A week without wheelsBy
Whenever gas prices spike, I start to do the math. “If I average 20 mpg and commute 10 miles a day, I’m spending how much more getting to and from work?”
Maybe it’s time to think about alternate modes of transportation.
I could take the bus, carpool, bike to work or even on ambitious days, run.
I’m lucky. According to the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the average commute in Central Indiana is eight miles. Mine is five. The MPO also says the average commuter spends 22 minutes in the car. I spend maybe 15? So, why’s it so hard to consider a new way of getting to work?
I asked a few people that same question Monday.
Anthony Steward, who lives in Noblesville said, “Proximity. It’s not for me. I live 20 miles north.”
I caught up with Sarah Murray and Katie Toy as they walked the Monon Trail. They’re both nursing students at Marian University.
Sarah said she’d thought about biking, but “I don’t live near trails where it’s safe to get to work on.”
Katie added, “Our schedules are busy. We have 12-hour days, so that’s hard too.”
When I asked what might make taking the bus more attractive, Sarah said, “Being cheap and easy. I know that sounds lame but when I was in college, the bus practically came to the door and you could ride it for free.”
Let’s face it. Indianapolis isn’t exactly known for embracing alternate modes of transportation. We get in our cars and stay in them. Yes, we have congestion, but it’s nothing compared to say, Chicago.
Sara Anderson of Indianapolis told me, “I have no choice but to drive. I’ll carpool, but the bus? If I have to I guess, but I’ve never taken it before.”
Throughout my life I’ve traveled to school and work in a variety of ways. In high school, I carpooled. When my mom drove it was five girls and a guitar in her VW Beetle. That was before things like mandatory seat belts and bike helmets, so no, I would not recommend doing that today (and nor would she, if she were still alive.)
I often walked to my job at Happy Foods, a small neighborhood grocery a little less than a mile away and I rode my bike to a job in downtown Evanston while on summer break from college. I also took the El and the Chicago and North Western commuter train to my first full-time job after college, which was in downtown Chicago.
I never minded those alternate modes, except when Cathy O’Grady actually tried to play her guitar in my mom’s Volkswagen. Okay, not really, but I liked being able to read on the el and loved the exercise I got riding my bike to work.
But truth be known, I haven’t commuted much since then. Okay, not at all, unless you count the Bike to Work stories I do each year.
Why? The extra time, too much planning, walking to the bus stop, riding or running in rain, sleet and snow, my love for hitting the snooze button…I’ve got the excuses covered.
Having said that I’m ready to look at things anew and explore my options.
Tuesday, I plan to take the bus. I will also carpool, bike and walk or run to work this week. I realize it’s not a commitment, not the same as carpooling every day, but I hope to get a feel for the pros and cons. And just maybe I’ll say, why didn’t I do this earlier? I’ll only know by trying.
- Mary Milz