-{The following was written a couple months ago and apparently fell through the cracks}-

The commute terrors continue. On Thursday my morning drive to work alone took three for no discernible reason. I have discovered that if I leave early enough I can sidestep that. “Early enough” can be defined as sometime between 5am (wherein there was no traffic) and 7am (wherein there is much). I’ve been pondering whether or not to start going in to get there at 7, spending two hours in the cafeteria novel-writing, and then working from 9-6. I’ve also determined that since Friday morning traffic is not generally as bad, if I were to come in early on Mondays and work a couple extra hours and come in late every Thursday I could keep the horrendous traffic down to two days a week (and inconsistent Fridays).

One thing that I have not really considered is public transportation.

The main reason for that is that there is no direct route from Soundview, where I live, to Enterprise City, where I work. In order to take the bus, I’d have to drive to a Soundview Park’n’Ride, take a bus to Zaulem, then hop buses to Enterprise. On a good day, that alone would take me two hours. It’s not hard to imagine days where I miss the connect and it takes considerably longer. The upshot would be that I could spend my time doing something other than driving. But that’s about the only upshot and right now audiobooks are keeping me somewhat entertained.

Historically, I would love to take public transportation to work. When I had jury duty in Colosse I had a bus pass and it was awesome. I drove to the PnR in Mayne, got on the bus, and got off near the County Courthouse. To anyone that lives in the suburbs and works in downtown, it’s absolutely great. What a lot of boosters of public transportation don’t realize, though, is that that’s actually only rarely the case. Newer cities are not generally built cleanly around the downtown/suburb model that many people imagine and may see in their own Historic cities. Had they been built around public transportation from the outset, public transportation would likely make a lot more sense for a lot more people and it’s quite likely that we would all be better off. Even with that admission, though, the facts on the ground don’t particularly support public transportation in most cities. The main reason being is that only a fraction of a city’s workforce typically works downtown except in very few metropolitan hubs. Instead you see more things like my current situation where you’re driving from one part of a metro area to another and everybody is driving too and from separate parts.

I frankly have difficulty seeing a more robust public transportation changing that. The industrial parks have already been built. Housing patterns have already been established. It’s possible that in rapidly growing smaller cities like Boise or Reno that they could make a dent, but not in cities that have downtown areas that are simply too small to support the bulk of the city’s workforce. Colosse has an economically robust downtown area in the daytime, and maybe if the incentives were in place more taller skyscrapers would be built, but never enough to keep up, really. You could set up alternate downtowns and the Colosse has done just that, but not enough to justify direct public transportation in many case and the only places for further growth are in the suburbs, which makes it so that public transportation is only supportable from that half or quadrant of the city.

On the other hand, if the goal is to get more cars off the road, it does seem to me that there are cases such as Soundview to New City to Enterprise might be a good idea even if not economically profitable. That’s certainly a case where a not-insignificant number of people would likely take advantage. I think that the biggest problem at the moment is that any such bus route would involve the same Splinterstate that I deal with day in and day out where the HOV lane often gets just as backed up as everything else and for it to work you would need constant back-and-forth which is probably not supportable by the current commuting population. What Cascadia (in concert with my employer, Mindstorm) has instead done is double-down on Vanpooling.

The basic idea behind Vanpooling is that if you can get enough people, the Cascadia Metropolitan Transit Authority (CMTA) will spot you the vehicle and Mindstorm will give you primo parking. I’ve thought about going this route, but the problem with that arrangement is that you lack flexibility. You have to all go and leave at the same time, and in a dynamic work environment like Mindstorm and really most every job I’ve ever held, that’s not realistic. You don’t always know when you leave in the morning what time you’re leaving for home at night. With regular bus service this isn’t a problem because you can just take the next bus, but when you’ve only got one ride home that’s a problem.

What I guess would be ideal would be some sort of system where enough people could pool in together in order to have one bus arrive at 8, one at 9, and one at 10 and then leave at 5, 6, and 7 respectively. That’s a lot of cats to herd.

Category: Elsewhere, Office, Road

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6 Responses to The Perils of Public Transport

  1. Becky says:

    I take the bus everyday and though it takes almost 30 min. to go 3.5 miles into downtown, I realize it could be a lot worse (at least I can usually read). I’ve been hesitant to even consider looking at employers outside the downtown area, for fear of what the extended commute will do — even if transferring buses.

    One thing that drives me crazy here is when people use the HOV lane — and then drive slower than the cars in the other lanes, defeating the purpose of having a reward of an expedited lane for those that carpool.

  2. kevin says:

    I used to take the bus when I lived in a suburb that had a park-n-ride system, and still would if the suburb I live in now had one. I do miss being able to read during my commute. To avoid traffic, I get up at five o’clock (sometimes I’ll sleep late, until 5:30), or sleep in and take my daughter to school at nine. There is nothing I hate more than sitting in traffic.

    Becky, I agree with your observation. Nothing irritates me more than arranging for a carpool so that I can take advantage of the HOV lane, only to get stuck behind someone who lacks the requisite number of passengers and drives at 40 mph.

  3. Peter says:

    Heh, you don’t need to convince me about the miseries of mass transit. Every day I dread being squashed next to elephantine SCA’s and/or caught up in endless delays.

  4. Linus says:

    I have a 35-mile commute that typically takes 35 minutes to drive (yeah, I’m in a rural area). My employer let me and my coworkers switch our schedules from 8- to 9-hour days, and we meet up at the same time every morning (if you’re one minute late, you miss it). We use a company car, although we pay $1.50 each way (keeping track using 10-punch cards). Works great – although our employer loses a little money on the deal, it’s an attractive thing to advertise to potential new hires.

  5. Sheila Tone says:

    I’ve never found any benefit to using any public transit in Southern California. It’s always too slow, time-consuming, and full of non-professionals (at best). Even the “commuter” train system, Metrolink, is pretty bad. I tried taking it a couple times when I worked downtown and lived in an outlying area. It added 45 minutes to the trip and had a very limited schedule. And, frankly, I didn’t like the company.

    What was *really* annoying is that anytime anyone heard where I lived and worked, they’d ask, “Ooh, do you take the *Metrolink*?” With a weirdly sanctimonious tone. As if, they liked to imagine that having a halfassed commuter rail made SoCal like Manhattan or Boston. *They* didn’t take it, of course, but seemed to figure since I lived farther out I should take one for the green team.

  6. trumwill says:

    Oddly, I’ve never had a problem with the company on public transportation. I think that it’s because in Colosse the only routes I’ve taken were from one well-to-do locale to another or, up here, has usually involved trips at 4-6 in the morning when less desirables are less likely to be going somewhere.

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