Re-framing Time

Thirty Seconds is a Long Time

Rely on public transit for a week and watch how quickly your sensitivity to time grows.  Not only do you become finely attuned to the importance of minute-by-minute timing, you become acutely aware of each travel segment:  the length of time to get from your home to your transit stop; wait times for connections; and walk times from transit to your work place.  You also develop a new appreciation of how time and reliability are inextricably linked when you depend on transit.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Arrive at your transit stop too early, and you’re “wasting too much time” waiting for your bus or train.
  2. Arrive too late (30 seconds!), and you’ve just missed the train.  (Did you realize that BART pauses for a mere 30 seconds at most stops to board and de-board riders?)  Waiting more than a few minutes for the next train may make you late for work.
  3. Missing connections (or having infrequent connections) significantly adds to the total amount of time it takes to make a trip, thereby making transit seem inefficient.  Worse, missing a connection can make you late to pick up kids, the cleaning, and other time-sensitive duties.
  4. Transit availability and frequency to destinations during the day (such as going out to lunch) can be limiting.

When transit is extremely reliable (such as BART), you can consult a schedule and plan your arrival and travel time down to the minute.  When you can check to see when the next train and/or buses are arriving (via NextBus-type technology), you can also plan efficiently, even when service is infrequent.  This alleviates much of the uncertainty associated with public transit.

Transit users often re-frame time.  Time spent on transit can be considered “found” time – to listen to music, catch up with emails, talk on the phone or read.  It can extend the workday.   It can help you get ready for the day ahead, and relax before getting home.  Walking to and from transit can be re-framed as exercise – at a good clip, it might even replace a trip to the gym or jogging when you get home.  Just as important are new opportunities to interact with your community in ways not possible when you’re zipping by in the car… such as getting to know your local merchants and seeing your community from a pedestrian scale…

By shifting how you think about time spent getting to/from and on transit, you just may discover how taking transit may actually save time, while simultaneously, helping save the environment!

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