After feeling the effects of gas prices and seeing the economy crater, I decided I’d like to see what it would be like to get around the SF Bay Area without a car. In other words, to commute via bike + train. I figured it might be a good way to save up some money for Christmas while getting into better cycling shape. And, more importantly, see how folks get around when they’re tied to someone else’s schedule. What I l experienced was very interesting.
Caltrain is the train system that runs between San Francisco and San Jose. Round trip rates vary depending on distance, but for my route it’s $7.60/day–a bit more than I was expecting (of note, for the 4 weeks I did this, I was only asked to show my ticket 4 times). Driving is 60 miles round trip and I get around 15 mpg. At $4/gallon, that’s $20 in gas; at the current $2/gallon, it’s 10$ in gas per day. So it is a small savings. Driving takes about 30 minutes while the train takes 30 plus 60 for the bike plus 10 for the shower at work. Bottom line: $2.50 in savings per day with an extra 70 minutes of commute time. Note: I blew through any savings by buying additional equipment.
I live at the top of a hill. The descent is about 400 feet in elevation, most of which happens within ¼ mile. It’s a thrilling ride with only one short climb from my house to the train station that’s just over 3 miles away. I can make it in 12 minutes. Depending on where I get off, it’s an additional 3 or 7 miles ride to work. Unfortunately, the drop off closest to work doesn’t have frequent stops, so dropping off at a place farther North provides more flexibility though longer cycling distance.
I nervously arrived at the train station “on time” and boarded the train. Fortunately, I had ridden the train with the bike a few times before and figured out how to label my bike for on/off locations in advance. Labeling with on/off stickers is critical!
Unfortunately, I had inadvertently got the EARLIER train, which dropped me one stop South of my intended location. Using my crackberry, I roughly figured out where I was and how to get to work. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you’re faced with driving on unfamiliar roads with lots of traffic, it can be overwhelming.
One One thing you’ll catch on to quickly is the “orchestra” of movement and, daresay, etiquette, that is critical for bike commuting.