to 12 miles. I had to change my old mindset that > 6 miles was too far to bike commute, because I knew I did not want to get back into the car-cage every day. So I found a bike-on-bus / bike alternative, with a frequent, limited stop bus service, and 4 easy-flat biking miles. I usually just ride the whole way home. The route is streets with bike lanes, or the emergency lane on a county expressway, with very few bike/auto conflict points.
    I like the predictability of the commute (my co-workers get traffic alerts from Google. Whoop-tee-do!), getting outside every evening, and the built in human interaction with other bus riders or bike riders.

  • I moved from London to New York City last August and my commute now is longer than it was in London (I used to do an 11-mile round trip between Brixton and Southwark; now I make an 18-mile round trip between Brooklyn and midtown Manhattan).

    But I have to say my commute in New York is nearly always the best bit of my day. I get to cycle four miles each morning up the Hudson River Greenway between TriBeCa and 54th Street

    I don’t care particularly (at all some mornings) for traffic conditions in BoCoCa, TriBeCa or midtown and general motorist attitudes towards cyclists or cycle facilities (when I read that 70% of New Yorkers support bike lanes, I often think, ‘Yeah, but wait ’til someone tells them they’re not just for double parking!’)

    But, ultimately, it feels a real privilege to be enjoying the open air in one of the world’s very greatest cities and enjoying the Greenway and, as I describe here, the Brooklyn Bridge: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-pain-to-use-but-joy-to-be-on-joys-of.html

  • Nadiamac

    I started riding to work last year after ten years of car commuting. I’m not
    a newbie to bike commuting- riding was my primary mode of transport for
    about 13 years, most recently when I was in school riding up and down the
    hills with my school books in my panniers, but I’d been car commuting for a
    while. I returned to cycle commuting last year as a way to integrate
    exercise and commuting and to get some JOY in my morning commute.

    My canonical route is the most direct route between my home in San Francisco
    and my work in South San Francisco. The ride is 1/3 city riding, 1/3
    semi-suburban and 1/3 blissful Bay Trail

    It’s not all pretty on this route, which features some fairly gritty urban
    riding, but part of the ride are beautiful, with views of a local mountain
    and the SF Bay. To minimize some of the traffic congestion on the gritty
    part of the route, I leave early- between 6am and 7am. It turns out that I
    really like getting to work on the early side and I really, really like
    leaving work by the fixed company-bus schedules (I ride the company bus back
    to the city, then ride home from the bus stop)

    The biggest benefits to bike commuting for me? The exercise and stress
    relief. My best days at work start with a bike ride. I have noticeably lower
    levels of stress throughout the day. Endorphins in action? I don’t know but
    whatever the mechanism, I’ll take it!

  • I’ve never taken a car to work, except when I was in high school in a small town. During the winter and bad weather I take the CTA in Chicago to work. Now that the weather’s warmer, I’ve started taking my bike. Except for the occasional strong wind, it’s a great 9 mile ride (except the short downtown stretches with rude drivers), and will save me hundreds of dollars a year.

  • SarahT

    I have the best possible commute. I cycle 4.4 miles from the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago to the downtown core. I get to ride over the Chicago river and see the city’s great architecture in changing seasons and light. I ride with a really fun community of riders, exchangings hellos and good mornings. I get to use the city’s amazing new bike lanes on Dearborn. And, I wrap it up by walking into the federal courthouse, out-of-breath and smiling, while my coworkers look on with curiosity.

  • Lisa R

    I used to live and work in Los Angeles as a production assistant which meant I spent at least six hours a day in my driving my car. I gained weight, was too lethargic to exercise after my frequent 14 hour days, and experienced a rough car accident.

    I moved to SF and work from home so I did a 180 with my commute situation. I ride my bike and walk everywhere: to the grocery store, restaurants, bars, friends houses, and to the park. Love it!

