Mary

Until January 2018, I had never owned a car. At the time of writing this, I have been a car owner for 10 days. Given that I’m a native Houstonian from the suburbs, this is a fact that amazes people.

Alternative transportation for me has been more primary than alternative. When I first moved to Austin in 2007 to study at the University of Texas, I became a regular commuter on the Capital Metro buses because the free access for UT students was a great incentive to learn how to use the bus and navigate my regular routes. I even went as far as shopping for groceries with a suitcase in tow to lug onto the bus. In an age before ride-hailing, the bus was my lifeline.

Between 2012 and 2014, I lived in Japan where I re-learned how to ride a bicycle and how to use the train system. (On the first night in the country, I left my paper ticket at the turnstile upon entry and didn’t know how to exit the station, so I had to suffer a clunky conversation in Japanese with the train station officer about why I was stuck in the station.) There, I grew to love active transportation and public transit. When I returned to the United States, I realized I wanted to keep up the active lifestyle I took up in Japan, so I bought a bicycle and started getting around that way.

I love working for the City of Austin because it offers a diverse range of accessible options for its employees who come from all parts of the Central Texas region. The free Capital Metro transit pass and City shuttle between office buildings help with my commute these days. The City’s Smart Commute rewards program offers even more incentives to take sustainable and shared modes as well.

I recently moved away from Central Austin, so the local and rapid buses aren’t as feasible for me anymore, which is why I purchased a car. But as a driver, I have been carpooling with a coworker who lives on the way to work. On days when I commute alone, I use one of Capital Metro’s Park and Ride locations, which is just 10 minutes from my house, and take the MetroExpress bus between there and downtown. This adds a few more minutes to my commute, but I use that time to catch up on emails, podcasts, the news, and even sleep.

My deep love and appreciation for different modes for transportation comes from an extensive history and experience with them. I know that many people face barriers in knowledge, unavailability of options, or experience to be able to take those forms. In my case, I found a lot of help from having someone join me in trying new modes, and that’s usually what it takes—a little support or encouragement.

As an individual, I know that opting not to drive during peak hours can make a big difference for everyone, myself included. And it can feel pretty good too!”

 

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