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From Amsterdam to Arlington, Comparing Commutes

Sheila McGraw
Sheila McGraw November 1, 2016 Sheila McGraw is the Property & Development Services Program Manager at Arlington Transportation Partners and has been living car-free since 2012. Having lived in Amsterdam, the city of bikes, she loves to get out and ride and combine her bike trips with other forms of transportation in multi-modal trips.
ATP Takeaway: Tweaking routes and taking various modes can make it easier to commute in a new city, and bring a change of pace in an everyday routine.

I laugh at myself now, thinking of how I always opted for my bike instead of the updated subway in Amsterdam, now that I ride Metro during my daily commute to and from Arlington. Transitioning back to the US, I am reminded of the importance of knowing your transportation options because not all commutes are equal and they have a huge impact on your health, happiness and well-being.

Commuting in Amsterdam

My daily commute in Amsterdam was something I looked forward to.

It was my time of the day where I would enjoy moments of tranquility and beauty before and after work. Living in the north of Amsterdam, I would bike five minutes along the river bank to reach the free ferry or “pont” that ran every seven minutes.

Amsterdam_BackseatPassenger.jpgPhoto Credit: Sheila McGraw, ATP

Boarding the pont with my bike, my daily escape would begin; standing on the front of the ferry, I had access to the sunrise and some of the best views in Amsterdam. Being on the water in stillness, next to my bike for those 10 minutes a day was incredible and it sustained me.

Getting off of the ferry, I would merge with and become part of the sea of bikes behind Central Station. I would bike the rest of the way on a bi-directional path that was completely separated from car traffic. Upon arriving at work, I would have to scour for a bike parking spot even though there were over 100 racks outside of our building, due to the fact almost everyone biked to work.

Map from Motorwal to Piet Heinkade 179

One of the factors that made cycling such an easy part of everyday life was that it was easy to access all amenities I needed on my way home from work, or via a trip-chain. In fact, it would have been much more inconvenient to try to run errands with a car in terms of parking and the inability of getting around the city quickly.

Commuting to Arlington

As I try out different commute options to get from Alexandria to Arlington, I have mostly been biking from home to the King Street or Braddock Metro Stations (I find myself going to King Street more often, even though it is farther away. The bike parking in the Station helps me feel my bike is more secure).

BikesParkedAtMetro.jpgPhoto Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com

From there, I take the Blue Line to Rosslyn. In the morning, I’m usually lucky enough to get to settle into a seat with my favorite podcast on, a very pleasant way to start the day and only experience a bit of stress when the train occasionally stops unexpectedly.

Upon disembarking at Rosslyn, I get a bit of real-life Stairmaster when speed walking up the escalator before tapping out with my SmarTrip card. On my walk from the Station to the office, I have enjoyed beginning to recognize some of the familiar faces on the street along the way.

Map from West Braddock & Russell Road to 1501 Wilson Boulevard

During my evening commute, I have experienced a few variances. I have ridden on trains where I have a short wait time at the platform and get a seat onboard, but have also had to fight my way onto overcrowded train cars where I cannot grab a railing, but am instead stabilized by the shoulders and bellies of my fellow commuters.

As I tinker with my commute options and compare my current commute with my daily travel patterns in Amsterdam, I have realized that the big difference is fluctuations in reliability. I have also realized that stress enters the transportation equation with variations in time and service, and the unreliability is what causes unwanted stress. Thinking about my commute in the future, I want to find the right commute option that brings me similar feelings of joy like my commute in Amsterdam, instead of stress.

What I find really exciting about being a part of the Arlington Transportation Partners team, is that I get to help people explore new commute options and to find out what is most important in improving their everyday life.  

If you work in Arlington and want to try biking to work, your employer can implement bike benefits - they might already offer them. Download our guide below to see how you can set up and take advantage of the transit and bike benefits.

Download the SmartBenefits & Bike Benefits Guide

Tags: Behavior, Commute


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