If you have a long commute like me you know how daunting it can be, especially if you take public transportation.
Although it is nice not having to drive everyday, public transportation can really be a bitch – excuse my french. Sometimes it’s confusing especially if you haven’t been doing it for years or even changing your route can be baffling.
If you know exactly what you are doing there are still so many things that can go wrong, especially if you use NJ Transit. Groan!
Here’s a little background that gives me some credibility. I live near Long Beach Island, New Jersey but I work in New York City. To get to work I drive to a bus station that’s 25 minutes away, but I leave a half hour early for parking. The bus is an hour and a half on a good day and once it lets off in Port Authority I take the subway about 20+ minutes downtown to TriBeCa. So in total I leave my house at 630a to make it to work at 9a.
That rarely happens. These are things that happen on a relatively normal commuting day: the bus is full and I have to wait for the next bus, traffic at the lincoln tunnel or in North Jersey, Metrocard stations are slow when I need to add more money to my card and the subway is delayed.
Some major things that happen to me often: my bus breaks down, weather, accidents, subway stop completely, no parking at the bus station, Metrocards are completely down and dead-stop traffic.
So through trial and error I developed a few tricks to keep me going. Full disclosure, this is a do as I say and not as I do guide because I rarely take my own advice.
- Be early! This is something that has caused many disaster-days for me. Even if you are just on time to catch the bus, train, ferry, etc. there are plenty of unseen factors that can get in your way and ruin your day. For instance, the other day I took a later than normal bus and was only a few minutes early.The parking lot was full so I had to park in the overflow parking that is huge pain and really far and then you have to walk back and forth to get a parking pass. When I finally made it to the bus with a minute to spare it pulled away anyway – it was completely full with no standing room. The next bus wasn’t for an hour and I was going to miss my conference. This brings me to my next point.
- Research, Research, Research! It can never hurt to be overly prepared especially when it comes to public transportation. Gates, tracks, zones and lines of trains and buses can be so confusing and being disoriented trying to find the correct place to go can be the line between making it on time or not. Plus if anything ever goes wrong, like what happened to me, you should have a back up mode of transportation.Another example: a few weeks ago I actually made it to Port Authority early and walked in hearing a louder than usual announcement explaining that trains are accepted the bus tickets. What??? They only say that when the weather is bad or something happened. Then I turned the corner and saw floods of people coming down the escalators – at rush hour at the end of the day? Huh?I turns out there was an unfortunate incident in which someone was hit by a bus and buses were canceled for the time being (meaning the rest of the day). There are no trains near me. Luckily I’ve thought about this before and immediately called a family member to pick me up at the large park and ride train station an hour away from my house. If I hadn’t already asked them if this was possible a while ago I would have been screwed.
- Have a back up place to crash. See if there are any friends or family in the area that you can crash with if something were to go wrong. I really like sleeping at my own house in my own bed, but I’m always reminding my friends and family that live in or near the city to remember me! Just incase I have to spring a surprise sleepover on them.
- Bring all the snacks in the world. Better yet – just pack anything you may need in general. Sometimes with all this commuting you can end up not getting a chance to eat and starving later. That is when I end up spending a bunch of money on unnecessary and overpriced snacks. Having your own stash can you save you a lot of cash and time.Stay tuned for a feature on how to pack and what to pack for an everyday commute.
I spend some time every night prepping for my commute in the morning. But once you have your routine down it isn’t that much of a burden. It just makes your life much easier (and can keep from getting fired for being late).
Share some of your commuting horror stories and tips with me!