Figuring out the commute

We made it to paradise!  And we have furniture!  And food!  And it is crazy and wonderful!

We live somewhere between 6 and 7 miles away from my work.

DH is in charge of getting the kids to their respective schools and back (daycare is a 7 min walk or a 2 min drive, elementary school we’ll figure out once it starts).  We’ve only got the one car and parking at the university is pretty expensive anyway.  So the car is not really an option.

Sadly I am not cool enough to get any commuter discounts from the university– those are saved for actual hard money employees.

Google maps is amazing these days and has all sorts of great information about commuting paths other than driving.  My three options are:  1.  Bus, 2. light-rail (subway/elevated/etc.), 3. Bike.

The cross-street of the busy street that we’re on goes straight to the university.

Normally I hate taking buses because I hate having to make multiple changes, particularly when I have to keep my eye out to request a stop.  However, because the university is on the same street as my house, just 6 or 7 miles away, it’s only one bus if I take the regular slow bus.  There’s also a limited stops option that goes faster, but it is a longer walk from my house and the only university stop is the light rail station which is a 30 min walk from where I work.  I don’t like the way I have to pay attention on a bus so I don’t miss my stop, and I get a bit queasy when it comes to reading on a motor vehicle.

I like trains because they stop at every stop without you having to think about it and they usually don’t have to compete with traffic.  That dedicated rail is nice, especially during rush hour.  Unfortunately we don’t live that close to a subway stop (it’s doable, but it’s a trek) and my work is not located very close to the Uni stop either.  There is a bus I can take from the rail closer to my work, but if I’m going to do that, I might as well just take the bus from my house.

Mr. Money Moustache would insist that I bike.  And I’m going to get a bike and I’m going to look into this, but a 6-7 mile bike ride is not something I can jump into given I haven’t ridden a bike in I dunno, 15 years.  I was reading about bike commuting online and they were going on and on about all the things you need to buy once your commute is longer than 2 miles, and I found it scary.  DH says I can work up to it.  There’s also a problem that the direct route doesn’t have a bike lane, so a safer commute is a much more complicated commute and I am very bad at directions (she really, really is –#2).  Another problem that I’m sure I can get over is where to store the bike at work– my office is on the third floor and I’ve been warned about taking the elevators without my cellphone on hand as they tend to break pretty regularly.  I will probably just take my chances locking it up outside.  (#2 says, you are in a place that probably has TONS of bikes outside, I’d lock it outside your building in the racks without a second thought.  No problem.  And you’ll be getting a cheap-ish used bike anyway, right?  Just make sure it fits.)

In terms of time:  the regular bus is around 45 min, give or take, the limited bus is ~55 min, the train is ~55 min, biking is 32-35 min, and driving is 35 min (traffic is pretty nasty and there are a lot of lights).

What am I doing?  Well, right now I’m taking the regular bus.  I tried the limited bus and decided Google was right and it’s definitely slower.  Biking looks so appealing on Google– so simple for that little stick figure bike and so much faster than for the little bus or the little train.  I really do want to bike, but I’m just a tiny bit terrified, mainly of getting lost more than anything else.  Once I get a smartphone with a map application, I assume it will be a lot less terrifying, though things like “bike gloves” and “padded seats” are still pretty intimidating.  #2 recommends the padded seat for sure, based on my own experience (OW!), but you don’t need gloves.  You just need a helmet, sunglasses, sunblock, and maybe one of those straps to keep your pants out of the chain (or just stuff your pants leg into your sock).  That’s it.

How do you get to work, and what are your options (do you even have options)?  How did you decide what to do?

56 Responses to “Figuring out the commute”

  1. Oldmdgirl Says:

    My options are drive (15 min door to door), bus (25 min if it shows up on time), walk (35 min). I chose car even though it costs more because of th time saved, because the bus is unreliable, and because I don’t want to die.

