Thoughts on my Commuting Habits

After reading Chad Skelton’s story in the Vancouver Sun today about transit-use by neighborhood in Vancouver, I have been thinking about my own commuting habits.

(aside: I can’t wait to see the 2011 numbers on this and see how they compare).

Since I moved from the Cambie Village to where I currently live, near Memorial Park, my commuting has changed drastically. I used to drive once every few weeks – I could walk to shops, work, etc. But since moving out to south-east van, I’ve been driving WAY more: in order to  drop Liam at school, get to work at a reasonable time, then get back to Liam’s school in order to pick him up, I had to drive. Transit is simply too slow, too unreliable. At it’s best, when I perfectly make all connections, my transit commute is 40 minutes. Driving that same distance is 30-odd minutes. Another change in our current location is that we’re just as likely to go to Metrotown or Richmond to do some shopping as we are to go downtown or Oakridge. For convenience (and often, immediate out-of-pocket costs, given 2 adult + 1 child tickets, each way) we generally drive to all those – rather than walking or hopping on the bus/skytrain downtown.

But when I don’t have to pick Liam up from school, I would take the bus to/from work: the 41/43 to Oakridge, then the Canada Line to Yaletown, then walk back to Cambie & Smithe, where my office is. There’s a variety of other routes I’ve tried too (note – all of these times are total, including my walking time):

  • Knight 22 Bus, to Pender/Cambie (about 40 minutes when nothing goes wrong. But the Knight 22 is terribly unreliable).
  • 41/43 EAST to skytrain, then skytrain to Stadium/Chinatown, then walk to my office (about 45 minutes – but it just feels wrong to go this route.)
  • 41/43 to Oakridge, 15 Cambie bus to my door (about 40 minutes – if the busses connect perfectly, which never happens. And now the Cambie bus no longer goes over the Cambie bridge)
  • 41/43 to Oakridge, Canada line to Broadway, 17 bus to my door (about 60 minutes due to connections)

But while I have lots of options, none of them are particularly speedy. And none as convenient, even accounting for bad rush-hour traffic, as driving.

I used to ride occasionally, but with an active family, I’d often end up having to leave my bike at work overnight, because I’d get picked up and we’d then all go somewhere else. Our Yaris couldn’t fit my bike in it.

Then, this summer, with the pending arrival of Kellan, we bought a Toyota Highlander SUV. And on this SUV, we put a bike rack. And suddenly amazingly, I’m riding way more. And I’ve figured out why I didn’t ride so much before. Generally, I ride to work, but at least twice a week, I get picked up and we go do something. Which previously meant that I wouldn’t be riding in the next morning, because my bike would be at work still. And best of all, biking is by far the quickest way for me to get to work: I’m averaging 23 minutes on my ride to work (downhill) and 33 minutes home (uphill). Which is not only quick, but has an immediate impact on my health too – 6 weeks into doing this, I’m 12 pounds lighter to boot. Somewhat ironically, buying an SUV has been good for my health, because I’m using it MUCH less than I used to use my little car.

I still don’t particularly like my commuting options. I’m hoping to become an all-weather cyclist, but I don’t have a great history of it, so we’ll see what happens in the winter.