At least one Washington commuter is making Take Transit Week permanent. My cousin decided to hop on the bus after a collision this summer, and she hasn’t looked back.
Here’s how it went that first day in mid-August (the other voice you hear is mine):
My cousin loves her car — a 2009 Infiniti G37 coupe. But her enthusiasm to drive was significantly curbed in June when she accidentally rear-ended someone in heavy rush-hour traffic for the second time in two months. Not only did it give her jitters behind the wheel — her insurance payment doubled.
Knowing that taking transit saves money, burns calories, and frees up time, I decided to make The Ask. Since I was commuting downtown for the summer, I suggested we take the bus to the Metro from the stop right outside her development in central Tysons Corner. Before the accidents, she would have laughed it off, but instead she said yes.
Now that my cousin’s been riding a while, I asked her a few questions.
Has switching to Metro saved you money?
The cost of using Metro per month is $196 (bus + train). Parking at the office is $270/month plus $284/month in gas. So my total monthly savings is $358. Additional pluses are less mileage on the car as well as wear and tear on the tires. Also there is less chance of getting in an accident (my personal favorite).
Are there other pros or cons to switching to transit?
Cons: I don’t love being stuck at the mercy of bus and train schedules. Also, driving can take less time. The 11-mile commute by car ranges from 30 minutes on the best day to 90+ on bad days. My transit commute takes about 50 minutes, door-to-door. Plus, I like to have the option to stop on my way home which you cannot do as easily on public transportation.
Pros: On the other hand, it’s less stressful than driving. I used to arrive at work all stressed out from the traffic delays, constant construction and really poor driving going on around me. I can work on my way in as I get service for the BlackBerry on the bus and train.
I’ve found the buses clean and air conditioned. The timetables seem to be pretty accurate. And having two different bus routes within 1 block of my home is convenient.
The bus drop-off at West Falls Church is covered so I don’t get wet when it’s raining. A dedicated, separate entrance to the train platform is provided from the bus area as well. The vast majority of the time I even manage to get a seat both ways.
To top things off, I can get a pre-tax benefit through my firm’s WMATA SmartBenefits program.
Was it easier or harder than driving on the earthquake, hurricane and flood days?
In general, it was easier. While there were delays on transit, the traffic seemed way worse.
The day of the earthquake, it took almost twice as long due to the lower speed limit on tracks during the structural inspections. On the Thursday that Tropical Storm Lee blew through, I waited an hour for the bus — which I expected. But I equated traffic around Tysons to what one would see on Christmas Eve: gridlock. I was very glad to be on the bus.
What are your words of wisdom to anyone considering a bus/Metro commute?
My advice would be to try it for a week, take the time to do the math and calculate the savings. And keep an open mind.
I begrudgingly (still) have to admit I am a public transportation convert. Check back with me in November when the cold and snow has settled in.
If you haven’t tried transit, give it a whirl. You might just become a convert, too.
Crossposted at The Durable Human.