  2. Mrs PoP Says:

    I bike to work. =) 9 miles. So 6-7 is doable, but if you haven’t biked in ages, don’t worry if you need to ease into it. My recommendations…
    – Find a hybrid/commuter bike. Used is most likely fine. Mine is a 10+ year old Jamis Commuter. These bikes should have cushy seats and an upright riding style. Thin-ish tires will reduce your rolling friction and make it easier to ride than if you were on a mountain bike. Let your commute dictate the number of gears you need. Hilly? Get more. Relatively flat, don’t worry about it. My bike has 7 gears, but on any given day I use max 3 of them to deal with moderate winds and a few overpass height bridges.
    – If it’s a used bike, get it serviced to make sure the wheels are true and that the gears shift well and then get a chain cleaner and lube for $30 or so on Amazon. Using that once a month will most likely keep you from needing to get it serviced again, especially if you’re storing it outside.
    – 6-7 miles is about as far as I consider going without changing clothes upon my arrival since I start to sweat a little. But… I’m also in a humid environment. This might differ for you since I’m assuming your paradise isn’t currently 80 degrees and 80% humidity at 7:30am. (And this is the cool/dry part of the day!) Shower before leaving the house, but store a pack of baby wipes (I like cucumber melon scented) at work to wipe off any sweat when you get to work.
    – Don’t hesitate to become a fair weather biker since you’ve got the bus route. Try riding the bike to work on the weekend and leaving it there. Bike home. The next time you go to the office, bus there and try riding home. Judge how tired you are. Will it wipe you out to do it in the morning? Find a youtube video on how to put bikes on and take them off the bus bike rack. That way if you don’t want to leave your bike at work, you don’t have to, even when you’re tired.
    – I would try and store the bike inside, especially if you’re going to leave it overnight. But either way, pick up a lock. A local bike shop will be able to tell you how heavy duty of a lock you need to deter thieves in your area. (Around here you barely need anything, but I’ve heard there are areas where you need to practically dismantle the bike and use a heavy chain to deter thieves.)
    Really, bike commuting isn’t complicated. Just try it! (But if you do have any specific questions, I can try to help!)

    • The frugal ecologist Says:

      Awesome advice. I’ve had bike commutes up to 7 miles. How difficult it feels depends so much on how hilly it is. Baby wipes are excellent for avoiding needing to shower. My preference is to bike in workout clothes, change at office and bike home in work clothes. I often found that unless the traffic was really heavy, I preferred the most direct route to the circuitous most bike friendly route. I also often have different routes for to/from depending on lights, etc. you will figure all of that out.

      You do not need a lot of stuff and the bus means you can skip a lot of the rain gear, etc that was probably recommended.

      Work up to it in the sense that you can start doing one day a week and go from there. Do a dry run on Sunday (traffic will be lighter) and see how it goes. If you are really worried about the finding the route you could drive it with DH navigating.

      Good luck. I loved my bike commutes – you feel energized when you get to the office and great when you get home! You can do it!

      • Hypatia Cade Says:

        I also used to commute (pre-kid) and would recommend similar things. My commute was about 2.5 miles (15 min) by bike but VERY hilly. I found that having panniers or a way to get a backpack off my back reduced sweating considerably. To get actual bike panniers can be expensive ($50?) but to get a bike rack & some bungies not so much. Something to think about.

        Also: helmet, lights, most bike shops sell reflective pants protector things for $1-3, and a lock.

        Does paradise have a bike library? e.g., These are great if you don’t plan to keep biking once you are done in paradise. I used this for a crappy bike for a year when I was breast feeding to get to the daycare and didn’t want to leave my nice bike outside at work everyday. They can help with fit/repairs/gear and advice for biking in your local context.

      • Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

        +1 on doing a test run on the weekends and ditching some of the “necessities” for other bike commuters (rain gear especially!). Bike gloves are only essential if you wear latex/nitrile gloves often at work – I bit it running once and scraped up my palms and was completely useless in a lab until they healed up, and I imagine the scrapes I’d get from a bike crash would be worse. You may want to check in with your local bike shop to see if there are any especially bike-friendly/unfriendly routes out there – we have several around here that look treacherous on a map, but the local drivers all know they are popular commuter routes and make a surprisingly good effort to be nice on the roads. A newbie would never know this, since Google maps doesn’t pick them up as good routes.

        Also – my university has gone nuts to de-incentivize driving to work and have made their bike storage rules much more lax. In fact, a couple of departments have bike racks in their lobbies for their employees, and areas outside of our freight elevators are a common place for bikes in my building. Have you checked around with coworkers or campus security to see if there is a secret place you’re missing?

        Last thing – no matter what, carry a spare tube and learn how to change it. REI has a great fix-a-flat class for free (may be free only for members, but your LBS would teach you for free too).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Most of my (new) colleagues keep their bikes in their offices.

