Hacking my Commute

subway-spiderOne of the perks of working in Kendall Square is taking public transportation to work every day.  I love public transportation!  I love the maps, the systems, figuring out how to get from point A to point B.  In foreign cities it’s one of the highlights for me.

My last job had a huge long car commute, and I was a champ at using that time well.  I’d queue up podcasts, pre-program friends’ and colleagues’ phone numbers into my phone, I’d use Waze to pick the best route, and for a while even used a breast pump on the way home.  (Moms are awesome multi-taskers!)

The goal of my old commute and my new commute are the same:

1. Get home as soon as possible

2. Use the time during my commute as well as possible

3. Optimize the morning commute for the best coffee/pastry options 🙂

Now I take the bus and the train every day.  If I’m coming from home, I take the 43 to Park St then the red line two stops to Kendall.  If I’m coming from babyDiva’s daycare, I take the Silver Line to Downtown Crossing, then walk to Park and red line it to Kendall.  Then I do the same thing in reverse at night.

Analysis

The thing in my commute that takes the longest time is walking from the red line to the office.  Since the office isn’t moving any time soon, that’s a static cost.  The good news is that I pass lots of good coffee on the way: Tatte and Voltage to name a few.

The next thing that takes a long time is occasionally waiting for the bus.  The red line seems to come pretty regularly for me, but the bus can take a while.  I do have the option of walking to/from Park Street to/from daycare or home, but it’s about 25 minutes, so it only sometimes makes sense if the bus gods are against me.

The thing that is the most stressful is getting to babyDiva’s daycare on the days I pick her up.  mrDiva does more pickups (I do more drop-offs) but sometimes I need to get her.  Worrying about if the bus is coming/will come/will come soon/will come in time is tough.  I find that if I leave just 10 minutes earlier (at 4:50) then I can stop worrying so much.

This tweet by a prominent working mom captured it perfectly:

Iterating

I’ve tried some other stuff that hasn’t worked.  I tried getting on at Downtown Crossing in the mornings, but the walk to the red line from the Silver isn’t any closer than Park Street.  I’ve tried the 9 or 11 from daycare to the Broadway stop but that doesn’t save me any time.  I’ve also tried just walking to Broadway, but the distance is a little too long to save me any time.

Recently I figured out that I can save some time if I take the 9 or 11 from Broadway to daycare – in a way that doesn’t work well in reverse.  That’s interesting to me that reversing my commute doesn’t always work the same way as playing it forward, depending on where certain stops and bus routes are.

Tools of the trade

I use the MBTA Alerts app on my phone to track when the next bus is, and will sometimes choose the 43 or Silver Line independent of daycare responsibilities if that’s what makes the most sense.

Most days I read books, yes real paper books, but sometimes I listen to podcasts.  My favorite is This American Life which has a great show but a terrible app.  I also like The Moth, RadioLab, Planet Money, and Story Collider.  Beyond Pod is a good app to keep all these organized – it’s one of the only apps whose Premium version I’ve paid for.

I find that I can get really lazy about taking out my book and just play Dots on my phone instead, then hate myself for wasting 40 minutes.  So I try to carry my book with me onto the bus/train so it’s easy to get to rather than having to fish it out of my backpack.  I also find that it’s annoying to have to take out my T pass from my bag, but women’s pants don’t always have pockets so there’s that first world problem.

Walking 

There are a few beautiful days – maybe there have been 10 so far in my 6 months at Infinio – where I’ve stepped outside and it’s been so nice that I have abandoned the MBTA plan in favor of walking.  I can walk to work in less than half an hour, marveling the entire time that it’s still less time than it used to take me to drive to my old job.

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