Lee Sobel on the joys of "alternative" transportation
Kevin’s note: When I wrote Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction, I included about a dozen personal stories from other contributors. I did this because I believe it’s important for us all to share our stories, and explain our choices in very personal terms to our family, friends and colleagues. We still are at a stage where the culture of a house in the suburbs and a car for every adult is the norm, and we need to build understanding and empathy for the “other” path of walking, biking and urban living. If you’d like to share your story, send me an email and I’ll consider running it, too. For all stories, I like to include a personal photo, as well.
Today’s story is from my long-time friend Lee Sobel, who talks about how moving to a place with transportation options has changed his life for the better.
When I lived and worked in Miami, Florida, I would fill up my car two or three times a week. Then I moved to Montgomery County, Maryland, to take a job in Washington, D.C. One of my housing requirements was to live near a metro station and take advantage of DC's subway. Metro is a smart way to commute. The train gave me 45 minutes of extra time each way to read, write, or simply relax. A round trip commute, plus parking, was cheaper than driving downtown and paying for parking. Most of my weekly drive time was spent just shuttling back and forth to the Metro parking lot.
Once I got comfortable as a rail commuter, I decided to take one of the three buses in my neighborhood to the Metro station. Yes, I was saving some money by not paying for parking, but I really started riding the bus because the opportunity was there. I wasn't losing commute time by bus. And I made a personal decision to use the infrastructure my tax dollars were investing in. I never considered riding a bus in Miami for all the reasons suburbanites don't and won't ride a bus if they don't have to. Now my drive time was further reduced, mostly for weekend errands.
Then one Spring I did something unexpected, I rode my bike to the metro station. It was incredibly fun but it wasn't enough for me. I started biking to work. First one way on alternative days, then full round trip commutes every day. Goodbye car! Goodbye subway costs! Goodbye 20 extra pounds! Now I only drive a few times a month.
For the past two years, biking has been the primary way I commute to work. I joined DC's bikesharing program last year. During the day, I try to make bikeshare my first means of travel when going to meetings, lunches, and events. Depending on the weather, my business schedule or my family plans, I can commute to work by bike, bus or drive to Metro. I have options and choices about how to get around that I never had in Miami. I’m not biking to save money or the environment, or to be healthy (though these are additional benefits of course). I bike because it's fun and easy. And it's fun and easy because I live in a place that provides the infrastructure and facilities to make such a choice safe and available.
Lee Sobel - Washington, D.C.
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