  3. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD Says:

    The spouse bike commuted in Cold City. It was about 6.5 miles though there wa a bike path (and a bike rush hour!). Took half as long as the bus but he’s 6’2″ and stringy. Now he either walks (1.25 miles) or drives if he has to drop off the kids since Temporary School Location is 2 miles away now. I usually drive to work, also 1.24 miles away, because I have to be there at 7:50 AM and I would rather sleep 15 more minutes and also I take forever to wake up.

    The population here is 7000 in town and 24000 in the entire county so there is no public transit.

    On biking, if you can’t bring it in and it might rain and/or bike seat theft is a problem, most seats are pretty easy to remove. I bike commuted in grad school (for safety- I only lived a half mile away but the muggings at gunpoint, frequently in broad daylight, were a serious walking deterrent) and sitting down on a squishy seat at the end of the day is most amazingly unpleasant.

    I also recommend an annoying irregularly flashing light , even in daylight. Makes a big difference in cara noticing you. But they’re pretty cheap.

  4. Ana Says:

    I walk currently but am thinking about biking just to shorten the commute a bit this fall when I have to go get my older from aftercare, which is not along any great public transportation route. I’m terrified of biking in city traffic; I tried it once on the weekend with my husband and am planning to try it several early weekend mornings before I’m up for doing it in full traffic. Its a short ride. There are bike racks outside my building, but they fill up quick, so I’ll have to be better about making sure I get to work earlier. So my only advice would be to try it on the weekends, in low traffic times, until you feel more comfortable. The one-way commute, if you’re worried about your ability to physically ride 6-7 miles makes sense. Bike in monday AM, bus home, bus Tues AM, bike home, etc…

  5. bogart Says:

    Count me among those who figure you don’t need much (stuff) for biking, though I am not a regular bike commuter, so you can take that with a grain of salt. I’d figure that in an urban (?) area, your best tools for most problem-solving are your phone (call DH for a ride if you get a flat) and $10 to spend at Starbucks [or insert local non-chain coffee-shop here] while you wait.

    Good luck figuring out something that works for you.

    Tackling these problems on a day-by-day basis has helped me broaden my options. I mostly drive (~15 miles/30 min one way), as it is without question easiest/fastest, but try to do some combination of walk/bike/bus some of the time. My employer heavily subsidizes my bus pass (so much so that it is effectively free, or so close as makes no difference, except that — and this annoys me greatly — of course we know that actually free and effectively free are not the same at the point where a “newbie” is considering whether to try riding the bus. Darn it. I wish they’d just literally give the bus pass away, they used to. But I digress. However, while I’m digressing, the fact that the commuting subsidies available to you are a function of hard/soft money outrages me on your behalf. Good grief.).

    Anyway! Key point — my options are, I can walk 3 minutes to the nearest bus stop, take the bus, and it takes about an hour r/t going, much longer coming back — connections for the return are horrible for some reason. Or, I can walk 15 minutes and get a 45 minute bus ride (with connections, equally problematic returning home). Or, I can walk an hour (3 miles) and have a 30 minute bus commute. Or, I can substitute the bike for any part of the walking. Or, I can drive about 10 minutes, leave my car in a free lot, and ride the bus the bulk of the distance. Or, DH and I can agree that we’ll meet for a supper out on the side of town where the “good” (speedy) part of my bus ride ends. During the school year (when my son is in school rather than summer camp this is usually much easier), I usually try to do something + bus once or twice a week. I quite like walking (and the walk is quite pleasant), so that’s a good option when I have the time (and the weather is conducive, which it often but not always is).

    People do bike from where I live to where I work, but realistically I am not going to take on a 30 mile r/t bike commute, or even coordinate/plan to do a 15 mile commute and catch the bus the other direction. There is a shower in my office building and plenty of safe places to lock up bikes, so I could certainly manage this and be presentable, but — no.

  6. Cloud Says:

    Given where I live and where I usually work, I rarely have any real choice other than drive. San Diego public transit is too downtown oriented. Once, about 10 years ago, I could have done a 1 hour walk, take a bus, walk commute, but at that point I had a 20 minute drive commute and I’m just not that virtuous.

    Right now, I have a 30-45 minute drive 3 days/week and work from home the other two days. Since it is summer, I start the work from home days with a 20-30 minute round trip to the kids’ day camp.

