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Focusing On The Good Commutes

Elizabeth A. Denton
Elizabeth A. Denton January 28, 2013 Elizabeth A. Denton is a former Business Development Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners.
ATP TAKEAWAY: People often remember the one bad experience on public transit, but don’t remember the routinely good ones. Let's take some time to appreciate all the times our commutes went right!

The Washington, DC metro area has experienced some bipolar weather lately, to say the least. Regardless of how you feel about climate change, or climate “disruption,” as some prefer to call it, tricky temperatures make it hard to figure out your morning commute. Add Metro problems and traffic jams to the icy mix, and it makes the perfect storm for people to complain about how terrible their commutes are.

But here’s a question – how often are you inconvenienced during your commute? How often is your Metro train or bus delayed, really? If you think back, how many truly awful commutes have you experienced in the last month (Inauguration Day travel doesn’t count)? Are you now thinking, “Um, well, I guess not that many…”? It’s an interesting fact about humans – we remember the one bad experience we have had, but don’t remember the routinely good ones.Rosslyn metro

I recently experienced a perfect multi-modal weekend. On Saturday, we walked in the other direction to jump on a bus that took us directly to the Seven Corners area to Target and Home Depot. Walking out of Home Depot, we saw on the Next Bus website that our return bus was departing in 15 minutes, so we easily hauled our loot home. That evening, we walked to the Metro station to ride up to Foggy Bottom, to attend the National Symphony Orchestra performance at the Kennedy Center. Although we had to wait about 15 minutes for the train afterwards, it was on time and not full. The next day, we biked to Bailey’s Crossroads for some more shopping, and experienced not a single problem in either direction.

While we are used to being so multi-modal, this weekend stood out to me because, well, because nothing stood out. No problems with the bus schedule, the bus not arriving on time, having to wait 30 minutes or more for the next one. No train delays, overcrowding, no mechanical problems. No being threatened by cars while we biked to Bailey’s Crossroads. Nothing. Just simple transportation.

Many times, when we encourage clients to try public transportation, and giving up their cars for a day or two every week, we hear stories, probably often repeated, about how “Once, when I was taking the Metro to ____ and it was awful.” So one bad experience has left that person afraid to esnow bikingver try it again. Can you imagine if we treated our computers like that? Or our smart phones? “Oh, I tried the Facebook app once and something went wrong, so I’ll never try it again.” As my mother was fond of saying to me when I was little, “If at first you don’t succeed, try it again.” 

So what would it take you to try your public transportation again? Make a list of the pluses and minuses, maybe, or list the barriers that prevent you from trying it. Do you find that the pluses really do outweigh the minuses? Or maybe there is only one plus, but it outweighs all the minuses. Regardless of what it is, take an unemotional look at your commute. If you are steamed every morning you get to work because you’ve been sitting in terrible traffic, maybe it’s time to give public transportation one more try.

Tags: Commute


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