Inspired by our trip to Montreal earlier this month — where we could hop on the subway at any location and generally get where we wanted to go without too much planning — my partner Molly and I “Bring home the adventure” by leaving our cars home one workday a week. So far, we’ve had two “Commuter Challenge” Thursdays, successfully making it to our destinations and home each time, but not without significant amounts of planning and dedicated travel time.
I work in St. Paul, and it takes 20-30 minutes to get there from my house by car. My schedule typically allows me to avoid rush hour traffic, but on occasion, I get caught smack in the middle of it and the driving commute can take up to an hour. It is during these times I feel most guilty about being another person burning gasoline and adding a host of invisible pollutants, as well as my own crazily large share of CO2, to our air just to move a couple thousand pounds of metal and 135 pounds of myself. So, in addition to providing an interesting adventure and plenty of time to read, taking our Thursday commuter challenge makes me feel good about being “one less car.”
Unfortunately, the Twin Cities Metro Transit system isn’t nearly as good as it could be. Every route available from my neighborhood to St. Paul takes between 40 and 86 minutes with at least one transfer. And, those are the scheduled times — times that don’t necessarily apply in say, a rain storm when the Nicollet Mall farmers market is closing down.
Prioritizing adventure over functionality, I opted for the 86 minute version of the trip — I wanted to ride the train for one leg of my route — and everything went smoothly. Instead of taking a direct route to my St. Paul destination down University Avenue — which also appears to be an 86 minute ride — I wound up going to downtown Minneapolis (S & W), down Highway 55 (SE) to 46th Street, across the river (E) on Ford Parkway, up Cleveland (N) to Randolph (E) to Snelling, where I caught another bus north to Grand.
I know for sure I took my car out of the commuting mix, but I have no idea if this “grand ” trip actually saved any energy or reduced my Greenhouse Gas Contribution. That will have to be a topic of a future post. Never-the-less, on that first Commuter Challenge Thursday, I opted for the 40 minute return trip, via out-of-the-way Rosedale Mall, to make up for the morning’s time investment.
Last week, for the second Thursday Commuter Challenge, I did my best to simplify my routes using the same ones for the morning and evening. This route will work well for pleasant weather commutes, but not so well for other times because it includes a mile-long walk. Despite one glitch involving the rainstorm and taking down of the farmers market mentioned earlier, this route went smoothly. As I work toward adding additional Commuter Challenge days to my work week, I think taking the 11 to the 94 express to the 84 will be my “New way to move.”
In the meantime, we’re sticking to Thursdays, hoping to offer observations to MetroTransit so they can improve upon our metro-area’s semi-decent mass transit system.