    With the choices you describe, I’d probably do the regular bus with a podcast. If the bike option was flat and seemed safe (in terms of not getting hit by a car) I’d consider biking in one direction, and maybe working up to both directions- but I’m not a big bicyclist, so I can’t honestly say I’d do it.

  7. SP Says:

    I hope biking works out – it kills two birds with one stone, the commute, and a bit of fresh air / exercise (says the person who doesn’t own a bike that fits and has never commuted by bike).

    My choices are a 5 minute drive, ~25 minute walk, or a bike ride that would probably be about 10 minutes… if i had a bike. I was all set to get a bike, but now I come home for lunch every day to walk the dog, and it seems worth it to take the car most days rather than walking. Unfortunately. I really enjoyed walking

  8. Hypatia Cade Says:

    I’ll add… my choices are: hour walk, half hour bus, 15 min bike, or car — most often I do car because it’s rarely just me. We are a one car family and I drop off my husband on the way to my child’s daycare, drop her off, and then park and go to work. I fantasize about finding a day care with openings on my husband’s side of campus (closer to our house) so that I can walk/bike more.

  9. xykademiqz Says:

    I live about 7 miles from work, buses go once an hour and are very slow, and as Cloud says, I am not that virtuous. Both DH and I drive (two cars, two parking permits); we’d do one if it were possible to park a second car when needed, which is often; however, the garage is next to the football stadium and there are all sorts of events often taking place, so parking without a permit far from a guarantee. Also I don’t mind the two cars because he’s a a night owl and thus a grumpy a$$hole in the morning and he kills my buzz on the morning commute (I am a morning person).

    My main issue is boredom, so if I were in your situation, I would plan for multiple options to shake it up. (No one is making me bike, that’s just not in the cards.) In your situation I would probably do some version of the following: bus most week (set an alarm on your phone at 35 min or so to remind you to get off the bus soon, otherwise nap or listen to podcast or do work or just look through the window), and allow for something funky a few other times if you feel like it. For instance, on good days when you want the exercise, you can trek to the train station, take the train, and then also walk to work; get back on the bus. You can also walk a bit, 1-2 miles, along the bus route, and then just get on the bus when you get tired. Some days perhaps DH can come and get you from work and you can both go get the kids together.

    Anyway, these seem like wonderful problems to have — enjoy the Paradise!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      the bus time is pretty unpredictable, so an alarm wouldn’t be much help– plus there’s the problem that there are 3 stops in rapid succession and I want the middle one (I have missed it both directions and the walk is a lot longer)– when the bus doesn’t stop at the first (which it usually doesn’t), I have to be really quick to pull the cord right after the first stop but before the second.

  10. Karen Says:

    Right now I bike-train commute – when I lived in San Francisco, I used to bike-ferry commute from the city to across the bay. That was about 8 miles each way (most of it uphill on the way home). Along with the equipment mentioned above, I’m a big believer in high vis – I figure it is my job to make it as easy as possible for everyone else to see me! This might be less critical if you are in a city with a large cycling population as I found drivers in San Francisco very used to having to deal with cycles – much more so than in rural England! I

  11. middle_class Says:

    I drive alone to and from work. It’s a 20-30 minute drive depending on traffic. Like Cloud, I don’t have many public transit options or none that would take less than 1 hour and include a fair amount of walking in not-so-great areas. If you take the bus, you can chat up the regular bus driver and he/she will probably remember you after a while and make sure you get off at your stop.

  12. quail Says:

    I usually walk (40 minutes) or bike (15 minutes). I’m signing up for a bus pass for rainy days, now that my job will reimburse me. Spouse will bring kid to day care when that starts, usually by foot or car if it’s really bad weather.

    I have bike commuted for longer distances as well as done regular, longer bike rides. I will echo everyone else and say that the amount of special gear you need really depends on the humidity, weather, how much stuff you have to carry, etc. I would do some weekend test rides. Even if you only ride once a week, that’s great! I understand the concern about riding on the street with cars – what’s the speed limit on your quickest route? I find riding with slower, if congested, traffic on narrower streets less scary than a wider street with cars whizzing by me at 10 miles over the limit. You just sort of have to get over the feeling that you don’t belong there, because you should ride your bike on the street.

    Also consider if you normally exercise/run/whatever cardio – you’ve just done an hour of cardio. No need for the separate exercise.

