waitingfortrain

I don't just work for Valley Metro, I'm a customer as well.

Okay, maybe that sounds like a cheesy advertisement, but in my case it's the truth. And there are many reasons why I choose to commute by bike, bus, and take rail from Scottsdale to my workplace near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

The commute starts two hours before I clock in with a short ride from my home to the nearest bus stop. I know from years of taking this route that it's vital to get there at least ten minutes before the bus is due to arrive. Yes, there are stretches of time when I may have wished that I had lingered at home for a few more minutes, but arriving early is certainly preferable to being passed up by the bus. Longtime users of public transit like me know that if you want to arrive at your destination on time, you've got to allow for extra time for unforeseen circumstances. Traffic problems affect buses and trains alike.

busbikerack
Valley Metro buses are equipped with bike racks to help commuters who need to bike to a stop or their final destination.

Once the bus arrives, putting the bike on the rack on the front of the bus is quite easy. It's just a matter of making sure that the front tire is pointing the appropriate way, and that varies according to which rack slot you use. There's a sticker on each slot that says "front tire here." After you rack the bike, you've got to move an adjustable arm on the slot that rotates above the bike's front tire and locks it firmly in place for the trip. Then it's time to enter the bus, swipe your pass, and settle into a seat to enjoy the ride.

People have all sorts of ways to pass the time during their commute. I've found that most commuters simply look at the screens of their phones and maybe watch videos or listen to music on their headphones or earbuds. There are always the chatty ones who enjoy making conversation during the trip. Just the other day, I saw a guy in the back of my bus who was quietly practicing guitar.

You see all kinds of people during a bus or train ride, and while there are occasionally some annoying ones, nearly everyone is respectful of themselves and others. Personally, I pass the time on a bus catching up on some reading. I've got more than a dozen books down for the year so far, and a bus ride from Scottsdale to the transit center at Veterans Way/College Ave is a great way to get a few chapters down.

When I get to the transit center, it takes just a second to free my bike from the bus rack and a minute or two to get to the line to await the train going west. Once I board, there's the toughest part of my commute: lifting the bike onto the rack in the center of the train car. Some people can accomplish this task smoothly. I am not one of those people. Still, rules are rules, and Valley Metro appreciates it when customers rack their bicycles to allow people to move freely through the car.

There are just a few rail stations between Veterans Way/College Ave and my final station at 50th St/Washington. It takes about ten minutes to cover that distance, then it's time to take the bike down from the rack (which is a lot easier than putting it up) and ease it out of the train. The train goes on its way, and I mount up for the quick mile bike ride between the station and my office.

All told, my commute is about 90 minutes. When I commute by car, it's about 25 minutes.

So why would I triple my commute time if I didn't have to? I think every commuter will have their own reasons why they take public transit. Personally, I have multiple reasons.

First, I try to do my part to help the environment. I believe everyone has a responsibility to do something to make this planet a little better. While I'm not planting trees or composting or living off the grid or anything like that, I know that riding public transit results in less air pollution, and that helps everyone.

Secondly, there's the economic factor. Gas prices can get ridiculous, and driving 40 miles every day puts wear and tear on the car. Perhaps not a lot of wear and tear, but I'd like to think that every time I choose to take public transit, I've delayed a mechanical mishap in the car for one more day as well as saved a little money.

There's also the fact that biking is exercise. When I commute by car, I arrive at work with zero energy, like I'm dragging myself to my desk. When I have that quick bike ride from the station to my workplace, my heart is pumping, I'm energized, and I clock in with a positive attitude.

So that's a little glimpse into my daily commute by bike, bus, and rail. Why do you use public transit? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram at @valleymetro.
 

Tsotsos
Alex Tsotsos
Rail Operations Communications Specialist
Writer, editor, musician, gamer, and former news professional. Frequently seen at Phoenix Rising matches and jogging around Gainey Ranch. May throw things in the presence of typos.