Until I moved back to Baltimore in 2008, the idea of driving to work every day was entirely foreign to me. After growing up in Pikesville, I went to college in New York and lived in or around the city until we moved back here. I took the subway—and for the last two years there, when we lived in Jersey City, the commuter PATH train—to work every day. During that time, I would occasionally grumble about the crowded trains and platforms, the delays, and—particularly in cold weather—the walks to and from stations. But the commute never took more than 30 or 40 minutes and I grew to really value the time it afforded me to read, rest, or just take a few minutes to space out and contemplate things.
After moving to Baltimore, this turned out to be a major adjustment. I'd like to say the environment was at the top of the list of reasons I hated driving to work every day, but, truth be told, it's near the bottom. For one thing, I hate having to deal with cars—they break down all the time, gas is expensive, you have to change the oil (apparently. I have yet to do this.) Also, my reading time has been drastically cut. My commute used to give me a solid hour a day of reading time. I used to get through a book every couple of weeks, read the paper more thoroughly, do the crossword—all of that is pretty much gone and I really miss it.
All of which explains why, when Baltimore city launched the Charm City Circulator last week, making it a lot more feasible for me to get to work using public transportation, I decided tyo give it a try. The Circulator consists of 21 electric-hybrid buses that, when the program is fully rolled out, will run on four routes through the downtown area—all for free! It's an ambitious, green initiative aimed at increasing tourism and use of public transportation and I think it's great. The orange line was the first to begin operation, on January 11th.
As it happens, the orange line solves the major problem keeping from using public transportation to get to work. I live in Mt Washington, about a mile from the light rail stop, but, until now, there was no easy way to get from the light rail stops downtown to my office in Harbor East. As it happens, the orange line runs right past the light rail's convention center stop and to Harbor East, about a block from my office. I decided to give the commute a try.
One thing I didn't realize was how accustomed I had become to having a car with me all the time. Every day since last Tuesday, I have thought about trying the commute, but inevitably there was some errand I needed to do before or after work or some meeting I needed to drive to that would make being without a car particularly inconvenient. Finally, this morning, I was ready to give it a try.
I decided to ease into the commute. Rather than walk or ride my bike to the light rail stop—it's not that far, but there's a brutal hill coming back—I would drive to the light rail stop and take public transport from there. I had a few things to take care of, so I didn't get to the light rail station until almost 9 a.m. when, to my dismay, the light rail parking lot was completely full. An adjacent lot had metered parking and a two-hour limit, as did all the other parking in nearby Mt. Washington Village. I could have searched farther afield for parking, but at this point, I decided to abort this first attempt.
Next time, I will have an earlier start and hopefully, I can find a spot at the parking lot. If not, I can probably find a spot on the streets near Mt. Washington Village. And, if all else fails, I can bite the bullet and ride my bike from home (which means investing in a lock—suffice it to say, I am a novice rider at absolute best). I perish the thought of coming home after a long day and having to slog up Sulgrave Ave., past Mt. Washinigton Elementary, but Lord knows, other people work a lot harder to go green. I'll report back on my efforts.
In the meantime, I'm curious of anyone else's efforts to use public transportation—particularly the Circulator—to commute in Baltimore. Of course, the packed parking lot could mean than more people are commuting to work—I've never seen the lot full before—but it could also discourage potential commuters like me. I wonder if there is any thought to expanding the existing lots to encourage more commuters. If it's possible, there ought to be.