  13. Katherine Says:

    I used to be a bike commuter. My commute was about 30 minutes each way, and I did it in regular clothes even though I live in the hot humid South. I agree with all of the people who have already said you don’t need any special equipment – I didn’t even find that I need a padded seat. My experience has been that the first few days, my bum was sore, but after that I adapted and didn’t even notice. I would say look for a bike with a chain guard – then you don’t have to worry about your clothes getting caught in the chain, so you don’t need to tuck your pants in your socks or keep track of that pant-leg thing. I wear skirts a lot, so I definitely needed a step-through (women’s) frame, but if you usually wear pants you could do with any frame.

    What made me stop bike commuting was my moods. A lot of people find that biking helps them de-stress. I would stew in my stress and unhappiness and get home in a terrible mood every day. When I found out that my university gives grad students a 90% subsidy on public transit but doesn’t advertise it, I bought the transit card and sold my bike. My public transit commute is about 45 minutes, and I can read or knit on the bus/train.

    I’m a much happier person now that I don’t bike commute. I did gain 5 pounds, though.

    • Katherine Says:

      One more thing: when I was bike commuting, I had a bike basket and loved it. I don’t like riding with a backpack (extra sweat), and it was easy to just put whatever bag I was otherwise going to use right in the handlebar basket. If you do get a bike, I highly recommend a basket!

  14. chacha1 Says:

    I drive, which embarrasses me given that my job is two miles from my apartment – easily walkable in 40 minutes or less. But it’s hot here, and very polluted, and the car traffic on my route is both very heavy and very reckless.

    I weighed the health benefits of walking against the hazards + the additional time (twice as long to walk) and opted to drive. At least I have a hybrid car now. :-)

    My other option was a bus, which I would have to walk three blocks to catch – not too bad – but which then stops three blocks away from my office, which means it would not take less time than driving and would not get me out of the smog/heat/traffic issues.

    Time is my ultimate decider these days. My new job is two blocks closer, and if it ever cools off I’m going to try walking … but when it is forecast for a high of 80 or over, hellz to the no.

  15. fizzchick Says:

    Yay biking! I’ve been commuting with toddler in a trailer for the last year and a half, 2-3 days a week, and I love it. Toddler loves it too. Work is .25 miles from daycare and just over 3 miles from home, so it’s an easy stopoff. If you have an actual office, I’d recommend wearing grubby clothes in and changing – you can wipe off much of the sweat on your tshirt, and then be cleanish in clean clothes, even without a shower. Seconding the panniers/rack/whatever to reduce sweat, and the lots of bright lights and reflectors. I think I found out about these from a commenter on here, and love that they make me way more visible. I put most of them on the bike, and several on the trailer wheels as well. Last thing – I’d recommend getting used to the bike commute now, in daylight, before the days get too much shorter (assuming a Northern Hemisphere location for Paradise).

  16. kt Says:

    Trying for full credit on this essay question (gearing up for school starting!):

    *How do you get to work, and what are your options (do you even have options)?*

    I mix it up. Bike mostly — 27 minutes each way and can lock the bike to a covered bike rack less than 15 feet from the building door. Comments: I hate biking in the rain, so I don’t. I don’t try to bike fast — my excuse is that that would be “chronic cardio” and would plunge me into adrenal fatigue whatever blah. I have cherry-picked excuses from internet woo-woo gurus to support this position. I bike in normal clothes mostly — my office is 80 degrees anyway so what does it matter. I tuck my pant leg into my sock or roll it up like a rapper (that’s what started the style, you know!). I don’t use gloves and I don’t understand why people do, on a visceral level, like guys don’t understand the difference between a normal bra and a sports bra. My husband finds bike gloves totally necessary. My butt always hurts for a few days when I start biking again after travel or winter. I have a hybrid bike now and like it less than having a “city bike” (step-through, cruiser style) or a road bike, as it’s not as comfortable as a cruiser and not as fast as a road bike. I have never carried a spare bike tube or patch kit and I’ve only had a flat once in 14 years of bike commuting. I just carry a bus card and a cell phone and figure I’ll abandon the bike and catch a ride. My husband hit a summer where he had a flat every week for a few weeks. He carries a patch kit and uses it. Also: it took me *45 minutes* to do this same bike route (5.5 miles) when I just started and I was not used to biking. I got faster very quickly, without working hard at getting faster, and lost 15 pounds, so most people said “You look great!” and my dad asked discreetly if I had a problem I needed help with. Always leaving a few minutes late because you can’t find your keys, right before an important class or meeting, will also help you get faster.

