I got the best e-mail this weekend.  It was from my friend MetroManiac.  For months, we have been having conversations where we daydream about not needing a car in our lives.  Well, it is no longer just talk.  Last week, he actually took a step towards making this a reality: he rode public transit to work.  And he wrote about the entire experience, which I have posted below.  I am particularly impressed with his making this change because there were a few factors involved in his commute that could potentially make the experience a negative one: 1) the bus line he takes runs through a rough neighborhood, 2) the commute requires 2 legs (and 2 different modes of transportation), and 3) the whole journey to work would now take longer than its automobile counterpart.  I certainly might have backed off just thinking about theses obstacles.  But he took a chance and…well, you can read his conclusions below.  I’ll just say that they made me really happy.  I hope this post will inspire readers to look for ways to make similar changes in their own lives, however subtle.


Last Wednesday I decided to pull the trigger and ride the metro to work.  My commute consists of hopping on the 53 (it has a stop that is right next to our place) to the Avalon metro rail station (the green line), which I then take to the Mariposa station in El Segundo.  The commute averages about 50 minutes in either direction.

The bus ride to the Avalon station in the morning is super easy: the bus is exactly on time, I’m the first one on the bus, and the people that get on are not seedy.  I was surprised to find that 80% of the riders in the morning are women.  The other thing that I was surprised by was the sight of a couple of flat screen TVs on the bus!  (See the attached photo).  Part of each screen shows a map with the current location of the bus.  They run short clips with news, safety tips, and weather.

Watch some tube on your way to work. Credit: MetroManiac

The bus takes about 18 minutes to get to the metro rail station.  During peak hours the metro rail arrives every 10 minutes, so I don’t have to wait long for a train.  What I’ve been doing this week is finding a forward facing seat on the right side of the train so I can look at the westbound traffic of the 105 freeway (the train goes right by the segment I used to go through).  Sitting there looking at all those people getting stuck in traffic has been a hemorrhage of pleasure.  It’s incredible how the overwhelming number of people commuting by car are by themselves and not carpooling…it’s almost sickening.

After getting to the Mariposa station I just have an 8 minute walk to the place I work.  I’ve seen some people use a little foot powered scooter thingy to go the rest of the way, I may employ something like that in the future.  But maybe I won’t, because now I am forced to do a healthy amount of walking each day instead of sitting on my arse the whole day.

This type of commute is about twice as long as my car commute.  Since I can read, listen to music, gloat at the people in traffic, or just people watch, the metro commute doesn’t really feel that long.  I use a TAP card to get on the bus and metro rail, which my employer sells to me for 50% less than other people pay (so I only end up paying $37.50).  So for the price of one tank of gas I can ride all month long.

I detached my car key from my key ring…it is so liberating.  My car now will only be used to get from point A to point B and on weekends to point C.  I called my insurance company this weekend and managed to reduce my premium by 22%, but I think I can lower that even more if I switch companies, maybe down to 50%.

I must confess that I feel ashamed I didn’t find out about this mode of transportation before. Especially since a metro rail stop is right smack on top of one of my company’s south campus buildings (not the current building I work in, but another one next to the El Segundo stop).  After graduating and getting a job I just thought that riding the metro was just for the have-nots.

To summarize the benefits of riding the metro, we have:

  • Substantial savings in car insurance.  I should save about $500/year.
  • Substantial savings in gas expenses.  I should save about $600/year.
  • Reduced stress in going and coming from work. Although I didn’t have the longest drive to work, it could be pretty darn stressing sometimes.
  • I can listen to music, listen to podcasts, read my Kindle, play with my phone, play with a gameboy, etc. etc.  Of course, I could listen to things in my car but it simply isn’t the same.
  • Reduced carbon emissions and other things along those lines.
  • Less wear and tear on the car
The disadvantages are:
  • The metro commute is twice as long as the car commute.
  • I have to be extra watchful with time in the mornings, specially if I have a meeting to attend.
  • The occasional encounter with a smelly individual.  There’s also the possibility of running into seedy characters.
  • Exposure to the elements.
  • More exposure to germs of other people (after watching the movie Contagion, I can’t help thinking about this).
I think the positives far outweigh the negatives.  The intangibles are simply incalculable, and riding the metro has opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities.
Thanks, MetroManiac!  You should take a nice fancy vacation with all of your savings!!  🙂