My daily commute involves four modes: walking, cycling, rail, and bus. The total round trip is approximately 60 miles, with 12 miles on the bike, and 2.5 miles on foot. The rest of the trip is equally divided between the train and bus. In the morning, I ride my bike to the train station, store it in a bike locker, ride the train into the city, and walk to work from the train station. In the afternoon, I walk from work to the bus station, take a bus back to the train station near my home, and ride my bike home from the train station. Mixing modes everyday has given me an opportunity to compare and contrast these different ways of moving around.
Obviously, I find cycling the most enjoyable way to travel. I like the independence and freedom it provides, as well as the efficiency when compared to other modes of transport. There’s also the fact that I love bicycles in-and-of-themselves as objets d’art. They’re the “shiny things” that get me on the road at 5 am when it’s freezing cold and I haven’t had my coffee yet.
The rail portion of my commute is on the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, a commuter line that runs from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada all the way to Silicon Valley and back. My short portion takes only 25 minutes to traverse. I find the train a perfectly civilized way to travel. The seats are roomy and comfortable, the conductors are polite and professional, dedicated bike storage is provided, and there’s even a snack bar.
My arrival downtown places me in the heaviest portion of the morning rush. I don’t mind walking downtown; in fact, I enjoy the feeling of cruising along anonymously in a large group of people all scurrying along to their destinations. The down side is that it takes me nearly as long to walk the 1.25 miles from the train station to work as it does to cycle the 6 miles from the train station to home. I guess it goes without saying, but cycling is far more efficient than walking.
The bus portion of my commute is always interesting. I ride a dedicated commuter line, with most of the passengers being state and federal employees. The excitement lies in the fact that the buses are terribly overcrowded and on any particular day there may end up being as many as 15 people standing in the aisle. Etiquette and common decency dictates that a healthy person like myself offers his seat to anyone that may be in need of it, something that happens frequently enough. The bus ride is my least favorite leg of my commute.
In a perfect world, I’d have a nice, medium length, point-to-point bike commute on quiet, traffic-free country roads, but short of that, I really can’t complain about my multi-modal commute. I’m just thankful that the resources are available to piece together a 60-mile car-free commute everyday.