    When I have things to carry, I’m very late, or I’m very lazy, I drive (20 min in car). However, the walk from the cheap parking lot to my building is 15 minutes so I only save time if I’m going to a closer building immediately or if I run. And it’s a long enough walk that in crappy weather I don’t really win — I get soaked in rain and I don’t stay warm. And it’s $4 a day. And now and then I am afraid I’ll get mugged. I’m almost never afraid on the bike.

    When I have time and the weather isn’t good, I take the bus/train (45 minutes on buses). They took away my limited stop bus that was so nice (20 min) and now I have to transfer to the train. The transfers and walks are short enough that I won’t get soaked necessarily if it’s raining.

    *How did you decide what to do?*


    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      parking is a lot more than $4/day here…
      there’s some spots right outside my office if I get to work before 8am, but I am almost positive that won’t be true once school starts– I have no idea where the next closest parking is

  17. Rosa Says:

    I bike commute with no special equipment except panniers on my bike so I don’t have to wear a backpack. But, I only commute up to about 5 miles and generally prefer 2-3 (my current job is variable locations, I mostly bike, but more than 5 miles feels far to me in time and effort. When I’ve had regular 8-5 jobs they have all been in that 2-4 mile commute range except my winter job last year was 5 miles with the first 3 being off-street bike trail, which made it feel like nothing) . And I don’t ride in snow, because I’m a wussypants. I take the bus in winter, but it is significantly slower than biking. It gives me a special princess feeling to walk out my door on a cold, dark morning and have a nice warm bus stop just for me.

    That said, is there an option to put the bike ON the bus? That is a nice hybrid option – if you miss your bus and are going to have to wait 20 minutes for the next one, you can just bike probably faster. Or if you are too tired to force yourself to bike at the start of the day you can put it on the bus. Or bike to work and ride home. Or whatever.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      There is, though sometimes the bus is full up so you can’t get on it with your bike (which is especially dramatic when the bus driver and the bicyclist don’t speak the same languages) and it definitely takes a lot of time and effort for people to attach and detach their bikes.

      I’m liking the idea people are suggesting of leaving the bike at the office and doing one way each day.

      First though I want to try, say one mile. Or around the block, really.

  18. Linda Says:

    I did some bike commuting when I lived in Chicago. It was 9 miles each way (18 miles in total for a RT), all on city streets. The majority of the commute was on streets with a dedicated bike lane, but you still had to watch out for the drivers and people who could door you. I never learned how to fix a flat or do any bike repairs because my back up plan was to take the bus. (All the buses had bike racks on the front.) Luckily, I never had a flat. I used a rack on the back and panniers to hold my professional clothing, laptop, etc. and showered when I got to the office. (There was a gym in the building that allowed free use of their showers the first year, and then charged $10 a month in subsequent years.) We also had a secure bike storage room indoors, which was great.

    While I like biking I don’t like doing it in humid, wet, or cold weather, so that meant I didn’t do it on a regular basis in Chicago. I also had an accident once that ruined the front fork of my bike and had to replace it. (Stupid taxi cabs!)

    It sounds like you’re not used to non-car commuting in general, is that right? I loved taking public transit to and from the office because that time on the train (or in your case, bus) was my time to do whatever I wanted with it. I could knit, read, nap, or stare out the window and let my mind wander. Once you get a rhythm down, you learn to recognize the subtle cues of when you’re approaching your stop. Only twice in the 20 years that I rode CTA buses, el, or commuter rail did I miss my stop, and one of those times I was drunk so there were extenuating circumstances. ;-) (Also, I lived at the end of the line so it was no big deal. I was woken up by the train operator and staggered off towards home.)

    Most of the time my current commute consists of me levering myself out of bed at an unholy hour (usually around 5 AM) and then walking to the couch to boot up my laptop. On the days I need to go to the office (maybe once a month?) I still get up at a stupidly early hour, drive about 30 minutes, park, ride the ferry for an hour into San Francisco, and then walk the rest of the way to the office. I get a decent amount of walking in that way and I still get the lovely down time on the ferry. In the mornings I usually work on email or respond to IMs (thanks to wifi on the ferry), but in the afternoons I usually read, knit, watch the Bay and the landscape, and nap.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Nah, I’m great with light rail. We just don’t live very close to the train stop and my work is a bus ride away from the train stop. Light rail stops at every stop which makes it much easier. The bus will be easier once school has started since the bus will stop at more stops, but it will also be a lot slower.

