My love affair with transit came at an early age when I exchanged family and friends for 10 months in Zaragoza, Spain, during my junior year of high school. Not only did I say, “¡Adiós a todos!” to my loved ones, but I also said, “Nunca te olvidaré,” (I will never forget you) to driving a car.
Exploring unfamiliar territory without a personal vehicle proved nerve-racking at first, but became second nature in no time. According to Turespaña, an organization dedicated to promoting Spain as a destination abroad, “Zaragoza is an ideal city to explore on foot.” The fifth largest city in Spain, Zaragoza boasts infinite ways to tug at your heart strings, all without having to rely on a personal vehicle.
Whether purchasing school supplies at El Corte Inglés by Plaza Aragón, sharing a café cortado with friends at Il Caffè di Roma, or buying stamps at the post office, I always had my tarjetabús pass in hand. Similar to a Breeze Card, the tarjetabús pass is rechargeable and permits various changes between bus lines free of charge within one hour.
The tarjetabús not only helped me complete my daily to-do list, but the pass also opened my eyes to Spanish art and Baroque architecture. The Basilica of our Lady of the Pilar, deemed one of the most important spiritual structures in Spain, boasts frescos painted by Goya and creates endless storytelling. Situated next to multiple bus routes, the Basilica taught me history and left me with enough time to peruse the latest fashions at MANGO, my favorite clothing store, on the way home.
Public transit not only saved my life, but it gave me quite the Spanish flair. Even today, I refuse to drive to my favorite Southern landmarks, including the Fabulous Fox Theatre and Woodruff Arts Center, just so I can tap my Breeze Card at the MARTA station. I don’t know about you, but a night out with Elphaba or Salvador Dalí wouldn’t be complete without the Spanish vibrancy of transit to take you there.
This particular way of life has even translated into how I get to work—and pays off big time. According to the Commute Calculator, my solo drive into downtown Atlanta would cost me more than $3,000 every year! The Georgia Commute Options site also provides a list of transit providers across the state so I can determine my route.
The greatest thing about taking transit into work is that I don’t have to use it every day. Even riding the train once or twice a week saves me money and satisfies two of my favorite loves: people watching and learning more about Spain through the words of Ernest Hemingway.
It’s that time of year again where we are starting to think about renewal. Not just of ourselves, but of the environment and the Earth as well. Spring time, Earth Day, Earth Week, Earth Month, Air Quality Awareness Week, the list goes on. If you are like me and thinking of doing a little bit more this year for dear old Mother Earth, here are a few quick, easy steps to a healthier commute, which saves the clean air, the environment, and heck, maybe even saves you a few dollars in your pocketbook. If we can make this a habit, we can make a difference; and this is how good habits start: by taking small steps and celebrating small victories.
- Learn your options: Clean commuting comes in many forms-- there is carpooling, vanpooling, in town and regional transit, biking or walking to work, and even teleworking or working a compressed work week. Georgia Commute Options has all the information you need at GaCommuteOptions.com.
- Tackle your excuses: Everyone has some reason that clean commuting doesn’t work for them: “There is no one that lives near me.” “I have a child and what if they get sick.” “My schedule is too variable.” Truth be told, all of the above are solvable problems. Having an open mind is essential to making a change. Reach out to your local Transportation Management Agency and get help making that change and tackling those excuses. Find your nearest TMA here.
- Get ridematching assistance: Everyone in the Greater Atlanta area should be registered in the free ridematching database even if it is just as an emergency back-up plan. It is always good to know who lives near you and works near you so that if when you have the car in the shop, or the price of gas jumps up $2 a gallon un-expectantly, you can still bring home the bacon.
- Commit to 2 days a month: Have you ever driven to work on a federal holiday? Notice how the traffic is considerably less? Well less than 10% of the employed public gets Federal Holidays off1, which means that if every person in Atlanta green commuted twice a month, we wouldn't have a traffic problem. Remember, you don’t have to do it every day. Try once a month, see if it works, and then maybe bump it up a day or two. Every mile you are saving is equal to one pound of pollution. That adds up quickly.
- Talk about it: I lived on Hilton Head Island for 12 years and we were always shopping our home owners’ insurance rates. The reason was that because we paid so much for insurance, it was always top of mind and a topic of conversation. The same will hold true for clean commuting. The more people that know about the positive health, environmental, and financial results, the more people will do it. Help make it top of mind by following Georgia Commute Options on Facebook and Twitter.
There you go. 5 easy ways that you can help make a difference and chalk up some victories for dear old Mom Earth. Which reminds me, Mother’s Day is right around the corner. Do yourself a favor and call your mother.
1US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Tom Bastek is a voice actor, ex-Radio DJ and Director of Production, Stand-up Comedian, Actor, Symphony Orchestra Tuba Performer and Freelance Writer with a passion for trains, LEGOs, pinball, craft beer, and the NY Jets.
For a transit system facing a host of challenges, the recent report by the American Public Transportation Association citing MARTA’s ridership decline (down 8 percent in 2012) is sad news. There’s no escaping it: some riders are opting to return to their cars. But, I’m not ready to retire my Breeze card. For me, the pros of using transit still outweigh the cons.
First, transit costs less than driving to work alone each day. Let’s do the math: A monthly MARTA pass is $95.00. The cheapest monthly parking lot near my office is $80.00 a month. Add gas at $3.50/gallon, and the cost of driving alone equals over $300 more each year.
Secondly, taking transit can be less frustrating than driving. My bus and/or train may run late occasionally—but traffic congestion occurs every day. Plus, I get to avoid the “texters and drivers, the “road ragers,” a headache, and stress. I just hop on MARTA, turn on my music (with earphones), open a book and relax.
I get more exercise by taking transit. When I take MARTA, I walk 6 blocks each way on my commute. I only walk 1 block from the parking lot to my office when I drive. The brisk strolls energize my body and mind before and after a full workday.
Taking transit also helps the environment. According to the American Public Transportation Association, “using public transit decreases a household’s carbon footprint by 10%." This helps us all breathe easier.
Finally, in addition to saving money, taking transit may also give you money. By registering at LogYourCommute.org, you can win $25 monthly gift cards or earn $3 a day, up to $100 by making the switch from driving alone. For more information on these programs or to see if there’s a transit route in your area go to GaCommuteOptions.com or call 1-877-9-GA-OPTIONS.
If your commute is anything like mine (27 miles one-way to the office) you never get to log walking as part of your trip on www.LogYourCommute.org. When I ride MARTA to work, there is a small portion of my trip that is walking from the train station to my building. But let’s face it…that walk is about the same as the walk from the parking deck when I drive into work.
How can we incorporate walking into our daily schedule? The tried and true power walk at lunch is an option--although sometimes I need to eat lunch away from my desk. So, what’s left? Meetings!
Another blog at Harvard Business Review discusses using meetings as a time to get up away from the desk or table. Maybe a 4-hour training meeting should still occur in the conference room, but a face-to-face meeting to update your boss on the progress of a project, or a brainstorming session with a teammate is doable.
Any way that you can incorporate more time on your feet and more walking into your work agenda will be healthier as well. Those extra steps you take can aid in weight loss, reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer, help keep your arteries unclogged, and can boost your mental health, which will be helpful to getting you through tough workdays.
All this added walking to your routine might even encourage you to spice up your commute routine. Do you have a certain stop you always get off at from the bus or train? Try one a bit further away for a longer walk to the office. With spring weather on the way, now is an ideal time to get out and enjoy life on foot. For more information on walking to work, visit Georgia Commute Options.