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no exit

By enelson
Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 at 12:47 am in Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), connectivity, driving, Freeways, Transit vs. driving.

I commute, therefore I am.

My apologies for disappearing for yet another hiatus. Last week I moved from a rental to the house we bought. It was supposed to have been Berkeley, from which I would have had what many would consider a normal commute to our large white office building near Oakland Coliseum.

Alas, my son signed up for biochemistry. That was my undoing.

Turns out it’s much more competitive than microbiology at the University of California, Berkeley. That was the explanation for why his girlfriend got into Cal and he didn’t.

So we bought in Davis, where my heir will study genetics and I continue to commute just as I did when my wife worked in Sacramento and I had no idea where I was going to end up working.

It’s a lovely town, if you don’t mind being 78 miles from work.

So I spent last week moving from the eastern end of Davis to the western end. It’s about 5 minutes closer by car to work and about 10 minutes farther away by bicycle and train.

That being settled, here’s a new conundrum: My company is consolidating newspapers. The papers I wrote for in what we like to call the “Near East Bay’’ are combining with the Contra Costa Times. My editor is moving to Walnut Creek, and I’m told I can work there as well.

There are professional factors that tilt in either direction. Oakland is where the Bay Bridge starts. It’s where the Metropolitan Transportation Commission is based. It’s also the home of BART. The Transportation Security Administration has its local offices down the hall from our newsroom.

But I’d also like to work closely with my editor, my regional staff colleagues and spend the odd happy hour with our executive editor.

Most of all, working in Walnut Creek would be a shorter car commute in both miles and minutes. I could reasonably expect to get to work just after rush hour in 50 minutes or so, rather than the 80 minutes I now enjoy.

Here’s the problem: I don’t want to drive every day. I can take a train to the Coliseum and get to my office after a slightly harrowing, 10-minute bike ride with tractor-trailers blowing by me.

That trip takes about 2 ½ hours, but most of it is spent in a comfortable seat, reading the newspaper, watching movies on DVD or eating.

To get to Walnut Creek, I have to take a 45-minute train ride to Martinez, wait for one bus and then another for a trip that is likely to take just as long, although I confess it’s been a while since I examined those bus schedules very closely.

The transit commute being about the same, although somewhat more frustrating in Contra Costa, I’m thinking I’d gravitate toward the car. I’d be taking back 42 hours of my life each month. I’d run with the dog more, I’d have more time to socialize; maybe I’d take those Arabic lessons I’ve idly planning for years.

Other things being equal, what do you do when faced with such a choice? Just drive? Most of my career, I’ve been forced to drive long distance, from 40 minutes up the New York State Thruway to 30 minutes between Washington and Baltimore suburbs to 90 minutes of hell on the freeways of Los Angeles County.

I’m writing this on the Capitol Corridor. It’s late today, as usual, but unsually so. I waited at the Coliseum depot for an hour before the train came limping into the station, disgorged most of its passengers and promised to go no further than Oakland’s Jack London Square. Wait for the next train, I was told.

But here I sit, in a reclining chair with the option of nodding off if I’m bushed after a long day at work. I needed to reconnect with the blog, however, so I’m tapping away at the laptop instead.

So I’ve told my editor that I’ll stay in Oakland. I can handle the long commute, so long as I have my train. At some point, they’ll have wi-fi, and I can blog in real time instead of wait until I get home to upload.

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5 Responses to “no exit”

  1. V Smoothe Says:

    Is there any hope of ever improving the Capitol Corridor line so that the trains run on time? If it could, the train would become a much more viable transit option for long distance commuters. Most people cannot risk being that late to their jobs. I have commute to San Jose once or twice a month, and I’ve always elected to take BART plus the bus, rather than the (from what I hear) far more cushy train, mostly due to the horror stories I read here and elsewhere about trains being frequently being an hour or more behind schedule.

  2. Reedman Says:

    Perhaps something like the new Megabus
    http://www.megabus.com/us
    could provide a combination of soft seats,
    staying on schedule, and affordability
    for city-to-city commuting. Just needs to
    add wireless internet for the laptop crowd.

  3. SW1200 Says:

    I say move to Berkeley and let the kid live on his own in the dorms. I can’t imagine commuting that far each way, even if it is on the train. The expense ($$ and time) must be terrible. Just my $.02 worth. I enjoy your blog.

  4. Capricious Commuter Says:

    SW, your suggestion is certainly appealing. I guess the point of this lament is that the long commutes we love to ridicule (and I don’t blame you for doing so) often come with a lot more baggage than costs and benefits. My situation is a bit odd, I’ll admit, but it’s difficult to put a price on one’s home environment, schools, proximity to extended family, etc. The easy answer for a lot of regulars on the blog would be make life easier for yourself and the planet by moving to Berkeley, Oakland or San Leandro. I could have done that, but it would created a lot of other problems for me, personally.

  5. Inside Bay Area > The Capricious Commuter > you can’t get here from here Says:

    [...] anyone who reads this blog should know, I love to complain about my long commute, about the 80-minute drive (in good traffic) and the 2 1/2-hour bike-train [...]

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