******Editor’s note: Carol Keesee is a new Capital Metro rider. She contacted me out of the blue, wanting to capture her observations about making a lifestyle change that included public transit, as well as the stories of the interesting people she has met on MetroRail. Stay tuned for more blog posts by Carol. ********
For those who do not know my story, I am a recently-converted MetroRail commuter. Having lived in the Austin area all of my life, I must admit that I had never given the thought of using Capital Metro a second thought. Instead, I had spent more than thirty years commuting more than thirty miles to work and back home each day.
Riding the bus had never appealed to me. Quite frankly, if I was going to be stuck in traffic, I preferred being stuck in the privacy of my own vehicle. However, the introduction of MetroRail offered a more appealing approach to getting to work. Howard Station is within five miles of my home and the Downtown Station is within one mile of my office. The thought of driving only five miles to the station, boarding a cool-looking train, and de-boarding downtown had a very metropolitan feel. Still, MetroRail would mean a lifestyle change. Was I ready to commit to becoming a commuter?
Embracing a lifestyle change…
As with most big decisions, a person usually weighs the advantages and disadvantages of their choice and how the outcome will affect their lifestyle. I was no different; and, I will also admit that I was leaning heavily toward the disadvantaged viewpoint in the beginning. The most disconcerting thought was being relegated to a schedule. I did well to make it to work on time. How could I really expect to meet a train schedule every morning? What if I had to work late and missed the last train? What if my children needed me during the day and there was no train until the afternoon? What if I wanted to go to lunch? This transition would mean that I was no longer free to move about whenever—to go wherever I wanted to. Being the worry wart that I am, I quickly began dreaming up other reasons that the rail might not work for me. Weather. What if the weather turned nasty? Could I find shelter along my route? Did I really want to walk a mile in the rain? What about the summer heat? When it came down to it, weather and schedule were the only pitfalls I could conjure for not utilizing the rail. Truthfully, these were nothing but excuses based on not wanting to embrace a lifestyle change. Once I made that connection, I was ready to take the next step.
Taking the next step…
Capital Metro introduced MetroRail the week following SXSW. I took advantage of riding MetroRail free during the introductory week. Even though the trains were crowded, I enjoyed the experience and met several people that were really fascinating. Still, I was not sure if this was a lasting experience. What if I grew bored after the first two weeks? I decided that I should at least try the service for one more week before committing to buying a 31-day pass. I went to my local HEB and purchased a seven-day train pass. Little did I know that the following week would reveal the many advantages to riding the rail. First, I had already begun to consider how drastically my carbon footprint had been reduced. I was feeling good about playing a role in reducing emissions and contributing to a better environment. Then, my pocketbook started feeling good. That’s right! When I was driving, I had to fill up my car with gas every four to five days. It had been almost ten days since I had last put gas in my car. Incredible! By Friday, my waistline was beginning to reap the advantages. That’s right. Two weeks of walking two miles a day had led to a loss of three pounds. Wow! I was really feeling good about my lifestyle change.
I am now two months into my metamorphosis. My pocketbook has saved close to one hundred fifty dollars (that is after deducting the cost for my train pass). I have lost close to nine pounds by walking the two miles per day. This week, I am going to reduce my carbon footprint to zero. The month of May is National Bike Month and I will be riding my bike to work for Bike To Work Week. I am actually looking forward to it. I’ll keep you posted about my experience. The most amazing part of being a commuter with MetroRail is meeting a lot of fascinating people. The conversations that I have had on the rail (or have overheard) have been comical, intriguing and genuine. I am looking forward to sharing some of those experiences with you as a contributing writer for www.capmetroblog.com.
What about those disadvantages of taking MetroRail? I have adjusted very well. I bought a rain pancho. On nasty days, I walk two blocks from the station to the bus stop and Bus 4 takes me right to the front door of my office. By the time I get to the office, I am alert, refreshed and ready to go. In the afternoons when I leave the office, by the time I get to the train station, work is far behind me. The train ride home is my time to focus on what’s ahead – an evening with my family.