Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's been ages since I've blogged! Apparently I am much better at taking alternative transportation than blogging on a regular basis. However, as the year closes I have taken some time to reflect on my commuting challenge.

I successfully completed one year of alternative transportation use to commute to work in August. What does a year's worth of commuting look like without you car? For me it looked like this:
981 miles biking and walking
2486 public bus/light rail
791.5 miles shared/carpooling

I will admit that there were times in the winter that were tough. I really missed the sunshine and being on my bike. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the social aspects of taking the bus with my neighbors and friends. The zoo also gave me the coolest bike known to man, a hand-crafted, bamboo three-speed commuter bike from Panda Cycles. So awesome! Check out my friend's website - they are locally owned and created with joy, happiness and environmentally friendly-practices:

Since August, I continue to use alternative transit on a regular basis. However, I have driven more than I would like. In part, this was to give my husband a much needed break. There are times I simply need to be home sooner for his work. There were other instances where I was actually able to pick up my daughter from preschool - a duty he faithfully committed for an entire year. Truly without him, none of this would have been possible. However, with the holidays behind me I hope to make alternative transportation use at least 75% of my commute.

In addition to being thankful for my amazingly supportive husband, I must thank my friends and coworkers that offered me support throughout the year. Amber, George, Trish and Craig thank you for offering rides! My coworkers and boss - in addition to being awesome in general you were over the top in making sure this happened. I owe you all, big time!

I am truly proud of having completed my year. However, there are people who, out of necessity, have been doing it for much longer. For them there will be no reward from their employer. When the bus is late, their employer may not be as understanding either. As RTD continues to make necessary cut backs to routes due to funding difficulties (wow is gas expensive) they will not have alternatives. These are the people I wish received the glory and praise that everyone was eager to give me - all because I chose to do this. Not because I had to do so.

Public transportation supports a cleaner environment and energy independence, creates jobs and provides a much-needed service to our community while bringing us face to face with friends and neighbors. Public transit eases traffic congestion and pollution and provides a safe passage to thousands that are unable to drive. In Denver, the average number of week-day boardings is 322,000! RTD's Access-A-Ride gives nearly 700,000 rides a year to those with disabilities that cannot access regular bus routes.

Although I am truly disappointed and saddened by the needed services cuts that will take place in January of 2012, I am excited that in just another year we will see the expansion of light rail services all over our city. These beautiful and fast trains will help Denver remain a competitive location for businesses and happy commuters!

For those of you who have not tried alternative transportation, check it out. If the bus isn't for you, how about your bike? Need your car to take the kids to and fro? What about giving alternative transportation a try for your trips to the airport, grocery store and library? At times it may seem inconvenient. However the next time you are alone in your car in gridlock, think about how inconvenient that feels. Wouldn't you rather be zooming by on your bike or reading a book on the bus? I know I would. It also doesn't suck to save thousands of dollars each year on gas, while getting more exercise and supporting the environment.

I wish you all happy trails. You can find them if you try.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Making it happen!

Riding the bus has been fun, but I do long for the summer days when I was able to ride my bike. Fortunately, because the bus system in Denver is so robust I have been 100 percent successful in my pledge to continue using alternative transit to work. (Take that, mean blogger who said I would fail by the first snow.)

For Christmas, I have asked for more winter-friendly bike wear. I do need those boot cover things that keep your feet warm and some sort of mask. My husband laughed when I bought what he called a “ski” face mask. I had to educate him that it was meant for biking. Ha!

I have missed the bus - twice. The first time I was taking the bus at 1 p.m. to return home early for the shorter work week over Thanksgiving (24 hour work week for someone who works 10 hour days means I can leave after half a day – or in my case later because I had too much work). That bus was early and she didn’t even slow down with all my flailing and yelling. Fortunately, my friend Amber was returning from lunch and drove me to catch up with the bus so I didn’t have to wait for the next one. The second time I missed the bus was the 5:03 I was taking to connect to the 6 to go to a cooking class. I came back into the office downtrodden dragging my backpack (yes, my new purse is a backpack – I’ve given in to commuting convenience over style). Fortunately for me, our CEO was headed in the same direction for an event and he gave me a ride!

My friend and neighbor George continues to offer me a ride anytime he has one. I have learned to take him up on this as much as possible. Getting home earlier than usual feels like a welcome treat.

I also telecommuted one day last week. The zoo was giving a presentation at Basha’s school in the morning that I wanted to see and Basha had a dance recital in the evening. It made sense to stay home - close to see these festivities – versus taking an hour’s bus ride from the zoo. In addition to thoroughly enjoying watching both events, it was one of the most productive days I have had in a really long time. It’s amazing what you can do without interruptions! I feel caught up, which pretty much never happens.

There has been an increased need to find routes to meet up with friends and family at different locations throughout the area. So far, the bus has been able to accommodate all of these with ease. Perhaps my new favorite route is the “R” which picks me up at an exception stop in front of the museum (meaning you have to wave or they keep driving) and takes me to Civic Center Station. From there I catch the 82X to Belmar in Lakewood where I then can meet the family for dinner, ice skating and shopping – it’s great!

Certainly this holiday season I am thankful that I have such a great family, employer and coworkers. I feel fortunate that I my employer also provides a bus pass! Thanks to the pass I have saved more than $600 on gas money since July. Don’t worry though - I’m doing my best to spend it elsewhere.