Yikes! Did everybody get home OK last night? That snow (sorry- ‘polar vortex’ will not be used around here as a synonym for normal winter weather) caused total cha0s yesterday, as car commuters got stuck in miles of jams. After traveling 1.2 miles in an hour, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to do this. It was time to make the switch to rail…
For most of us, driving a car to work is just the done thing. Transit doesn’t work…it’s too far away, too slow, too something. In Princeton, the overwhelming majority of people get to work by car, causing traffic, pollution, and wasted time. Few of us ever think about how we might get to work by an alternative method, but the snow yesterday made me think twice about driving.
After an hour and a half moving slower than walking speed, and with Google Maps indicating red-and-black roads (i.e. complete gridlock) ahead, I turned back, parked the car up at work, and resolved to take the train. As the nearest NJ Transit station to my work is 3 miles away, the train is not usually a good option- the car is far quicker. In fact, fewer than 2% of Princeton’s workforce use rail as their primary mode of commuting. But with yesterday’s traffic, it was time to break the ritual of the habitual, and I set out on foot for the station.
Walking in the snow can be pretty cold, but with some good boots and a warm jacket, it’s actually quite pleasant, and not just because you’re striding past all the cars stuck in traffic. Freshly fallen snow is not really slippy, and makes a satisfying crunch each time you take a step. In the snow, sounds are softer, colors seem different. You see things in new ways, noticing things that you would miss from inside of a car:
One good thing about trains is that they can keep going even in moderate snow. Last night, NJ Transit trains were running, albeit with something of a delay. After a brisk walk and a warm train ride, I arrived in Princeton Junction looking forward to a run on the little Dinky train. But alas! The Dinky wasn’t there! Was it running in the snow?? Unsure, I leapt on the free Tiger PAWW shuttle, which runs between Princeton Junction and the old Dinky Station. Surprisingly, the bus made light work of the snow, and we were soon at University Place.
Unfortunately, that still left a pretty long walk to my home- reminding me why I don’t commute by train more often. Like a lot of people in Princeton, the Dinky just doesn’t get me very close to home.. And the next day, with rail schedules still mixed-up, it is much easier to get a ride to Princeton Junction than take mess around with the Dinky. That’s kind of a shame: I would have liked my rail experiment to have involved the Dinky but like most people, unless there’s a compelling reason to do otherwise, I’m going to travel by the fastest, most predictable way possible.
Do you have a transit ‘Plan B’? When was the last time you rode the Dinky or tried transit to get to work? What would make you use transit more often? Let us know with the comments form below!