After the response from last weeks post, thinking about public transit a lot this month and it being National Bike to Work Day tomorrow I thought it would be timely to talk more about transportation habits. Making small changes in how we get around is an important way of cutting our carbon monoxide pollution which is a key part of green living.
Growing up in suburbia, public transportation was never a part of day to day life, hell neither was walking or biking. Everywhere we went the one and only option was jump in Mom’s van and drive. When I went away to college that all changed.
I went to the University of California Santa Cruz where freshmen and sophomore’s are not even eligible for on campus parking permits. I know this was a deal breaker for many students, not having their cars was not an option. Coming from SoCal where everyone is attached to their cars at all times, I knew this was going to be a challenge. The saving grace was that our student ID’s got us unlimited access to the city bus system, the only problem was I had no idea how to use public transportation. The first week of school I was super nervous and unsure, about a lot of things of course, but a main concern was using the public transportation. Like anything practice makes perfect or at least brings about comfort and confidence.
By the end of that first month I was a pro, I could get anywhere on campus or in the city I needed to go. I really began to enjoy my time commuting on the bus. Before class I was often reviewing notes or finishing up the reading that was due that day and after I was able to sit back, enjoy the view (that campus is so beautiful) and catch up with friends while someone else did all the driving. Even though during my last two years of college I could’ve applied for a parking pass, I never did. I didn’t see any reason to spend the extra money on an expensive campus parking pass when the buses were free and so easy to use.
Public transportation is a great addition into living green. CO2 is the leading cause of climate change and anything we can do to drive less in our personal cars the better. I love that Google will give you directions somewhere and tell you how long it would take to drive, walk, bike or use the local public transportation. I challenge you to check out those tabs on Google maps and see what your town has to offer.
I’m so grateful for those years living in Santa Cruz and learning the ropes of public transportation. It’s been an invaluable skill especially when traveling internationally. Even if you don’t know the language the structure of public transit is pretty much the same everywhere. Where to buy your tickets, how to read the maps, and how the system works to call your stop are remarkably consistent all around the world.
I was on a 6 week jury duty case a few years ago (yes, 6 weeks, you read that right) and the court wouldn’t pay for downtown parking but they would pay for a trolley pass. I really loved being able to read a book and chill out during that commute downtown to the courthouse. I was so surprised how many other jurors were paying out of their own pockets, up to $25 for parking every day. If you don’t really know how public transit works it feels like a big hurdle and disruption to your everyday life to give it a try, that’s why I ended up having lots of conversations with other jurors about how to use the trolley, where they could park, what line to take and how to get their passes. Trolley ambassador, LOL! I got a few of my fellow jurors to become trolley riders too, YAY! Knowledge is power and if you don’t feel comfortable on public transit you wont use it. Take the leap and give it a try!
Sadly my work is not on a trolley route. To get to work by public transit I would have to take two buses for an hour and a half one way when my driving commute is only 20 minutes. To me that’s just not worth it.
Public transportation is great if it’s efficient getting you to where you need to go in a timely manner. With a little bit of research and exploring I now know that the trolley and train in my city are great ways to get around but the buses are not. I’m not saying you should sell your car and only use public transportation. I’m just saying do a quick Google search and see what you find, you might be surprised or disappointed with the options you have. Then at least you’ll know, how the system works in your area. That way when it comes time to vote on bills that support or de-fund things like public transportation you can make informed decisions. After living in a place like Santa Cruz where the system is well funded by University fees and the local government, it’s easy to see that public support is what is needed to make the system work.
You know me I’m not about being perfect, I don’t believe that exists but it never hurts being informed. Trying an alternative means of getting around every now and then is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Walking and Biking
I have to also mention that cutting our CO2 is not only about using public transportation, but also walking more and jumping on our bike to get places that are close but maybe to far to walk. Both of these methods of getting around are fun, healthy and don’t admit CO2 like driving or using public transportation does.
I love living in my walk-able neighborhood but if you don’t live in a particularly walk-able neighborhood, think about biking to where you need to get to. Try the two mile challenge: look on a map and from where you live draw a two mile radius circle around your home. See what is within that circle, is there a grocery store you could get to, a park, library, maybe even work or school? The first time I did this I was so surprised at all the places I now had no excuse not to bike to. If you’re feeling adventurous don’t forget that tomorrow, May 20th, is bike to work day. There will be a lot of cyclist out on the road, so keep an eye out or join in! A fellow eco blogger friend wrote a great post with tons of tips on bike commuting so check it out here!
Do you or would you ever think to use public transportation or bike to get somewhere rather than drive?