12 September 2011

Another Thing About Public Transit

Another thing I've discovered I really like about commuting by bike and by train is it forces me to think about what I can carry back and forth, and about what I can accomplish en route.

When I drive a car back and forth to work, I tend to pile in everything I think I might need at the other end.  I end up moving huge piles of stuff home for the weekend, or to the office for the day, and then end up cranky because I didn't have time to deal with it all.

On the bike ride, there's a real limit to how much I can manage, especially since I need to fold the bike up and carry it, and whatever I'm carrying on it, up or down stairs at various points on the journey.  I can't comfortably carry more than about 45 pounds (including the bike) up and down stairs.  25 pounds of bike; 20 pounds of books, papers, water, food, repair tools, waterproofs, helmet, lights and reflectors.

So I take time to think: what can I do on the train?  How much time will I have to get work done at the other end of the train ride? What's most urgent among the pile of stuff I have to get done?  And I've been getting my work done more efficiently and with less guilt, because I have to think very hard about what I can get done and what needs to get done next, rather than shoving everything I might want into the car.

(The people who tell you how to manage your time want me to have asked myself and answered those questions years ago.  And I'm generally fairly good at prioritizing the things I need to do.  The problem is I tend to haul lots of extra stuff in case I get the other stuff done more quickly than expected.  Then, see "cranky.")

The bike/train trip takes just over two and a half hours.  Five hours, round trip in a day: seems like a brutal commute. (If I drive, it's three to four hours, round trip.)  But nearly an hour of that is biking, broken up into four nice little chunks at either end of the train ride.  A half hour is waiting for trains and making the transfer from PATH to NJ Transit or back.  The other three and a half hours is work time.  Uninterrupted work time, with no internet access, no phone calls, nobody coming to my office or my desk at home to ask me for things.

Good work time.