Making a Difference: An Adventure in Public Transportation.

By Mark G. Ferguson

After realizing the overall damage my car and I have on the environment, I was determined to make some changes to some of my habits. Unfortunately, after a few weeks this newfound desire to lessen the affect that my life style was having was replaced with old habits such as driving every place I went. Outings that were only a mile from home found me behind the wheel of my gas guzzling Ford. The promises I made to myself were sadly forgotten. The plan of walking the mile to work each day, providing that the weather was favorable, never seem to get off the ground. and making fewer trips to the convenience store were forgotten. And once again I was one of many millions of Americans taking more form "Our" environment then I put back.

I thus forgot about these ideas and continued as before. However, as I was preparing for a business trip to the Washington, DC area an idea struck me, "Could I make this trip without the use of any other form of transportation besides public transportation?" Could I spare the environment the task of absorbing the exhaust of 50 plus gallons of gas that my car would burn? It seemed a worth wild project to attempt, so why not give it a try.

My first transportation hurdle was to get from Groton to the New London train station. I choice the train as it is electrically powered throughout a large portion of this trip. My train was scheduled to depart New London at 7:52 AM, getting me to Washington, DC at 1:54 PM. The local bus service S.E.A.T. was of no help and I was forced to have my wife drive me to the train station in our car. Not a good start to a plan that was to prevent me from having to use my personal vehicle.

Arriving on at the station I waited about 15 minutes and boarded the train. Over the next six hours I was able to
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catch up on some reading from my other classes, do some upcoming assignments, finish some work for my employer, have a cold beer and take a short nap. None of this could have been accomplished had I elected to drive myself. Arriving in Washington, DC, I caught the local subway to Vienna, VA with no effort at all and was standing at the Vienna subway platform in less then 30 minutes. I happened to notice the volume of traffic on the highways as we traveled out off the city and can to the conclusion that I was making vastly better time then the cars, vans and SUV that we were passing. Once at the subway station in Vienna, I was able to catch the local complimentary shuttle bus that serves the hotel I would be staying at during my time in the Vienna. I was now at my hotel room seven hours after I had left New London.

I chose this particular hotel, as it was only .8 miles from the office building that housed the company I would be working with over the next few days. That being the case I figured that I could walk to and from the hotel. The walks each morning and evening were nice, I was able to enjoy the morning while take pleasure in a Starbucks coffee which I would get a the shopping plaza next to the hotel. I was able to take my time getting to my destination, never once worrying about a parking spot. In fact, I left one morning at the same time as two of the other folks who were staying at the hotel and attending the conference did. They drove and I walked. I was able to reach the office 10 minutes sooner then they did. Traffic in this area is unbelievable.

Upon my completion of this conference I simply retraced my steps back to New London, where my wife once again had to pick me up at the train station. The only drawback I noted during the trip was that the city of Vienna was not really walker friendly. I was fortunate that there was a sidewalk from the hotel to the office building that I was going to. However, I was less fortunate when I attempted to cross the roads in this city. I found that it was not possible to cross the road
Traffic Artist
without taken your life in your own hands. Despite several attempts to locate a pedestrian crosswalk I was never able to find one. When I inquired at the hotel front desk about a cross walk I was told that the hotel staff could give me a ride across the roadway in the courtesy van if I wanted them too.

Upon my return home after my trip I was rather proud of myself. With the exception of having to get a ride to and from the train station, I was able to utilize public transportation for this trip. And actually enjoyed the transits time more without the concerns of fighting traffic. I will use this mode of travel more often. Now if I could just do better with walking to work from home.

Submitted to and posted by Anthony Benoit
March 18, 2001

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