      I suppose I could look into bike-train-bike. I hadn’t thought of that. That would be 100% dedicated bike lanes and pretty pleasant with trees and shops and stuff (the walks are nice but LONG).

  19. notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

    You have great choices, although the bike option sounds a little daunting because of safety concerns. I have to drive (long commute) but keep hoping that light rail might be an option some day.

  20. seattlegirluw Says:

    I work from home, so my commute is rolling out of bed. I’m lucky. I really didn’t mind public transit, at least as long as I didn’t have to change buses. I hope your experience is similarly tranquil.

  21. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Looking at the bike-train-bike commute, it looks like 1 mile bikeride, 12 min train ride (not including wait time), 1 mile bikeride. That seems totally feasible. Though a bit pricey (the train is more expensive than the bus)… but a monthly commuter pass cuts down the price some.

    • Linda Says:

      If it is only a mile, maybe it’s better to just walk on either end of train ride than ride. It would save you the cost of the bike and having to wrestle the bike on/off train and into the office. I personally tend to find walking in iffy weather better than riding, but not sure how you feel about it. I’d rather slog through rain, snow, etc on foot with appropriate gear (umbrella, rain coat, boots, etc.) than deal with the extra hassle of getting precip driven into my face on a bike and factor reduced braking speed in the wet.

    • Leah Says:

      That sounds like a nice option. I’d go for that! But the bus also sounded fine for me, and that would be worth giving more of a try as school starts up.

      We drive on our “commute.” I feel silly calling it that. Since we work where we live, the commute is out to daycare and back, which is 20 minutes round trip (plus time to walk in and drop off the kid). I wish it were a bit less, but it’s really just a few miles but halfway across town. Pre-kid, we just walked to work. We’ll get back there again someday; the two closest elementary schools are within 0.5/1 mile.

      We have talked about biking out there. We bike with the little one in a trailer to some places in town. We biked to swim lessons most days, and we walk to the library. But that adds time, and we get little enough with our kid as it is during the school year. So, we drive. On balance, we don’t drive much and only own one car.

    • Karen Says:

      have you checked to see if you can buy your commuter pass with pre-tax money? I haven’t lived in the States for a while, but when I did live in San Francisco, you could buy monthly passes that way.

    • Sarabeth Says:

      In a similar (maybe the same?) paradise, I did that precise commute, and it worked well. However, in my location, there were some parts of the commuter rail route that commonly filled up the spaces for bikes on the car. So, depending on your exact departure point, you couldn’t always count on getting onto the train with your bike (although you could leave it there and walk at the other end, if necessary.)

  22. eemusings Says:

    The only PT option from my area is bus! Work is near a train station at that end though (however trains are pretty unreliable here). About 30 mins plus walking at either end.

  23. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Thanks for the great advice, everybody!

  24. Debbie M Says:

    My options were:

    * drive and park – parking was expensive and hard to find and had a waiting list or was super expensive. Plus you have to drive in rush hour traffic where it feels like everyone is thinking “If only Debbie were dead, I could get where I’m going 2 seconds quicker.” I used to do this when I had another job after my main job, but finally the parking got so bad and parking became illegal within such a huge circle of campus that I had to quit the second job (and give up ever trying to get any place that closed by six).

    * take a bus – I used to have a shuttle that came every 8 minutes or so. I’d get lots of reading done during my commute so it was a no-brainer. This bus came less and less frequently until it was coming every 30 minutes, just like the regular city bus. Of course shuttle and city bus were scheduled to come at exactly the same time. Very occasionally I would catch one bus if I just missed the other. I would just take whichever came first in case the other one was late. By the end, they quit running the shuttle at all and the regular bus route was lengthened (it almost makes a figure eight now), so I have a love/hate relationship. I need to leave an hour before I need to be there or I risk being late. I live only 3.5 miles away. Coming home I found a stop with three buses I could use. One would drop me off close to home, the other two a 30-minute walk away–two would take about the same amount of time total, one a little longer. I would take whichever bus came first. I really can’t stand waiting for a bus, never really knowing when or if one will ever come. (So, I’m also opposed to transferring, which means waiting multiple times!)

