Contributed by Choose Your Way Bellevue Guest Blogger: Hayley Richardson, TransManage
I’d like to begin by saying that I am pretty fortunate when it comes to my transportation options. Even though I live in Capitol Hill and have been known to complain about working all the way in Bellevue, the commute isn’t so terrible. I saunter down the hill in the mornings, sometimes greeted by the Olympic Mountains and a tantalizing glimpse of the Bay, then I hop on the Sound Transit 550 bus (which is never late, by the way) and daydream for the entirety of the 30 minute ride that drops me off directly in front of my office. My ORCA pass is subsidized by my employer, so my commute is free, straightforward, and pleasant, with little room for error or drama.
In spite of these glowing accolades, however, I often drove to work throughout the winter (hey, I’m a southern gal—this Seattle weather is no joke!), a decision which was no doubt incentivized by the ample amount of free parking in Bellevue (provided at a location which shall remain nameless for this purpose). If I timed it right, I could have this (potentially) hour-long trip reduced to a criminally brief 25 minutes, get to sleep in, and have loads of extra time to finish writing my great novel, train for a marathon, and cure cancer. Or something.
But the recent increase in gas prices have caused me to really sit up and re-evaluate my strategy. One of the things I started realizing was how often there was traffic on my way home (I-405 south just got ranked the 8th worst commute in the country) and how sitting, clench fisted on the highway, made me feel anxious, isolated and far from a great version of myself. And realistically, what’s that one saved hour worth? Taking public transportation guarantees me 60 minutes of walking a day (less time at the gym!) as well as an opportunity to catch up on personal email and texting on my iPhone, a fairly wondrous invention (thanks, Steve!), not to mention the $50 a week I was spending on gas.
Humans are pretty rational creatures, and recent surveys indicate that my decision is hardly unique—according to the Seattle Times, driving is down 56% since the most recent gas price increases, and it looks like those numbers will hold throughout the summer, affecting travel plans and causing general woe across the board. But instead of being bummed about this (though it’s hard not to wish those gas prices were helping the local economy a bit more), I decided to think positive and do something with the money I’d saved over the past month by not driving.
Cue in to Tuesday night of this week, where I’m sitting, surrounded by people old and young, looking out over the Seattle skyline, drinking cheap red wine with new friends and listening in rapt attention as my professor launches into a discussion of the subtle differences between “jour” and “journee”.
That’s right, I decided to take a French class, something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl, entranced by the Madeline series and Angelina Ballerina. And the greatest part is that I didn’t have to scrimp and save in order to do so! And perhaps if my public transportation diligence continues, I’ll have enough saved up by the end of the year to actually VISIT Paris!
We’d love to hear from you about how recent increases in gas prices have affected your driving habits, and creative or fun things you’re doing with the money saved by changing or shifting commute modes! If you want to share any tips for making the most of your transportation dollars, we wouldn’t argue with that either. Please, share away by commenting on this blog post below.