Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Being a Multi-Modaler

Time Saver
I started running for fitness about five years ago. Sometime later, I entered a 10K foot race. I had an interest to train more, but lacked time due to a busy work week. Looking for efficiencies, it occurred to me that I could reclaim some of my commute to work as active training. So one day after work, I laced up the shoes and simply ran the five miles home. Somewhere during that run home I remember experiencing a liberating moment: I can do this! The next day, I canceled my downtown monthly parking and gym membership and plotted a bus schedule to/from work. I have been commuting to work by bus and my own power ever since.

Options Galore
In 2008, the city of Omaha's Metro Area Transit Bus system added bike racks to its buses. Now it's easier than ever to be a multi-modal commuter with the option to bus, cycle, run or walk in any number of combinations to/from work. For example, if getting out the door is hectic in the morning, I can load my bicycle onto the bus and commute by bike home in the evening. If the weather turns sour in the afternoon, I can always rely on the bus. And because I'm no longer dependent on my vehicle, I can choose to commute by bus both ways -- or neither -- to get there and back. In doing so, I save time and money, reduce my carbon footprint and gain a tremendous amount of fitness. Win-Win-Win-Win.

I've listed a number of advantages already, but here they are in summary:
* Personal Fitness & well-being. No need for As Seen on TV Gimmicks
* Finances: reduced auto maintenance, no parking or gym fees
* Time Efficiency: two tasks in one
* Empowerment: satisfaction in becoming more independent
* Reduced Carbon Footprint

How Now?
Just try it! - Pick the nicest day of the work week to go for it
1) Plan the route to work: carpool or bus
2) Plan the safest route home by mapping it/driving it ahead of time
3) Pack fitness bag night before
4) Change into fitness gear in work locker room or bathroom stall.
5) Take bus for portion of route home; you do the rest.

Tips: if you live a considerable distance from home, or are new to running or commuting by bike, then take the bus for a greater portion of the commute home. Beginners could walk and jog the final mile or two home. Gradually increase your distance. Who knows, one day you may commute 20 miles by bike to and from work. I've seen it happen.

Just try multi-modaling one time. I'm willing to bet that you'll like it. I did. And I know plenty of others who enjoy multi-modal commuting too. Consider. Now do!

Happy Earth Day 2009!


  1. Excellent Earth Day post.

    Question: Do you run with a backpack?

    I enjoy the multi-modal bike/bus rides. I regret not getting as much exercise by bike when I load the bike up on the bus. This is mostly due to a temporary increase in my bus trips due to the YP Bus Challenge.

    There are ways to mix up the bus and bike trips to keep it interesting. (Hint/shameless plug: see my Redd-Shift blog)

    On the plus side, I've learned that, at least in this nice spring weather, I can arrive to work without sweating, depending on where I pick up the bus. I'm also learning where the best places are to ride to pick up different buses for different destinations, as well as how to play fast and loose with choosing a route based on time and destination.

    I might give running another go. I do remember how much fun it was to get the heart pumping and taking in scenery along the riverfront. That was until my foot started hurting. The pain stayed even after I stopped running.

    It got to a point where I was considering a visit to a foot doc to see if there was some kind of therapy or surgery that would fix it. Then I started riding my bike to work daily and the pain went away.

  2. I got started biking again a few years ago when I decided to try to reduce my carbon footprint and ride the 3.5 miles to work at least a couple of times a week. That short commute made it easy for me to bike often, since it only took a minute or two longer to ride than it did to drive.

    But two things have killed my bike riding commute: kids getting older and having more things going on that require tight time schedules, and moving farther away—a 12.5 mile ride now (actually much more fun than the measly 3.5, but takes 45 versus 20 minutes driving). I did ride yesterday though (for Earth Day) and it was wonderful.

    What do people with kids do to juggle commuting / weekday riding or running with karate, tee ball, gymnastics, etc. etc.?

    The YP Bus Challenge looks cool and light years ahead of what's going in St. Louis with public transportation (Metro just cut all bus service west of 270 because of budget shortfalls).

  3. Scott, I run with a pack. I thought I blogged about it as a product review once, but apparently not. Anyway, I use a Solomon Revo 2.0( <==$40 is a great deal!!) adventure pack. Light, small and built with features such as padded shoulder straps, chest and belt straps. I love it. A good pack is essential to making the trip do-able with gear. That's all I'm gonna say about it now b/c as this is a good candidate for a future post.

    As for the feet, make sure to take advantage of UP's next gait analysis. They usually run those during open enrollment. Sign up early. Otherwise, Peak Performance or just about any other running shoe store typically offers such individual analysis and recommendation of shoe based on your natural gait. I've been running in support shoes because I have extra pronation in my stride. While every shoe is different, make sure to replace every 6 mos or 500 miles.

    emiss: I don't presume that you read into WSCG archives, but I once wrote about an experience I shared with STodd while riding the Bi-State Manchester route home from school. See rule #2.

    Anyway, that's sad news about the dropped route coverage. I had heard/read this news, but thought it was for some small suburbs in St. Charles. But West of 270?!? Golly!

    I see that Bi-State has a similar Bike and Ride program as Omaha's MAT. Perhaps you could squeeze a bus leg/commute by bike leg into your busy schedule every so often?