    * take light rail – They recently built a light-rail line from the Convention Center at one end of downtown to some random suburb northwest of town with something like 7 stops. I would sometimes take a bus from work to the train, then get off at the very next stop and walk to the mall where we would meet to walk for exercise. From there it’s a 30-minute walk home, though usually I got a ride from one of the people I was walking with.

    * walk – This takes me over an hour because I stop and look at things. I would occasionally do this when I got sick of waiting for a bus.

    * bike – I FINALLY tried this once on bike-to-work day. I did it for the free breakfast. (Which turned out to be an apple.) I have a heavy bike and it was tiring and I needed a shower, but they had free showers, so I parked halfway between the showers and my office. I waited to bike home until the next day. The route home involved going uphill. At one intersection I was glad there was a red light. But when it turned green, I was still panting too hard, so I sat through that green light and another red light before going. I did feel that I could get into shape to ride, and the route wasn’t too scary, but I realized I really liked reading on my commute, so I stuck with the bus.

    I’m glad your readers helped you think of the bike-train-bike option. You may also be able to carpool. Some colleges have an office where they try to make it easier for carpoolers to find each other. Or someone may recognize you if they see you biking and approach you about carpooling.

  25. Steph Says:

    I’m currently doing the walk-light rail-long walk (10+45+20 min, not including <10ish min waiting for the train) for 5-7 weeks while I'm at a collaborators' institution. Unfortunately the only options I had were this or biking to/from a train. It's a nice walk and I'm getting a tan for the first time ever, but I wish I was here long enough to make getting a bike worth the effort and adjustment period. I think if you'll be there for a year then you've got time to build up your biking stamina. Depending on how hilly the terrain is, you might adjust pretty fast. Good luck! :)

  26. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    For a 6-7 mile bike ride, you don’t need jacke dicke special equipment. Just the goddamn bike.

  27. Insect Biologist Says:

    Where I live now, I walk to work (in about 20 minutes). But I commuted by bike in four other places I’ve lived (up to 7 miles). When it was raining or icy, I’d take a bus (or other option). In my experience, biking seems less sweaty than walking, so I don’t mind biking in the heat. I agree that you don’t need special equipment, but a bike of the right size and style (whatever feels stable and comfortable), a good seat that fits well, and a tolerable helmet are important. I don’t like having to cram my pants leg into my sock, so I use a metal pants clip to keep my pants leg out of my chain. I have to admit that I love using bike gloves with gel padding, even for a short ride. They help to absorb shocks, so wrists feel better. And, on the very rare occasions that I’ve skidded out on gravel, it was nice to have some protection. Despite the fact that I’m naturally sedentary, not physically adventurous, and have zero sense of direction, I really enjoyed bike commuting. If I still lived in a city where cycling was tolerated by motorists, I would definitely still be commuting by bike. It’s fun and energizing, and takes the place of other kinds of exercise that I don’t like as much. I agree with Jenny F Scientist about rain-soaked seats. I always tied a plastic bag over my seat so that it would stay dry if it rained.

  28. Sandyl FirstgenAmerican Says:

    You definitely need a helmet and a bike that’s crappy enough so that its not a temptation for thieves.

    I personally am a little afraid of biking in traffic as I’ve known people who have died or been severely injured because of driver error. (One guy fell asleep at the wheel, one person was legally blind, one person was very old and had no business driving). I don’t trust most drivers and even with my limited time on the road I’ve already had some close calls. If there are designated bike paths, then that would definitely be an option for me. There are not a lot of bike paths where I live, or bike commuters, so it’s easy for someone to not be mindful of you in the road. I think the most critical factor is that traffic moves fast on the country roads, up to 50 mph in some spots, so if you’re hit, you’re dead. In cities where the cars go slower than the bikes, then I think the risk of serious injury should be lower. I feel a lot safer in the woods on my bike than on the road.

  29. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Congrats on arriving in Paradise!

  30. Louisa Rogers Says:

    I haven’t ditched the bike helmet, but here’s some data (in my science writer husband’s weekly column) on why helmets may not be as indispensable as popular opinion holds. Note the photo in the first link:

    and more:

  31. February is Challenge Month | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] happened to biking or taking public transportation, you ask?  Winter + DH being willing to drive me! And deeply enjoying spending that time talking […]

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