Driving to work along Interstate 70 from Florissant into the city, I reflected back on summer when I wrode the MetroLink every day. Squeezed between tractor trailors and NASCAR wannabes, with white knuckles on the steering wheel, I tried to justify why I was now driving. There are always balancing reasons for most decisions: 50 minutes on the train versus 25 minutes in the car one way; work subsidizes my parking pass but not my monthly train pass (which are the same price); and my dog’s aging bladder being away for 2 extra hours a day compared to my 8 minute commute when I was at Florissant Valley campus. My main thoughts were about control. Driving allows me to have my very own private bubble around me, where I am in control of my route and when to leave. Yet, riding the train, I felt totally relaxed to let the driver deliver me in a cost-effective, socially-just manner. It is just in that not everyone can afford the multitude of costs to own, insure and drive a car. Plus, the train offered me a view of both fellow St. Louisans and the parks and businesses along the way that I don’t get to view due to my intense concentration to avoid others who have managed time poorly and are on a curvy race track across the urban landscape.
What would it take to ride the train again? Bringing my dog to work? Having flex time to do some of my research work from home so not to have such a long day in the city? Subsidy from work for the monthly rail pass to replace the parking pass? Having acccess to the “WE” cars to head out to meetings on other campuses? Or is it just being more organized to get to the train station on time and not having the 15 minute wait between trains? I loved feeling like I was in Europe when riding the train–free to think about my life, my new position as sustainability coordinator, and even read my Yoga magazine.
One consolation to driving is my Prius. My hybrid gets 53 mpg right now and is emitting almost zero carbon emissions. That is not as good as the electric train, unless you consider the negative impacts from the way we make electrons from coal and nuclear here in the midwest, rather than sustainable sources like wind and solar. So, like the paper or plastic dilemma, I have not yet found my cloth bag solution. Beam me up, Scottie! I’ll keep working on my cloth bag solution for commuting.