  • I used to drive to work near Pearl and 26th st. in Tacoma Wa. from East Hill of Kent (25 ish miles). And every day I would get to work exhausted, and not ready to go do gardening, or maintenance. Then my parents stopped letting me use the car, and I had decided I needed to start getting used to biking anyways (As I am in college, and after that summer I was moving off campus to where the fastest affordable commute to school is biking (Chicago, Navy Pier to IIT) So, I started biking to the sounder, where I had wifi and played games for 30 minutes on my computer, then taking the Tacoma Link Light Rail, then a bus up the hill, and my bike for the last 2000 feet again. And on the way home (average of downhill) I’d bike all the way back to the streetcar (4 or 5 miles of rolling hills and a large downhill), and sometimes if I missed the streetcar, I’d race it and catch up with it, or just bike to the train(commuter train). After I started biking/bussing/training to work I felt so much better when I got there, I’d also stop at starbucks on my way in since that’s where the bus let off, and I just felt so much better. The commute increased from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, but it didn’t bother me at all. I could even nap on the train, rather than ultra-focusing on Seattle-Area Traffic. Nowadays though I live downtown Chicago and bike or take the bus/train wherever I need to go (usually bike) And I live close enough to work that I walk to work often. (.75 miles). I’ve lost a pile of excess weight, feel better about myself, have fewer physical problems, and when I’m out riding I feel better than anything. Weeks where its too rainy or cold and I take the “L”/bus all week I get kinda depressed.

  • My commute is sweet because I’ve got options:

    a) Walk past Denver’s lovely Capitol, then through historic Civic Center Park to catch a free shuttle bus along the 16th Street Mall. The bus drops me in front of the Tattered Cover, an awesome local bookstore that opens early to sell coffee. After grabbing a delicious chai, I head around the corner to my office.

    b) Take a bike ride down the Cherry Creek bike path. It’s a quiet 2 mile commute where I can stop to check out wildlife along the creek. And, because my work is sweet, there is plenty of bike parking and showers are available for super hot days.

    c) Feeling lazy? Running late? That means I carpool with my bf. Rarely any traffic, and it’s on his way, so I can’t feel too bad about it. 🙂

  • Katie

    When I moved from Boston to the DC suburbs over a year ago, I was sure I’d have to get a car for my commute. But after making it all the way through my pregnancy without a car, it just didn’t seem like a car would really be necessary. Now my commute involves getting my 10-month old to and from daycare on the bus, which, with rare exceptions, is wonderful for everyone involved. He loves the bus, and despite the fact that he can’t talk yet, he manages to make lots of friends. They call him “The Happy Baby.” As soon as he sees the bus coming down the road, he starts squealing and kicking his legs, and once we get on, he just charms everyone on the bus by smiling and chattering away at all of them. The other day, someone started snapping out a beat, and my little guy was just dancing along… I seriously thought maybe someone was about to break into song, like we were in a musical or something. Sometimes if we have to wait a while for the bus, we just sit on the ground and he crawls around for a bit (it’s a fairly quiet, residential street). Maybe we’ll get some weird looks, but he doesn’t know that “normal people don’t sit near the curb and play.” He’s just happy to be able to explore outside! The other part of my commute, to and from work, is just a quick bus ride or a 30-min walk. So, yeah, seeing how happy my baby is on the bus and how happy he makes everyone else, getting in some extra exercise, and getting time outdoors with my baby instead of having him strapped in to a carseat? What’s not to like?

  • Alon Levy

    My description of last semester’s commute:

    “I live about 3 minutes from an express bus stop, where I can get the express bus and be at UBC within 15 minutes, whereupon I can walk from the diesel bus loop to my classroom in 6 minutes. Since I teach at 10 in the morning, it means I should leave around 9:30 or just before and then with rush hour headways I can be guaranteed not to be late to my own class. Unfortunately, because classes start on the hour, everyone wants to ride the last bus that makes the 10 am classes, and by the time this bus gets to my neighborhood, it is full. To guarantee getting on a bus I need to be at the bus stop by 9:20 or not much later, which since I have no real reason to show up to campus 15 minutes ahead of time lengthens my effective commute to 40-45 minutes.”

  • Jake Williams

    Upon graduating from college at UCLA, I moved back home to Chicago to start my working career as an engineer. I had commuted to internships before, one in Kenosha, WI and one in Melrose Park, IL, so I was already exposed and accustomed to the solo commute by automobile. I was looking for work anywhere in the metro area, and when I was offered a job in Lincolnshire, a suburb of Chicago 26 miles from my apartment, I was not phased. Little did I know, that the next four years would at times literally
    “drive” me crazy.

