Friday, June 13, 2008

The Night Writer Runs the Numbers

The Night Writer has an interesting piece up about commuting over at his place. I've written about this subject any number of times and it's a bit of a sore spot for me, especially light rail transit. As usual, NW runs through the issues in typically entertaining fashion. He commutes to downtown Minneapolis and can get to the Hiawatha line. Go read the piece in its entirety, but the Reader's Digest version is this: it probably makes sense for him, as he will save enough money to offset some of the inconveniences involved in using the services of Metro Transit.

At this point in my life, transit does nothing for me. My commute is from my home in New Brighton to my gig in south Burnsville. The distance is 29.2 miles and travel time varies from about 35 minutes (on a good day) to 3 hours (when the snow is falling). On average, I get to Burnsville in about 40-45 minutes and the return trip takes about an hour.

So, if I were to attempt this commute by transit, arriving at my desk at 8 a.m., what would happen? Here's what the Metro Transit trip planner tells me:

The trip from 1500 FOSS RD (NEW BRIGHTON) to 2800 SOUTHCROSS DR W (BURNSVILLE) is not possible.

As the old dudes sitting in front of the gas station in Maine would say, "can't get theah from heah."

Let's be clear about something - if you can use a bus or train to get to your location, it's worth doing. I worked in downtown Minneapolis for the better part of 10 years and, depending on where I lived at the time, happily took either the 94H, 33 or 4 bus to get there. And for the 5 years I lived in the Chicago area, I used the Congress El train just about every day; Mrs. D and I didn't even own a car then and we didn't need to. For reasons that Night Writer makes quite clear, commuting can be pleasant. And every time I slog through the hideous construction snarl that MnDOT has unleashed at the junction of 35W, 280 and 36, I definitely miss the clattering ol' ride on the 4. The thing is, most people don't take public transit because the tradeoffs are too severe. The mother who has to schlep her kids to day care first, the sales guy, the shift worker and the multitudes who commute from suburb to suburb cannot use the system.

We could design a transit system that would work for more people; there's no question about it. But it won't be built with trains. But for those who can use the system, go right ahead.

1 comment:

Night Writer said...

Thanks for the link and the comments!

Like most things distorted by politics (and what isn't anymore?), mass transit takes a germ of a good idea and turns it into something that will make you sick. Even in that, however, you can find opportunities where it works for you as long as you don't dwell too much on the hidden costs and all the sausage that got made in order to build it in the first place.