While sitting on the one hour and 23-minute train ride from South Station to Worcester after waking up at 6 a.m. to catch the train, I said to myself, "I don't think I'll ever do this again."
But then, after riding my bike home from the train station on a beautiful summer night and getting home before the second inning of the Red Sox game had started, I said to myself again that night, "Maybe that wasn't so bad after all."
Part of the reason I wrote a story about commuting trends in Central Massachusetts is because of my own drive to work every day.
I live in Arlington and drive about 100 miles roundtrip every day, which takes me about an hour each way. In the summer it can be 50 minutes, but in the winter during a storm it can easily be two hours each way.
Like many of the commuters I spoke with who have long treks to work, I feel like it's just a part of my life. It's what I do.
I would love to take the train more often to work and not continue to stack miles on to my car, but it's just not convenient enough for me to do so regularly.
There are two specific reasons why the train doesn't work for me: Time and Cost.
I live in Arlington. For me to take the 6:50 a.m. train (which is the only train leaving at a reasonable hour from Boston that gets into Worcester before 9 a.m.), I have to leave my home at 6 a.m. I take the Red Line to the commuter rail and then walk or bike from Union Station to our Shrewsbury Street offices. Overall, it's about a two and a half hour one-way commute.
That is compared to the normal time I leave, which is around 7:30 a.m. to get in at 8:30 a.m.
One advantage of taking the commuter rail is that I can use wireless Internet on the train and relax. But honestly, I don't find driving to be too stressful most of the time. I listen to podcasts, my Siruis Satellite Radio and catch up with my parents on the phone during my commute. (Don't worry: I have Bluetooth, so I'm not distracted and holding the phone up to my ear.) Because I have a "reverse" commute going out of the Boston area, I rarely hit traffic.
As for cost, I just don't see a lot of savings in taking the train. I pay between $60 and $75 a week for gas, depending on the price.
A roundtrip commuter rail ticket is $15. If I took the train every day, I'm not saving any money. Perhaps if I buy a commuter's pass I might save some, but I don't know how significant it would be.
I do see myself possibly using the commuter rail again in the future, however. Biking home from downtown Boston to Arlington was a lot of fun. (I love biking, so I'll take any excuse.) On a nice day, I might be convinced to do it again, if I'm willing to wake up extra early that day.
Can anything be done that would make me more likely to use public transportation? Yes. It'll take more and faster trains.
The current schedule is just inconvenient. There is a 4 a.m. train that arrives in Worcester at 5:15 a.m.
Then, there is the 6:50 a.m. train arriving at 8:15 a.m. The next one after that is at 8:50 a.m., which doesn't get in to Worcester until 10 a.m.
A train around 7:45 a.m. would be ideal. I would get in by 9 a.m. or so, I could leave my apartment at a reasonable time and I could take a 4 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. train home.
I suspect the reason this is not done is because on the rail line between Framingham and Worcester preference is given to inbound commuter trains (as it should be). Hopefully as the state works to increase the number of trains on the Worcester line, there will be increased "reverse" commuting trains.
But, that's not the case now. So I'll probably continue driving to work most days (especially in the winter) except for an occasional day when I am willing to wake up extra early and have a nice bike ride on my way home.
All in all, commuting to work on the train for a day was a fun experiment and I'm glad I did it.
If I have one piece of advice for my fellow commuters, it's this: Give an alternate commute a try, even if it's just for a day. Who knows, maybe you'll find a better way to get to work.