I live in a beautiful sprawling city with no natural barriers to stop its growth which has proven both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is very few high-rise buildings anywhere in the city and sky scrapers in the downtown core average 25 floors with the very tallest being 39 floors. The curse is that I happen to work in one of those “so-called” sky scrapers but chose to live in the ‘burbs which is a mere 18.5km (or 11.5 miles) as the crow flies from the downtown core. That doesn’t seem so far unless you’re not a crow and have to find other means of transportation to get to and from work. I’ve calculated just about every route for distance, time and cost and am still at a loss as to how to get to and from work quickly, cheaply, environmentally friendly and most importantly, while keeping my sanity.
I am not proud to say my favourite way to get to and from work is in the comfort of my own vehicle. I have several routes I can take with many side roads and ways around accidents (there are many during rush hours) or construction. I can set the temperature to my liking, crank up whatever music I’m in the mood for, make the decision to stop for a Starbucks on my way to work or decide to wait until I am downtown and I especially love the freedom of being able to stop and do errands on my way home and don’t have to backtrack or wait until the weekend when the stores are nuts. This is definitely not the most environmentally friendly way to commute as I drive a small SUV, am generally alone in my vehicle and have no problem sitting in traffic when I’m listening to some rockin’ music. My deterrent does not end up being the cost of gas or my guilt at adding to climate change, it is the fact that parking downtown averages $25 a day (I’ve found lots for $10 but have to walk a mile or pay up to $39 to be right in the core). Yikes…
I considered riding my bike to work as Calgary has an amazing network of paths throughout the city, but that would take me about an hour and a half each way and require me to actually ride a bike farther than the slurpee store. It would also require me to shower once I got downtown and I’m way to high maintenance for that! Plus, the weather is very unpredictable and there is generally snow on the ground 7-8 months of the year. So, the healthy, environmental way to work is definitely not going to work for me.
The only other option is good ol’ Calgary public transit. I thought to myself this was definitely the way to go when I started working downtown. It is environmentally friendly, logically should be faster than driving in traffic, is a lower cost option and I can feel good about keeping the mileage low on my vehicle and reduce my carbon footprint. What I sacrifice is my time and a whole lot of sanity. For me, public transit proves the most time-consuming option as I’m one of the farthest suburbs from downtown so any bus route I chose is minimum an hour each way (yes, even the “express” bus). We do have the LRT (Light Rail Transit) or “C-Train” which was really alluring because unlike the bus that only comes once every 40 min, the train comes about every 3 minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hours. I am fortunate to start work ridiculously early so can actually get a parking spot at the LRT station. I am at the end of the line as well so am guaranteed a seat in the mornings. So far, I’m thinking the extra time in the mornings isn’t such a big deal since I’m an avid reader and this provides me an hour of guilt-free reading time.
The problem for me is the journey home at the end of they day. The trains become over-crowded, people are rude and in a rush to get home so all sense of politeness and courtesy is under the train instead of in it. (There is a sense of “OMG I MUST get on THIS train so I’ve watched 5 trains pass my by as they do come every 3 minutes and somehow I’m never in THAT much of a rush as I’d prefer to get on a train crush-free.) In the summer most people’s deodorant has worn off and in the winter people insist on leaving backpacks ON their backs for the extra sense of warmth which is why I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve gotten knocked over by someone “forgetting” to take it off and place it at their feet. During the school year a lot of high school students also take the train and I think respect has been taken off the school curriculum and it doesn’t seem to be taught at home either. There is also the uncertainty of the reliability of the trains actually making it to my stop as they frequently break down, encounter someone crossing the tracks wearing headphones (sadly this happens too frequently) or become “stranded” between stations because there are too many trains so have to wait to space them out on the line. I do keep telling myself “things could be worse” as I try in vain to bury my face in my book.
This has been an ongoing struggle of mine for over 6 years. I have decided to take the train most days despite my loss of sanity and stay focused on that prize of one day being so successful in my job that I have a paid parking spot in the building. When it becomes too unbearable, I allow myself a treat and drive downtown to a mid-priced parking spot usually on a Friday. I think I’m getting close to finding myself some of those red shoes that I can click the heels together and wish myself somewhere else.