It’s a quarter to seven in the morning. It’s cold, misty and dark where the street lights have been turned off to save money. I walk through to the main road and the oasis of light that is my local ‘bus stop. I’m early, but have erred on the safe side as I don’t do this often. I’m no stranger to this time of the morning; I’m often well on my way somewhere by now, but that is mostly in my car whereas today I am green commuting, heading off to start a new contract and making a journey that is going to become a regular one for me; the local bus to the town centre, walk to the railway station, catch a train and walk to the office.
My switch to public transport here is a pragmatic one. The journey times are almost identical to the journey by car, assuming that I don’t have to wait too long for ‘bus or train, and the cost is, for once, lower, but the fact that it is just as convenient to travel by public transport as it is by car is what has swayed me. The only reason that I use public transport so infrequently is that most of the time it would take me all day to do what I can do in a couple of hours by car, but the cost can also often be a factor. If I need to go to London at short notice the train will cost me over £120, but I can drive it in roughly the same time for about half that including car parking while I’m there. Of course I can book early and pay less if I know far enough in advance, but the price for that only really comes down if I am willing to tie myself to certain trains and that is not always a viable option.
But here I am today heading off to start a new job. Things start well enough when the welcome lights of the ‘bus appear around the corner, but then take a swift downturn when the smart card that I have bought and pre-loaded for my journeys can’t be read by the machine. I don’t have the right change so have to pay £2 for a £1.80 journey and will have to waste some of my Saturday going into the ‘bus company offices to sort out the problem. Never mind, I’m into the town centre in plenty of time to walk to the station. The train is on time, unlike some going the other way, and I am whisked along for an on time arrival at the other end. And so the first day of green commuting to work is under way.
Over the coming weeks I will be doing this a lot. The only slight blip is that the hotel that we are all using here on site is nowhere near a bus route and so we will be relying on one of the team using their car to ferry us back and forth. Still, it is full with the four of us so we are using it to its full capacity so we are making the best use of it.
Yes I do miss the flexibility that the car gives me, and I do miss the privacy, but these are luxuries that maybe we are going to have to give up. It might be nice to say that I can relax or work on the train, but that is something of a lottery. Any papers that I might want to work on are confidential and I can’t cross examine my fellow passengers to ensure that they won’t read what I am working on. And unless I have a seat on my own there is not enough room in steerage (or standard class as they like to call it) to get comfortable with a book. There isn’t the peace either, as even in the quiet carriage there will be some ignorant oik that won’t switch their phone off; Ring ring (inevitably in some obnoxious tune) “Oh hi Fred. Hang on I’m in the quiet carriage. I’ll just go down the end”, and off they go to stand in the vestibule where they activate the proximity switch to open the door so that we can all hear them from nearly 70’ away. At least in the car I don’t have to put up with that.
And as for the ‘bus! When did ‘bus companies decide that they would only seat dwarves and midgets? OK, criticise me for my waist line, but that is nothing to do with my skeletal height or width across the shoulders; I just can’t fit into a modern ‘bus seat.
I don’t remember ever having these problems with the ‘buses of the 50s and 60s that I knew in my youth. Even in my late teens when I was 6’3” (I’ve shrunk about an inch as I approach my 60th birthday) I still could travel by ‘bus in comfort.
I was green before it was fashionable and the only reason I keep quiet about it most of the time these days is because there are too many people talking so much nonsense about the environment and I’d rather not be associated with them. I’ll carry on in my own way as best as I can, but it would be so much easier to be green about travel if they’d make it more comfortable and convenient let alone less costly.