Friday, June 13, 2008

Get on the bus, you're going places.

This is the third and final part of a multi-part series on tips to become someone who uses Mass Transit

6. Clothing

Dressing appropriately for mass transit can make a big difference. Making sure you have something for the sun or rain can make the wait more bearable. With the advent of more casual workplaces, we can dress more practically, and spend less time signaling with our clothes. (You ever wonder how much of the crap in our lives is meant to signal for you economists and signify for you po-mo-donistas, how incredibly wonderful we are. How I am so wealthy, have so much taste, will be better in bed because I have certain things.)

If possible dress comfortably without lots of flowing things to get caught in doors, down stairs, etc. If you can wear a cotton poly blend, it'll wick away the perspiration of living while you run to catch the train.

If possible wear sensible shoes to move from place to place. This is so obvious and has been so well proven by the lovely New York women who get it right away. I mean, investment bank directors bring their work shoes and wear trainers, sneakers, or whatever you want to call them on the subway. It's amazing how many billionaires including the mayor take mass transit in New York. Shoes chosen well will never let you down. If need be, leave a pair of dress shoes in your office. I do.

Rockport and Patagonia make great dress shoes that are walkable. In silicon valley where it's a little more casual I prefer Merrel moccasins which almost look like dress shoes until you look closely, but sometimes a fake is as good as the real thing.

One last note on clothing, choosing the right weather gear. Depending on where you live, bringing a collapsible rain poncho or umbrella to get to the station and back is something to think about.

7. Emergency money.

Sometimes you need a ride because of an emergency, or you need to work late. If all else fails, have some cab fare to call a private car to send you home. This should be a last resort, if you need to do this too often you are probably doing something wrong. But for all other times, sometimes you need to grab a cab and it might hurt ($60 plus from San Francisco), but you got to do what you got to do. Mentally prepare yourself.


Using mass transit for your commute or your errands will almost always take more time than automotive equivalent. Though in rush hour, you'd be surprised when the train beats the freeway. On the 101 between San Francisco during rush hour, the status signs on the freeways will display the time on the freeway versus the time taking the train, and where the next Caltrain stop is. But I digress, mass transit involves some additional time, but with some planning you will still be time ahead.

So get on the bus, you're going places.

Earlier I mentioned that most of this article was drafted on a Treo smartphone while riding between the train between San Francisco and San Jose. Here is the first draft phone version to show what can be done.

tips for mass transit

there's a lot of good intention in the world, just like there are a lot of good ideas. i occasionally work with entrepreneurs and i find what stymies people is not the idea, but how to implement the idea. a patent is worthless unless you or someone can implement it. a good intention requires an effort. but what effort?

I'll be interspersing my comments on the news and eco-news. with some how to guides on eco-friendly alternatives. the first in the series is will concern using mass transit.

1. survey your options. the key to using mass transit is knowing what's available. most transit sites have detailed information on their websites. you'll be surprised how often a means exists. also sometimes non-intuitive routes make more sense.

the other day i was coming back from san jose. originally i thought light rail would be faster, and in fact that's what google transit recommended. but upon further investigation taking a full local bus would be twenty minutes faster because it was direct. this was a saturday so traffic would not be a factor. result i decided to ride my bike all the way.

one time i was trying to get to denver from a snowed in atlanta (not a typo) and the storm was crippling much of the US. no direct flights to denver existed so i asked the ticket agent could i go west to a hub and connect through there. i ended up via chicago and home earlier. i think the la and sf hubs would have got me in faster.

these worked b/c i had an understanding of the system. i really do fear that gpses as making us stupid.

2. invest in a great bag.

my plane trip transit adventure worked because i had no checked in bag. people often use their cars as lockers (i know i do) well a good bag is your new locker. it should be comfortable and light. pass on frilly options as they pray on on our, "i could see using that" meme. yeah you might use it 2098.

think light and most frequent functions. timbuk2 and crumpler get it. but as they become mass market they are getting north faced bringing out feature laden crap. if you can find a made in usa timbuk2 on craigslist snag it.

if you plan or need to carry a laptop. think two things. padded sleeve and one pouch for ac adapter. everything else is noise.

i mention timbuk2 and crumpler but any good bag can meet your needs. if you don't need much a "fanny pack" will do. they key is that it works with a capital W for you. you are likely to spend more time with this bag than your s.o.

a friend of mine is a yoga instructor and she carries all her apparatus in a rollerboard she takes on the subway. she'll tell you it's a pain. but what are the alternatives.

a. water pouch

3. think like a chess master

quiz: what are you doing when you are stuck in traffic.

answer: nothing

mass transit will have hiccups. just like life. be sure to carry one or two things you can do while waitng. a book, a podcast, a daytimer.

one of the great things about London is that people read there. it makes for a very literate city. move time becomes done time.

4. invest in a smartphone and a data plan.

our lives are increasingly electronic and digital. today's smart phones with a keyboard (virtual or otherwise) can accomplish an amazing amount. point of fact, the first draft of this post is being written on a Treo device.

blackberry's and other email devices enable you to clear out your inbox. you can catch up on the news, or your facebook if you are so inclined.

smartphones are universally enabled with a communications technology called bluetooth that links them up to other devices, such as a headset. another application is called "Dial Up Networking" and it allows you to connect your computer to the internet through your phone. so if you have work that can only be done on your computer you are in luck.

with increasing number of services going mobile you can use transit time effectively. now you don't have to have the data plan, but it helps.

one last thing is that you can download games on your phone and take a break from it all.

5. feed

sustenance is often consciously neglected. until you find yourself crashing. drive-ins and fast food were created for a reason. that's why there are so many quick deli counters in nyc serving up bagels. when you go mass transit you're not going to pull in to a store and grab yourself some food. chess masters plan their matches understanding that the brain needs energy too.

get use to carrying energy bars, fruit or a bagel. i prefer energy bars if you can find a brand you like. i recommend clif. and i also recommend founder Gary Erickson's book "Raising the Bar". but not for mass transit unless you need a book to read. energy bars are there when you need them. perishables like bagels and fruit can rot. an alternative is dried fruit.

if you like sandwiches, muffins or donuts WARNING they are greasy and may reek havoc on the rest of the things in your bag.

i've spoken to the food, now the drink. a simple refillable water bottle with a screw cap can meet your needs. you can even use a used water bottle. though the narrow top makes cleaning more difficult.

weather gear.

depending on where you live. bringing a collapsible rain poncho or umbrella to get to the station and back.

7. sensible shoes.

this is so obvious. the lovely new york women get it. they bring their work shoes and wear trainers, sneakers, on the subway.

rockport and patagonia make great dress shoes that are walkable. In silicon valley where it's a little more casual i prefer Merrel moccasins which almost look like dress shoes until you look.

- distraction, i love my ipod and podcasts. radio on demand.

- cab fund. things go wrong.
a back up plan is all you need.


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