Unless you’re lucky enough to work from home all the time, commuting will take away on average about an hour of your day, five days a week. In some places, even more. I know people who spend easily double that in their cars commuting around the San Francisco Bay Area. Sitting in a car, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic is not a great use of time, and it is far from good for the planet. So, how can we make it better all around?
While it almost certainly won’t reduce your commute time, taking public transit does give you back some time. Rather than sitting behind the wheel, you can leave the driving to somebody else and enjoy a book, catch up on email or just kill the time reading social media or watching videos. It might take longer, but you will arrive without have had to deal with the stress of driving & by keeping your car off the road, helped the planet too. You might also save money (less fuel expenses, lower insurance since you’re not commuting in your car, less wear & tear on the vehicle, no parking fees), and some employers might even pay your fares, or give you access to discounted tickets.
While they have been oddly controversial at times in and around San Francisco, the inter-city shuttles run by the larger employers are another way to get the advantages of public transit, usually with even more comfort. One employer bus service here has posters on their buses claiming each one removes 120 cars from the road daily; that can only be good for everyone.
Some also run smaller shuttles between nearby public transit stops and their offices.
Walking, Biking or Scooting
Whether it is the whole commute or just the two ends, with a public transit segment in the middle, leaving the car in the garage and walking, biking or, my current preference, scooting to the bus/train/ferry is a great way to help the planet and also get you some exercise.
Most public transit systems can handle bikes these days, although as they get more popular it can become crowded. The new ferries on the route I take specifically included larger bike parking areas to deal with the number of people taking bikes on board. The scooter option is even easier since they just fold up and can be carried on board.
Recently popular, bike shares are another way to get between public transit and your home or office, especially if you can easily walk for one end of the journey, or don’t have bike parking at your office (or home). The first systems used docks for the bikes, and required journeys to start and end at one of the docks. More recently, dockless sharing services like LimeBike and Jump let you park the bike wherever is convenient (they do have some recommendations to be considerate to others). They are activated by an app on your phone and charge only for usage. Bring your own helmet for safety.
The LimeBikes we have in Alameda, and the Ford GoBike sharing services in Oakland and San Francisco are conventional bikes. Jump, in SF, are operating e-bikes, so, while you still need to peddle, there is a motor to provide assistance.
For those with longer distances to go, an electric scooter might fit the bill and allow the car to stay home. Modern commuter e-scooters, like the Swagtron ones, are lightweight and easily folded, but still provide decent range and speed (be sure to check the weight before ordering as some models can be a lot heavier).
Dockless e-scooter sharing is also coming. Bird are already operating in Santa Monica and planning to expand into other Southern California cities, and LimeBike are also getting into the electric scooter rental business (as well as the e-bike space), though they have not announced which cities will be receiving them.
Braver souls might opt for Segway Mini Pro or an electric skate board like the ones from Boosted. While I see people commuting on these, and other unusual conveyances, they are clearly less mainstream than bikes and scooters.