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Switching to a Bike/Transit Commute: Some Thoughts

As previous posts will show, I’ve experimented with going carless and using bike/transit commute options between my office (previously) in Marietta and my home in Atlanta. This is a reverse commute — meaning it’s going against the regular flow of traffic. My office moved this year to the Kennesaw campus. I ran some tests this summer about how to make a carless commute work again, and this semester I have committed to it. It’s a round-trip commute of about 64 miles; I do about 8-18 of those on my bike (depending on where I start) and the rest on commuter busses and Marta trains.

Three weeks in, here are some things I have learned:

Temperature and showers/

Everyone asks: “do you have time to shower?” Yes, this is Georgia, and yes, I enjoy sweating and the heat a whole bunch (it’s true). I’ve heard there is a shower in the Rec Center for me to use if I need to, but I always get to work early enough to cool down and not feel gross. I keep a change of clothes in my office (for riding and for teaching). Truthfully, I am more worried about the cold; I hate the cold. But I hope that I’ll have enough momentum by October to push through.

Packing/

Carting food and clothes and a computer and a textbook in my commuter bag? That just won’t work. I’ve narrowed things down a bunch by leaving two weeks’ worth of “teaching clothes” in my office and two weeks’ worth of breakfast and lunch food in the departmental break room/kitchen. I leave my laptop at home (yes, that is hard) and just work off an iPad while I’m on the bus and train. My bag basically o ly contains: a textbook, a comp book, an iPad, a rains suit (invaluable because you never know), and some repair supplies.

Expenses/

From my house it costs about $5 in gas, per day, to drive. It costs exactly the same to ride transit. It took me a while to learn, but hear me: getting off a commuter bus and onto Marta or vice versa (within 3 hours of each other) covers the charge of the next system. I thought I’d have to pay BOTH a Marta fee ($2.50) and a Cobb Linc bus fare ($1.80) just going one way, but I don’t! Though it seems even, I’m saving on car wear and tear and, if I go all the way carless eventually, a car payment and/or insurance.

Time/

No way around it: bike/transit commuting is more time consuming. Maybe in New York or D.C. or Chicago that’s not true, but in Atlanta it’s true times two. We have underdeveloped rail and bus lines, a situation with is deeply embedded in the city’s (and the South’s) socio-economic barriers. Regardless, I tell people this: I have the train and bus time to read, answer emails, listen to podcasts, etc. Yes, the bike part is time consuming, but it’s like building an exercise workout into your commute time.

Commute initiatives/

I imagined there would be a bunch of green, carbon-footprint reducing initiatives that would spring up to assist and provide resources. Maybe there are and I just haven’t found them, but I don’t see much. Georgia Commute options offers drawings for prizes on days you don’t drive, and a cash supplement for your first couple of months. My university does offer an incentive for drivers who carpool with others (a dedicated parking g space), but none for transit commuters. I’m in conversation with them about offering reimbursements for some/all public transit costs for people who commit to not bringing a car onto campus. We will see how that goes. The point is: you gotta want to do it yourself. At this point, in this city, in the areas I’m traveling to, supporting public transit isn’t a huge priority. Baby steps.

Details/

Here is how it all works (this semester): I have an 8am class. I get up at 5am, and I am on my bike by 5.30am. I ride about 40 mins to the Arts Center Marta station (about a 7 mile ride, a lot of which is on Atlanta’s beltline). I catch a 6.15am Cobb Linc bus (one of only two that will work, time-wise — always have a backup plan) that eventually drops me off at Town Center Mall parking lot in Kennesaw at about 7am. From there, I just have a 10 mins bike ride to campus, mostly on the Noonday Trail (OFF of those dangerous suburb roads). I roll on to campus at 7.15am, change my clothes, grab some coffee, and I’m ready to go.

Sometimes it rains. It did today. I am realizing these days, with the news coming from Houston, how horrible rain can be, and how we take moderate weather for granted.

On the upside, I wrote this blog post on my phone during half of my commute. How is that for productivity?

Considering doing it yourself in Atlanta? Questions about transit schedules? Are you a KSU student or faculty member who wants to know more (especially about our cool bike shop that I just discovered) let me know in the comments below.

That’s my bike in the image above.

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