Friday, April 16, 2010

A Commuted Sentence...

Like many Austinites who live in the burbs and work downtown, I have waited several years for Metro Rail to launch in Austin. Lite rail had been an option on several electoral ballots and I was really excited when it finally passed. Like many other supporters, I practiced patience throughout the planning process--even through last year's postponement of the service. Needless to say, I was very excited to be among the first to use Metro Rail when it began its services in mid-March.

For more than twenty years, I have commuted more than twenty-six miles a day [round trip] from home to work. I would try to calculate that in miles and hours for everyone, except that I would probably embarrass myself. Instead, I will save myself the embarrassment by simply admitting to having only subpar math skills. For all the math geniuses out there [I salute you], you can attest that this is a huge amount of:

  • time;
  • miles;
  • gas; and,
  • vehicular wear and tear.

[Not to mention the numerous hand gestures and curses from other drivers trying to get nowhere fast in Austin.]

Austin had mass transit services that were already available [the bus system]. Even though I live close to the Highway 183 Park and Ride, I never took the bus because if I was going to have to sit in traffic anyway, I preferred to be in the comfort of my own vehicle, on my own schedule, without strangers invading my space.

The rail, however, offered a much more appealing ambiance to the commuter experience. The station was built within four miles of my home. The cars were aesthetically pleasing. There was WiFi in case I wanted to work while in transit. There were bike racks if I decided to bike to the station and totally eliminate my carbon footprint [which I plan to do in the near future]. Plus, the tracks were not crowded with cars. I understood that the tracks would be shared by other trains which would mean some occasional delays; but, not nearly as often as I had experienced delays sitting on Mopac.

I wasn't sure if my metamorphosis into a full-fledged Metro Rail commuter would be easy. To begin with, I would no longer have the freedom to jump in my car and go somewhere on a whim. There was the question of how quickly I could reach my children if they became sick at school. Then, there was the concern of inclement weather coupled with the fact that the Downtown Station was a mile away from my office. Nevertheless, I was committed to giving it a try.

The hardest part was adjusting to living on a time table. In order to make my train, I have drop dead times when I have to leave my house and my office. I often cannot have the extra cup of coffee in the morning; and, at 5:30 pm each weekday, my work must be wrapped up because I have to get out of the door to head back to the station.

My husband has really encouraged my desire to make this transition. He has made adjustments to be available for the kids during the day if the need arises. As for the weather, I have purchased a rain pancho that keeps me dry in wet weather. If The Angry Thunderstorm rolls into town, I walk a block and a half and wait for Capital Metro Bus 4 which will take me to the front door of my office. Most days I just walk the mile to and from the station. [Granted, I may alter my opinion on the weather once Summer arrives...]

I can honestly say that I have gained more than I have lost--except for in my waistline. That's right, I have dropped nearly five pounds in three weeks because I have increased my amount of walking by two miles a day. In addition, I:
  • Save approximately $100 per month in gas;
  • Minimize the wear and tear on my car;
  • Use the time on the train to read or relax;
  • Meet new people on board;
  • Experience no road rage;
  • Experience scenery in Austin that I've never seen [the Bluebonnets are beautiful along the track!]; and, best of all...

I knew I had successfully transitioned yesterday when I had to drive to work for the first time since taking the Metro Rail. I had focus groups and knew that I would have to work late. Traffic was normal for Austin--stop and go along Mopac. By the time I got to the office, I was exhausted. I felt that I had been in-carcerated [Did you get that one?] by traffic signals, brakelights and wet roadways. Having sat through the experience again, I can honestly say that I do not miss feeling locked in by traffic. I prefer a "commuted sentence." I'm staying with Metro Rail.

1 comment:

  1. You know those express buses at the same park-and-ride likely drop you off right in front of your office rather than a mile away, right?