Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Driving diet update

Well, it’s been two weeks since I started the driving diet and I have both encourag-ing and slightly frustrating reports. On the one hand, I drove a little over 200 miles each week, which was much less than my target goal of 275. But, I only took the bus to work 3 times in those two weeks. Because, well, the bus is not quite as convenient as the train is. In fact, it’s downright difficult. The first time I took it was first day of my new job. Big mistake! Well, the morning was ok—it only took about an hour and 15 minutes to get there, and driving takes an hour. But it was an unusually late night—I was there until midnight—and after looking online to see what bus to take home, realized that I wouldn’t have made it home until almost 3am, and would have to ride 3 buses. Probably not a smart proposition at that hour. So I asked my new coworkers if anyone happened to be going in my direction, then the whole bus riding thing came out. These people don’t know me and they clearly thought I was a bit off. Anyway, no one was heading in my direction and they all insisted that I take a cab--the owner of the company went so far as to give me money for one. So, I did, and I felt like a total public transportation loser. How pathetic is that? Failure on my first serious bus-riding attempt. Since then, I’ve discovered that one bus on my morning route has been late 2 out of the 3 times I’ve taken it, leaving me waiting for half an hour at the stop. I will have to take it more to see if this truly is the norm. Then, much to my chagrin, it turns out that getting home is much more complicated than my morning ride. Seems that after 7pm or so, the buses come really infrequently, like every half hour. And I have to take 3 of them, so if I hit it wrong, I could potentially spend an hour and a half just waiting, plus the hour or more of driving. Luckily, so far it’s only taken 2 hours, but combined with the 2 in the morning, that doesn’t leave much of a day left. Which brings me to my first lesson in this experiment. If I spend 4 or more hours a day commuting, that doesn’t leave me with much energy to do anything but plop down in front of the tv, or go straight to bed, leaving no energy to work on this blog or any other efforts to curb global climate change. How does taking one car off the road weigh against having little energy to devote to other efforts? And, as I sit on the bus surrounded by people who don’t have the luxury to take the bus voluntarily, I can’t help but think that maybe my privileged position in society could be used in a more productive way. I’m sure my fellow riders dream of what they would do with those extra 4-5 hours a day if they didn’t have to take the bus. I’m reminded of hearing about my sister and her college friends at one of the most prestigious schools in the world dumpster diving Trader Joe’s trash. Good intentions, but what if they put those efforts and their high-level education toward addressing the problem of excessive food waste and unequal access to healthy food in our society, for example? My point is that I think we are all called to figure out the most effective and efficient ways we can each contribute to the problems we are facing. For those of us privileged enough to have choices in our daily lives, I think our biggest challenge is to very intentionally explore where we are most needed. So, I’m not going to stop taking the bus, and I hope you guys won't give up on it either, especially if you have a reasonable commute. But because it is such a time-consuming endeavor to and from my current job, I will likely only take it only once during the workweek on this current job. I will focus on continuing to reduce my weekend driving and will resume taking the train in several weeks when I’m back at my old workplace. In the meantime, I vow to maximize my non-commuting time by exploring new avenues to green my life and get others on board! How have you guys been doing? I want to hear your transit, bicycling, walking, skateboarding, scootering, or whatever stories!


Anonymous said...

Taking the bus can suck sometimes, right? The time difference for my commute between my public transit(bus + light rail)and driving is about 30 minutes each way, and that's on good days when my transfers are quick.

BUT...Other times taking public transit is fabulous! Like my day today!

Some highlights, this morning as it started to snow I was the only person waiting for the bus and I had a peaceful moment(much needed these days!) of morning/bird chirping/snow starting to fall/cars driving by creating these really cool swirly swirl effects in the snow on the road.

Later, after they canceled school midway through first period, a fellow teacher and I took the light rail together. Along the way I got to know him better and as we were in the midst of rush hour we zoomed past the backed up traffic on the freeway. On the train there was a great air of camaraderie that snow days create(in a normally non-snowy area). Same thing when I got off the train downtown, people waiting for the bus were chatting like old friends.

A touch later in the day, I met a hottie at the bus stop(think LL Cool J-Around the way girl), who lives in my neighborhood, and had a great conversation with her all the way home. All in all, not a bad way to live my life. I could have spent my day sitting in a car in traffic by myself...but that's why I live in Portland, not L.A.

The thing with public transit is that it seems to be all about figuring out when it will work for you,when it won't, and what you want out of it. Sometimes waiting for a bus can be stressful or annoying, but as a whole I get more reading done, I'm better in touch with my city, I run into friends randomly, I save money, and last but not least, I'm killing fewer Iraqi children and Alaskan polar bears. Even in L.A. I'm sure there are people that want some of these same things, and it seems that the city is beginning to make it possible, especially now that they're starting to fund light rail.

This being said, it's easy for me to prmote riding public transit, Portland is small enough and already has a great system in place. So...I wanna hear your further observations and experiences about L.A. Be like the little Bus rider that could, prove the doubters wrong!

Sara said...

portland's just sooo perfect, isn't it? seriously, thanks for the great description of your picturesque transit life up there. also, you make a great point about figuring out how public transit can work for you, fitting it somehow, on certain days. and everyone's commute is different--i'm sure some people have reasonable ones, even in LA. i hope i didn't sound too discouraged, but i wanted to share a realistic view of what i've exprienced so far. thanks for your words of encouragement! i think i can, i think i can...

Molly said...

Uh, by dumpster diving, we were not trying to prove any point or change the world. (this is the blogger's sister) We were just trying to get free food! the cost of living in palo alto is pretty high and grocery stores have obscenely strict, and therefore wasteful, regulations about how long something can sit on the shelf. could you blame us for rejoicing when we found bags of pretzels, loaves of bread, oranges, lettuce, yogurt (not even expired!), unbroken eggs, instant mashed potatoes and even an occasional dessert item?

the only problem is, i've heard that now some grocery stores are destroying the food they dump so that it can no longer be retrieved by divers. so it just goes straight to the landfill. wow, what a great fucking country we live in. we've really got our priorities straight. it's more important to prevent people from urban recycling--becuase oh no! if they're getting it free, they're not buying things!--than to be less wasteful.

Sara said...

thanks for the clarification, sis. i'm convinced! who wants to go stake out the back of whole foods with me?