We decided to take our car out of the ever-threatened Freeway Fright ’07 congestion this morning, and commute via Water Taxi and bus instead. We discovered some surprises; if you want to hear about them, and our other musings, here goes:
The biggest surprise: The steepness of some downtown hills if you’re not used to walking up them. By the time we reached our bus stop several blocks uphill from the WT dock, we had nicknamed our experience the “cardio commute.” Aside from the sweat factor (discussed in the comments on this post earlier today/tonight), this is a good thing, as we find it hard to find time for exercise. The hillclimb began with this staircase up Seneca, under the offramp from The Viaduct.
Another block or so uphill from there, another surprise — a young man handing us a flyer declaring GOD LOVES YOU. So early in the morning. Yet, by then, we had in fact been speculating we would need divine intervention to make it up a few more blocks. Despite all the hill-walking we do around WS, downtown hills kicked our you-know-whats.
But back to the Water Taxi. Here are some stats from our commute:
-10 minutes to the dock from home, passing 9 stoplights, at 6:30 in morning.
-Found parking one block from Seacrest, in the direction toward Salty’s.
-6:50 run left exactly on time. But the crossing was more like 16 minutes than 12. Maybe because we had to dodge a few small fishing boats.
–$3 cost; the transfer handed out on the WT, for our subsequent bus ride, was free.
For all the dozens of times we have taken the Water Taxi, this was our first bonafide commute ride since the WT sailed a triangle run including Pier 66 quite some years ago. It’s not a time-saver. With the uphill walk and bus ride, our trip from front door to destination took 1 1/4 hours. The absolute worst morning drive we’ve ever had was about 45. More often, it’s around 25 minutes.
But time’s not the only commodity to discuss here. How about money? Our greenery was almost alone in the farebox this morning; most of the other 30 or so 6:50 am riders flashed passes. Driving may seem cheaper as the cost of gas goes back down, but think about some other costs, such as: Does your employer charge for parking, or expect you to find it yourself?
Even the time issue can be examined in another fashion. If a bus ride would be part of your trip — perhaps it’s that time you never get, to read a book, write a poem, organize your PDA. You can do that on the Water Taxi too, although it would be a shame to ignore the view.
Transit also can provide an opportunity for personal growth. For those of us who tend to be on the loner side, it forces more human interaction. Small talk always seems to erupt on the Water Taxi line; this morning it included the sunrise, the weather, and the latest scuttlebutt on the I-5 construction zone all 30 of us were NOT driving through. On the bus, if you don’t choose to plug your ears with an iPod, you might absorb amusing conversations around you, such as that of the three co-workers across from us who kept telling a fourth that he went to Canada with them the day before, despite his complete lack of recollection.
On the other hand, it is culture shock for the person acclimated to solo commuting to suddenly find himself/herself fully in public, unable to comb hair, scratch itches, or perform other bits of personal care without knowing they are in range of many pairs of eyes.
We would like to do this more often. We’re thinking we might be able to shave the total elapsed time down to about an hour if we leave a few minutes later and run the risk of arriving at the WT dock closer to departure time, and then if we get our heart and leg muscles up to the task of getting up those hills a lot quicker. (Refer to a comment on this post for a workaround.) But if we routinely could not — or for whatever reason did not want to — use a car to get downtown, the bus would beat the WT; we’ve told this whole yarn without even exploring what would have been involved for us to go completely car-free on a Water Taxi commute — that would have added at least half an hour, catching the bus near our house to The Junction, then the shuttle to Seacrest.
We truly enjoy transit when we are in cities that have done it right (San Francisco in particular; ah, we yearn for something like BART). We don’t know if it’s ever going to get done “right” around here in our lifetime, but you have to at least offer props to those who are trying to take small steps to fix the mess.