The benefits of transit, carpooling, biking, and walking have been well documented on this blog and elsewhere, however, these options are not always feasible, especially for commuters with kids. At events we typically hear things like “I would love to bike commute, but I don’t have time after dropping the kids off at school” or “If I carpooled to work, how would I get home in case my child gets sick during the day?” These are valid concerns for parents whose commutes are often dictated by their children’s hectic school and activities schedule and usually demand a high degree of flexibility when it comes to travel modes.
While traveling by car may seem like the only option when shuffling kids from one location to the next, there are alternatives for parents who want more choices when it comes to their commute. Even leaving the car at home just once or twice a week can help avoid traffic on the way to work and save money on their transportation costs. Here are some simple tips and ideas to consider that can help reduce commuting stress, improve productivity at work, and still get your kids where they need to be.
- Talk to your employer about alternative work schedules! Changing your hours so you can get the kids off to school while giving yourself enough time to catch the bus/bike/walk to work can provide the flexibility needed to get to work on time using your preferred commute mode. In the ATP office, our work schedules reflect our individual needs – some of us work 9:30am to 6:30pm to get the kids to school in the morning or 7am to 4pm so they can be home in time to pick them up. Teleworking is also a great option for working parents, since you no longer have to spend time during the day traveling to and from work and can better coordinate around kids’ schedules.
- New technology and tools have made it much easier to take public transit. If you live in a well-connected area, such as the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor or Columbia Pike, try taking the kids with you on transit! Web-based tools such as Service Nearby, Trip Planner, and Next Train/Bus are great ways to figure out where the closest transit stop is to you and how long until the next train or bus is coming. Smart phone apps such as DC Rider and iCommute also can keep you informed when riding the bus or Metro. For busy parents, knowing the available options and being able to plan ahead is crucial when traveling with kids. Not to mention that taking transit helps you save money on gas and you don’t have to spend time trying to find parking! Try one of these tools out today!
- Sign up for the Guaranteed Ride Home (GRH) program! Sponsored by Commuter Connections, the GRH program is a great solution for parents who have the "sick child dilemma" and are worried about the lack of flexibility that may come with ridesharing or taking transit.
- For commuters who ride transit, carpool, vanpool, bike, or walk at least twice a week are eligible to receive up to four free cab rides home a year in the event of an unexpected emergency! Enroll in the program today and give yourself the peace of mind and confidence to use other modes of transportation for your commute.
- For the truly ambitious parents, there are some awesome high-occupancy bicycles (HOBs) out there that are great for toting kids, groceries, and other stuff around! These specialty bikes can be a little pricier than a typical bicycle, but when compared to the cost of owning a vehicle, it is definitely more affordable than driving. In addition, there’s the potential to get some great exercise!
Do you have additional ideas or suggestions for car-free commuting parents? Let us know!