A Reluctant Suburbanite Finds Her “Holy Grail” of Commutes

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Olivia is a native Austinite and UT graduate. She recently started a new job in the downtown office of an elected official, and had the opportunity to re-think her commute. 

When it comes to the lifestyle I lead, my close friends and family would probably describe me as a bit of an aristocrat. I do not want to go to just any restaurant, waste my time watching a B movie, or take a walk on just any street—I seek the best atmosphere, the deepest meaning, the most scenic view. This especially applies to where I call home and how I get there. Until recently, I lived centrally, in an apartment within walking distance to school, work and my favorite restaurants.

Now, humbled by the meteoric housing prices in Austin, I have decided to head back up North to live with my parents, barely inside the city limits. Faced with horrible traffic and a recently-acquired downtown job (that came with a free parking space), I found myself with a commute challenge.

I tried driving. That free parking spot was (and sometimes still is) just too tempting to ignore, but it could also mean sitting in traffic for two hours a day. I quickly decided that hitting the road by 6 or 6:30am to avoid traffic, just to wait until 6:30 or 7pm to go home, was not a sustainable option.

I tried the rail. My mom, also working downtown, sang its praises—no traffic, consistent departure and arrival times. While she is certainly right about that, I found that the crowds and longer wait times were not a good fit for me. So I kept looking.

Finally, I tried the express bus. This express bus is not just any bus. If you catch it at the right time, you will ride to and from downtown in a crisply air-conditioned charter bus with footrests, reclining seats, and the calming hum of an engine that drowns out the invading noise of any talkative passenger. It is a blissful silence of commuters listening to their music, working on their computers, reading their books—pretty much anything except sitting stressed out in stop-and-go traffic.

With the bus, I found my holy grail of the suburban commute. While I’d still like to live downtown again one day, taking the express bus to work has been a surprising gift. Twice a day, I retreat from the frenzied hustle of the 8-5 workweek for unapologetic “me-time”—time to sink into my chair and stare out the window, to read, to reflect, to listen to NPR, whatever I want.  Instead of coming home weary from the daily grind and grumpy from my “wasted” evening hours, I look forward to the bus ride and relish my most relaxing time of the day. Now, thanks to the bus, my coveted time for the finer things in life does not start when my suburban commute ends, rather when it begins.

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