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Entries in commuting (2)


Crosswalk blues

Last September I became a daily commuter on Amtrak and SEPTA (Philly's public transit system) to get to my job at Harcum College in Bryn Mawr. For the most part, it's a great way to get to work except for one sticking point.

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'Commuting' my sentence

I combine Amtrak and Septa for my daily commuteIt's official. I've joined the ranks of public transit commuters.

This makes me almost as happy as knowing I can save about $80 bucks a month buying an Amtrak monthly pass than paying as I go.

I feel I need to clarity that taking transit isn't necessarily saving me money compared to driving. I have to buy two monthly passes (Amtrak is $247; Septa is about $90 with my employee discount; and I pay for long-term parking in Lancaster City--$20/week--which is price gouging). Money-wise, it's about a wash unless you factor in wear-and-tear to my car. Then commuting via transit constitutes a huge savings actually.

The main reason I made the switch is that it might just be saving my life. Driving the turnpike for the last year was sucking all the precious life energy out of me.

Shortly after Labor Day, I made the commitment to try taking the train to my new job since a Septa train lets riders off right behind the building where I work in Bryn Mawr several times a day.

I'm convinced that becoming a transit commuter will extend my life about ten years, which means, I might just live long enough to actually retire.

There are days, and today is one of them, that I want to kick up my heels and shout it from my leaf-strewn deck that I don't have to drive the Pennsylvania Turnpike daily anymore en route to my job. This is no small quality-of-life change. It was beginning to feel like a life sentence, and here's why.

  1. I fended off aggressive drivers regularly. These people also don't know the definition of the word yield while entering the turnpike.
  2. On a regular basis, I encountered turnpike workers or surveyors with a death wish, lolling by the side of the road without advance warning that I swerved to avoid hitting.
  3. With a split-second's notice, I had to steer around road debris--tire treads, pieces of wood, assorted things that flew out from the underneath the tarps covering people's truck beds.
  4. Traffic tie-ups and wrecks were fairly common and could shut down the turnpike for hours at a time, making me late for everything. There's no way anyone can anticipate being an hour late for work on a daily basis.

By the time I arrived at work each morning, I was already spent, and I hadn't yet started my day.

In fairness, my commute via transit takes longer than driving. But I can relax on the train. I can plug in my devices on Amtrak, read, write, or just lay my head back, close my eyes, and meditate.

I also have a train buddy--another woman who works at the college uses the same trains as me--which makes for a more pleasant ride.

Septa Digital Silverliners rock!Septa Regional Rail is *almost* better than Amtrak. While they use the same rails as Amtrak, the trains are for the most part in better shape. Septa has dozens of brand new digital liners with electronic announcers who remind you what station is coming up. In the morning, they are rarely as crowded at Amtrak.

Each day, I hop off Amtrak at Paoli, and I just hop back on the Septa Link Belt when it comes by, about ten minutes later.

Here's the little station in Paoli where I hop off Amtrak and hop on Septa. There's a little shop that makes good dark roast coffee inside.Okay, I have to use more hair spray and dress in layers. But it's energizing climbing on and off trains and walking to and from the station. And the commute is relaxing.

I really like leaving the driving to other people. And I get to play "I'm-a-New-Yorker," hopping on and off trains, flashing my little plastic passes. This is critically important to the psyche of a woman who secretly wants to live in the Big Apple but life circumstances preclude her from doing so.

While no one is ever sure whether they'll make it to retirement age or whether the universe has another fate planned for them, I can tell you without equivocation that I'm more likely to get there by taking the train than driving.