I started a new job today after two years of having two part time jobs — one I loved, one I hated — that left me with odd but wonderful pockets of time to go out on mid-day hikes, lounge around with the cat, bake bread all morning, and blog. I don’t know how other people manage 40 hour work weeks, commutes, and social media. Either I’ll learn, or I won’t. (I apologize in advance if I can no longer read every one of your blog entries, retweet your content, and chat with you on Facebook. Sigh.)
I digress. One of the selling points of the new job was its proximity to a train station. I left work with three minutes to spare today and caught the express train home. The office is literally half a block away from the train, so I thought — hey! This will be a great way for me to test the waters of being car-free. I’ll get to take public transportation for the first time since college and feel smugly green about how much carbon I’m not emitting!
Even when the train station is practically in my lap, making the green choice continues to be perversely expensive and inconvenient. The amount of time it takes me to drive to the train station, wait for the train, and get to the office: 1 hour, 15 minutes. The amount of time it takes for me to drive to work in substantial traffic: 45 minutes. The amount of money it costs to pay for parking and a daily train pass: $16. The amount of money it costs for gas and parking once I’m at my destination: $12. The peace of mind of not having to drive in traffic? The peace of mind of knowing that I’m not contributing to carbon emissions? Somehow those fade in significance next to the immediate savings in time and money my car continues to offer.
I grimaced, but I bought a monthly train pass (which you can’t buy at the station — you have to order them online and wait a week), which brings the daily total down to slightly less than my car, but also commits me to a commute that takes an extra 40-60 minutes out of my life every day. I suddenly feel a lot more sympathy for people who have a public transportation option but refuse to use it. Gas is still too cheap, and our transportation systems are still too slow and cost-inefficient. Without a teeth-gritting determination to do the right thing by the planet, I doubt I would be choosing the train.
I think my reluctance, even as a self-described greenie, says something about us as a species. We fall for whatever solution is easy, comfortable, and cheap. While part of the responsibility for making more conscious decisions is certainly ours, I can’t help but think that the government should also step in here and make it easy, comfortable, and cheap — or at least comparable — to make greener decisions. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect anyone but the diehard nutjobs to choose an inconvenient, expensive green option.
All things considered, I stand by my first conclusion: it’s still not easy to be green.