Trip Chaining Isn’t As Trippy As It Sounds

We at Movability Austin talk to a lot of commuters, and we know one of the biggest barriers to changing commute habits is all the “what-ifs” that come with the idea of mixing up your routine. One big “what-if” that often comes up is the challenge of making multiple stops on your way to or from work (also known as “trip chaining”). Getting on a bus for a single ride is one thing; stopping off to pick up groceries or meet up with people throws a kink into that, and sometimes that’s enough to make people just pick up the car keys as usual.Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 2.04.37 PM

Before you do pick up those keys, consider these examples and advice from four Austinites who link several stops all the time.


My usual Tuesday is a bike ride to work, car2go out to Domain, METRO Rapid back to downtown and a bike ride back home. I also supplement my options with a Vespa for convenience. It requires about 1/6th of the parking area and is free to park downtown.

I think route selection is a big deal. I make time on the weekends to pick up or deal with things that are not part of my commute. Ditching your car so that you have to think this way is a big part of it.

Car2go has changed my mobility considerably. Also Uber and Lyft are good options when you consider how much people pay to park downtown. Otherwise, a quality bike bag is a must-have item. It is great for picking up food or errand items. Also, a bike commute might take the place of gym activity at least a couple days a week.

Dayton: The trick, in my opinion, to trip chaining, is first to commute by bicycle or foot, and not treat the trip like something just to get done. It does take time to loop in a stop at the grocery a mile north of home, then stroll towards the thrift store to look for a costume for the weekend’s party, and then stroll home, but if you treat physical commuting modes as exercise, mental break time, and an opportunity to explore new alleys, roads, parks and the in-between spaces of your town, then trip chaining becomes less a troubling ‘should do’ and more of an enjoyable daily adventure.

Alissa: Do what works; I’ve been bike commuting since college, but now that I’m older, I have an electric bike. A little motor on the uphills has kept me from giving up on riding altogether. On rainy days, I use car2go and ridesharing. Another aspect of trip chaining and using options is to address your own anxiety, if you have it: the people on the bus are interesting, it’s not really embarrassing to ask coworkers for rides, and you don’t need a special sexy bike – no one at the office will know anyway.

On a practical level, I’ve learned to get a good briefcase backpack, because the car is no longer a moving storage shed, and I’ve learned the importance of wearing comfortable shoes. Biking, bussing, and car sharing all require more walking than driving anywhere does.

Alix: The key to trip chaining is to plan ahead or know your options. Before I leave the office each day, I glance at my calendar for the next few days to see what I have coming up. If I see something after work like a happy hour event, I immediately start figuring out how I’m going to get there – Can I walk? Is it on a bus line? Maybe a coworker is going, too, and we can carpool? By planning it out in advance, I can make arrangements and know exactly when to leave the office.

It’s also handy to know your options. Car2go is very helpful for last-minute trips, where I haven’t had time to plan it out. But I also have some routine trip chains in my back pocket. For example, if a friend texts me during the day to invite me over for dinner, I know there is a small grocery store right along my normal bus route home, just a few steps from the bus stop, so I always know that’s a good option to pick up an appetizer or bottle of wine.

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