    The commute affected my whole life and actually made me dread going to and from work. I tried waking up early in the morning, and while it was nice seeing the sunrise, it was not a sustainable schedule. I worked longer hours, and although the morning commute was somewhat more tolerable, the commute home was about as awful. I tried breaking up the afternoon commute by heading straight to the gym and then going home. The result was that I was gone 14 hours a day and exhausted, constantly. I would become angry and irritable. I needed a “cool-off” period when I got home. I stalked the roads religiously on traffic sites and on the various radio stations, but knowing never changed what was coming. I realized that the commute had completely conquered me when I left work one snowy winter day and got so frustrated with the stagnation on the road that I turned around and went back to work, for hours.

    So, when times got rough and I was laid-off from work, the strange overwhelming feeling was of relief. Ironically, I was supposed to be laid-off a day earlier, but I had to call off work because my car had broken down. I was disenchanted with my career choice and lifestyle choice, and I realized after a couple of months, that I had the power to change all of that. I decided that
    I had one of many new goals: to walk to work.

    After a lot of exploration and searching, I found THE job, and it was only 3 miles from my apartment in a nice residential neighborhood of the Chicago where I used to live. This was a commute that I could handle: 11 minutes door-to-door by car or 25-30 minutes by walking and bus. It was a start, but given that I still had a car, and there was not a direct bus or train route, I found myself driving more frequently than taking the public transportation. It was only 3 miles, but I still dreaded it a little. It is as if there is a cumulative frustration when solo commuting by car that once amounted to a certain level, it takes only the slightest road block to conjure an awful irritability.

    I got a road bike to replace my old, beat-up mountain bike, which made riding into work much more enticing. This was one of the best decisions I could have made. The city all of a sudden shrank in scale. What was once a recreational pastime for me became my preferred mode of transportation. I replaced many of 4.5 mile car trips from the office to my girlfriend’s place with bike trips, and I did not lose any time! I was on the right path.

    When my lease came to term last September, I only considered places within a mile radius of my workplace, and I landed a spot a half mile down the road. That first walk to and from work was a blissful experience. I could walk home
    for lunch; I could wake up minutes before my work day was slated to begin; and I could plan for anything after work without worrying about hour long delays. I could focus on the important things in life, including work. But there was a problem: I still owned a car.

    As proof that the “convenience” of an automobile is addictive, I actually on occasion drove 1/2 a mile to work. Insanity. It had to end. And so I sold it. For $300 – anything to get it off my hands. Good bye insurance payments, city
    stickers, license plate renewals, snow removal, parking fees, gas pumping, and trips to the mechanic. Hello sanity.

    My motivations for this change were of course not only to save time. I do something I love now, and even though I am earning less based on my career change from engineering to non-profit work, I can save money. It’s a healthier choice, both physically and mentally. It’s better for the environment, which as a member of the Chicago Conservation Corps, I am extremely conscious
    of. And it’s fun!

    So, in summary, my commute was 2-3 horrible hours minimum each day by car; then, it was 11 tolerable minutes each way by car; then it was occasionally 15 minutes by bike; and now it is 12 glorious minutes each way by my own two feet (or 3 minutes by bike!). I drove enough miles to go around the world 3 times over and only went as far as Michigan, and now I walk, bike,
    train, or bus everywhere I can. When I do drive for work purposes, I use a local, non-profit car sharing service called I-GO.

    To cap it off, my girlfriend and I are moving in together in June to a new apartment. She will continue to take the train or bike downtown for work, and I will continue to walk or bike, even a little less (0.4 miles!).

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  • Daniel Winks

    What a lot of people don’t realize is that driving has a lot of ‘latent time’ that needs to be fully accounted for if you’re comparing it to other transit options, especially biking. Driving is very expensive, while biking is nearly free. Sure, it might take you around an hour to drive, but that’s just the time ‘behind the wheel’. 32 miles would take around an hour or so ‘behind the desk’ to pay for, for someone making a median wage or there about. So compared to biking, which is 130 straight minutes of commuting, driving is about 60 minutes behind the wheel and another 60 minutes behind the desk, making them take about the same amount of time out of your day. If you then spend another hour exercising, since driving isn’t exercise, then biking saves you quite a bit of time, as you’ve already gotten your exercise from the bike ride.

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