While parallel parking my car this past weekend, I noticed an unfamiliar sound when turning my steering wheel to the right. To save some money, I brought the car to my local mechanic instead of the local dealership. I admittedly enjoy the conveniences that come with having the dealership make my car repairs, like valet service and a loaner car, but I wanted to be adventurous. Knowing that the nearest bus stop is less than a mile from home, I thought to myself, “I’m going to take the bus to work.” I tracked down the schedule, looked for the stop nearest to my office – which, as it turns out, was directly in front of the building—and I was ready to go. The morning came and I walked to the bus stop in almost perfect weather, leaving me with no regret about my decision. I could have relied on several coworkers who live nearby to give me a ride to work but I wanted to attempt to do what so many other people do every day. I was also able to sneak in an extra mile walk on top of the three miles of elliptical training I put in earlier that morning. It is no wonder that, according to the American Public Transportation Association, people who live in communities with high quality public transportation drive less, exercise more, live longer and are generally healthier than those who do not. In waiting for the bus to arrive, something dawned on me: If I could take the bus to work every day, I could also save a substantial amount of money.
It costs about $80 each week to put gas in my car, whereas taking the bus would only cost me $20 a week. Something I would later find out is that public transportation saves 4.2 billion gallons of gas annually, a two-person household can save over $10,000 a year by downsizing to one car, and public transportation provides economic opportunity and drives community growth. I boarded the bus once it arrived and, in a matter of moments, I experienced something in my daily commute that I had not experienced in quite a while: “Me time.” The ride gave me 60 full minutes of uninterrupted time where I was able to sit back, relax, and not have to worry about the drivers or traffic around me. It gave me an opportunity to take in the sights along the way, as well as note the local upcoming events being publicized. When my ride came to an end, I gave some thought to something a local politician discussed at a breakfast I attended several months back. They were discussing the pressing need to invest in public transportation. They claimed that making an effort to connect major downtowns to job centers, transportation centers, housing and research centers would attract younger, highly skilled workers. I was initially skeptical, but I now realize that public transportation might not be as bad as I once thought.
Public transportation still has its drawbacks, at least for me, on days where I have to travel elsewhere for work or on days when I have to shuttle my kids around. However, after this experience, I am personally challenging myself this summer. I will attempt to more frequently use public transportation for my work commute and not rely so much on my personal vehicle. Perhaps my car needing repair was a blessing in disguise, or possibly a reminder to be more conscientious of our environment. Veronica Byrnes is a Senior Project Architect at H2M. You can reach Veronica at firstname.lastname@example.org