By Matt Wilson, @wilsonstcomms
I didn’t grow up riding public transportation, but in the last few years I’ve become a devout and sometimes maniacal user of buses, trains, monorails, trolleys, light rails and shuttles. I’ve found in my metamorphosis that hopping on a train or bus offers so much more than just getting where I need to go. In fact, after giving it some thought, I now view mass transit in five very different ways than I did a few years ago.
- Bonus Time –
When you tally up just how many hours you spend driving to and from work in a given week, month, year or lifetime, the numbers might hurt your soul a bit. With your hands freed from the shackles of the steering wheel, mass transit can allow creative riders to get better use out of long commute times. I’ve made a serious effort to get the most I can out of the 10 hours I spend aboard Caltrain each week so I can get to the fun stuff when I get home. I catch up on reading, make my grocery lists, read the news, respond to personal emails, surf social media, work on personal projects, get an early start on an assignment and plan my work day. If I were staring at brake lights on Highway 101 every day, these tasks would have to wait until I got home.
- Mental Prep –
I’m a big believer in being mentally present and living in the moment; not easy goals in arguably the most distraction-filled era in human history. Bringing stress to the office is bad for business and having your head in the clouds when meeting friends and family isn’t fair to them.
Public transit can offer an opportunity to zone out and get your thoughts in order for the day before getting to your destination. I find being free from aggravating freeway driving, and aboard a relatively quiet bus or train, helps me relax and do some thinking that otherwise would get smothered when my brain goes on auto pilot. I find sitting on a train or bus and simply looking out the window brings out my creative side. It’s in these quiet, mostly distraction-free moments where epiphanies or great ideas can take form. After all, think of all those brilliant thoughts you’ve had in the shower over the years!
- A Better View –
There are some beautiful routes in the Bay Area and the Peninsula, but chances are if you’re commuting somewhere, it’s likely through the same corridor of concrete and asphalt every day. Mass transit can liberate you from the eyes-forward-grip on your steering wheel. This allows for a fuller view of your surroundings and an easier way to take in local color through the cities you travel through.
A bus ride for instance can help feel more connected to the true vibe of a city. You might discover a new restaurant, find a park you’d like to check out or get a glimpse of an interesting neighborhood you’d like to explore. You might even start noticing some of the finer details of cities like architecture and tree specimens.
- Networking –
If you’re thinking about a career transition, then you might want to view Caltrain as a networking mixer on rails. Even if you don’t work in the same industry as another rider, you can gain valuable insight into other vocations, business trends and skillsets just by striking up a conversation. If you do work in the same industry, your new conversation partner might have the scoop on a company you’d like to work for, or tips for landing an interview, or maybe will candidly tell you that the big tech company you have your eyes on isn’t the dreamland you thought it was.
OK, so not everyone may be receptive to chatting, but as the famous Wayne Gretzky quote goes “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Driving to work in solitude and not having access to a pool of other minds is akin to never taking that shot. There’s a potential cornucopia of information on every train or bus, and just think of the information and connections you could glean from one short conversation a week for a year. Heck, you might even dispense some life-changing advice purely by accident.
- Extra cash –
Train passes aren’t cheap and bus fare adds up, but when you factor in just how many costs there are to own and operate a vehicle in a year, riding mass transit is a great deal in the long run. The list of car-related expenses goes on and on: insurance, gas fill ups, new tires, windshield wipers, parking passes, chipped windshields, tune ups, battery replacements and God forbid speeding tickets or full-blown car accidents.
When you consider taking public transportation, just know that you’re avoiding many of these expenses altogether or kicking them down the road even further. You could extend the life of your car by years with some creative planning and keep your wallet nice and fat.