One of the difficulties of switching to a greener lifestyle is that, without long term planning, it can be impossible to commute without driving.

My experience is that, providing you plan properly, switching to public transport can not only work, it can work well.

I started planning to switch to public transport when it became clear my employer of the time was slowly going under. I was going to have to find another job. I decided to go one stage further, by making my job search more flexible, by moving too. That decision to move made the switch to a greener commute possible.

image: deguerrotype parc

I realised that when public transport worked, it was better than the average drive. It was more reliable, the average unexpected delay is a few minutes, so a commute can be fairly precisely planned. It isn’t that reliable, there will always be incidents, but that’s life.

Driving without incident, such an accident, or unexpected and unexplainable queues, happened at about the same frequency, but the delays were much longer, ranging from ten minutes to, in a few cases, giving up and going back to work/home. (Note that’s how I feel about it, and is most certainly not a careful scientific calculation.) Even so, no matter how easy the drive, I cannot snooze behind the wheel. Furthermore, even on normal drives, there are often sudden moments of sharp stress as some idiot does something unexpected, stupid, and dangerous. Commuting on public transport is stress free, particularly on a train.

The point is that you really need to live where the public transport is good, both easy to find, and offering a good link to where you work. In effect, public transport doesn’t come to you, you have to go to it. You should live where the transport links are good.

I’d found over the years that many UK communities had dismal public transport. Some villages had nothing, some towns suppressed nights out by stopping public transport before people went home, and so on. The worse was a village with one bus, which ran once a week, and allowed forty five minutes in the destination town for someone to do everything they had to do. It was insane. UK public transport was absolutely awful. So my move to a greener commute took me out of the UK.

I now plan my moves with public transport in mind. My current commute requires a fifteen minute walk to the station, a twenty minute train ride, and then a shortish bus ride (or another walk if I’m in the mood). That first walk, and walk back in the evening, gives me the recommended minimum exercise per week. I can listen or watch stuff on the train: 20 minutes is good for poetry. Using electric trains and buses is a far better commute than driving.

The lack of stress, beyond that from the occasional delay, is very pleasant. The exercise is beneficial. I have no intention of going back to driving, to the extent that I shocked my employer when I refused a company car.