For a large portion of the time in between these dates, I was a single occupant driver. I’d changed jobs and was working in Olympia (driving from a Tacoma suburb). I was able to rationalize driving as more convenient or that my work for part of the year can have hours too unpredictable and late for transit to be a realistic option (in fact, at most I had a total of two weeks over the following 6 years where I wouldn’t have been able to take a bus home).
I started re-considering how I get to and from work in the fall of 2000. I had just returned from a month road trip to the California Sierras for a backpacking trip. During that time, I paid gas prices of over $2.00 a gallon (I know, we could only wish they were at that level today, but they were high for the time). I no longer enjoyed driving the same long, boring route up I-5 day in and day out.
Washington State has a Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) law which requires employers to provide incentives for employees to use alternate commute methods (RCW 40.01.230; RCW 70394.521-551). The state agency for which I worked was subject to this law as well. As an incentive, my employer would pay for my bus pass from Tacoma to Olympia. So, for a month or two, I made my trips to Olympia mostly by bus. I was still driving to a park and ride to catch my first bus, but it was a step in the right direction.
December of 2000, I changed jobs and started working in Seattle. Now I was commuting into “hostile territory” a.k.a. traffic! My employer provided a bus pass, so I continued the car/bus combination for a while. When the transmission in my truck died, I switched to entirely commuting by bus and foot (or in the summers bus and bicycle). I was spending anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours each way on my commute, with up to three bus rides each. This was not a good way to put quality time into a young marriage.
October of 2002 we pulled up stakes in Tacoma and moved to Seattle. My commute became 30 minutes by foot or 15 minutes by bike each way. I still got a transit pass from my employer, but found it was used more for getting around Seattle in general than for getting to and from work (by the time I made all the necessary transfers, it was just as fast to walk to work, and faster to ride my bike!)
In 2004, I returned to my previous job with the state. After realizing how much I enjoyed walking or riding my bike to work, we factored the ability to do so into the criteria we used in selecting our home. I had to be able to walk to work within 30 minutes. We did it, and now my commute is at most 30 minutes if I’m walking (or taking the bus, because of the delay at the transit center). My bike ride in is still 15 minute or less.
I can honestly say that the effect my commute change has on my day-to-day life has been positive. I have time each direction when I can make the transition from work life to home life more easily. The stress of the day is not compounded with the stress of driving; rather it is blown away in the breeze from a 15-20 MPH cruise along the end of the bay on my bicycle. What a better way to deal with it!