Monday, 19 November 2007

Going green?

I drive to work every day. I do what’s known as a “reverse commute” in that I live in the city but travel to work in one of the surrounding towns where the hospital is. This means that I miss the bulk of the rush-hour traffic because I’m travelling in the opposite direction, but, despite this, driving to work, is still a slow process that tests my patience on a twice-daily basis.

Environmetal groups seem to have the media in their pocket these days. You can’t open a newspaper or turn on the T.V. without being lambasted for putting your keys in the ignition. Our prime minister was at it yet again today. This ongoing guilt-tripping, coupled with the forever rising cost of petrol, made me decide to attempt to get to work without the car today and it was actually quite an interesting experience.

To be fair, for me, my car is a choice, not a necessity. I have a train station literally at the end and trains that take me the 15 miles to New Town run every 10 minutes at peak times. At the other end, the buses that go to the hospital are every 10 minutes as well. I don’t even need to look at the timetable!

So here’s my thoughts on going green and ditching the car for a day:

Journey Time
The first thing to note is that the door-to-door journey time is 15-20 minutes longer if I go by train. This may not seem a lot initially, but it’s the difference between leaving my house at 07:00 and 07:15. I’m not a morning person at the best of times and losing that quarter of an hour first thing puts bed and breakfast in direct conflict with each other.

Result: Car Wins

The council here do a quite nifty thing where you can by a regional travelcard that lets you travel around all day. This has the dual benefit of both being cheaper and not having to faff around trying to find loose change to give the bus driver at the other end. The travelcard cost me £4.50, which is about 50p more than the petrol costs of driving to work and back. I suppose, if I were to give up my car completely, the train would be relatively a lot cheaper because I’d save an awful lot of money on road tax, insurance and maintenance: but I’m not going to give up my little car just yet.

Result: Draw

I don’t know if any of you listen to radio first thing in the morning. If you do, you’ll agree that it’s shit. If I try tuning into Radio 1, my journey will consist of listening to Chris bloody Moyles laughing at the same unfunny joke for 40 minutes until I turn it off again. The CDs in my changer get boring after a while, so I’m spending more and more journeys in silence. On the train, the story is different. My mp3 player holds literally thousands of songs, so I can listen to whatever the hell I like. It’s much more enjoyable. It’s also got a radio on it, so in the unlikely event of me missing Moyley’s dulcet northern tones, I can tune in if I want to.

Result: Train wins

I suppose this is obvious but it’s worth stating that taking the train means I DON’T HAVE TO DRIVE. I’m not one of these people who finds driving for the sake of driving an enjoyable or worthwhile thing to do. Driving in the rush hour(s) is fun for nobody. Catching the train meant that I didn’t have to worry about being cut up by angry businessmen or being tailgated by some tool in a white Ford Transit or literally being crushed to death because someone driving an articulated lorry didn’t see me or missing my junction because someone won’t let me change lanes or being involved in one of the accidents I see on the motorway every three or four days… I could go on. The effect was that I arrived at work much more relaxed and in a better frame of mind to start the day.

Result: Train wins

Going outside
Taking the train means that I have to do more walking: from my house to the train station, from the train stop to the bus stop, from the bus stop to the hospital. The longest of these walks is only about 100m or so and I actually think they are a good thing. I tend to go from my house to my car to work to my car to my house and never really venture outside. At this time of the year, it’s dark when I leave home and dark when I return and if I’m not careful I end up just sort of becoming a creature that never sees the daylight or the outside. And that can’t be a good thing. Admittedly, when it’s freezing and raining like this morning, it’s not much fun. I’m not sure if I really want to start every day with a face-to-face confrontation with the British weather.

Result: Draw.

Not having to drive means that I can read. I really enjoy reading and feel I don’t do it as often as I would like. As I’m still very new to anaesthetics, I’m having to do a lot of studying at the moment. Using public transport means I can study on the train, it effectively gives me an extra hour every day to read up on stuff – if you were on the train at 07:30 today sitting next to a guy reading about isoflurane – that was me! If I’m not is a studying mood, I can just read a novel or newspaper instead. I think if I use the train everyday, I’ll end up being cleverer and more knowledgeable.

Result: Train wins

As I said before, I do the “reverse commute.” This means that I had no problem at all getting a seat on the train or the bus today. The times I travel avoid annoying schoolchildren and it’s far too early for the chavs to be out of bed, so the journey was actually very pleasant.

Result: Draw

Final Result: Car 1 Train 3

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by my public transport experience. I feel that if I take the train every day, my life will be “richer” in terms of mood, stress and learning. On the other hand, the extra 15 mins in bed that the car gives me is really important to a late-riser like me.

Overall though, I had such a good experience today that I’m definitely a convert to public transport. I can see myself going by train almost every day except supermarket shopping day.

I think anyone reading this should consider making the switch too.

- Michael


Medilogy said...

The entertainment provided by a train is unbeatable when compared to a car. I remember the New York subway and the interesting people and new things I learned almost everyday. Good luck on going green...its not always so easy, I can't leave my car all alone..

the little medic said...

I wouldn't mind getting the train, but it would take me about 2 and a half hours compared to an hour in the car.

I'm having the same problem re. entertainment though. The radio is boring me so much these days.

Jo said...

Good luck with it - you are lucky to be able to have the choice - when you are in a rush, or feeling in the need for some solitude, you can take the car, and when you have a bit more time, or fancy being able to read, you can get the train.

I commute via train in the morning, but don't really have the ability to drive (husband uses the car to get to work) - however, the few times that I have driven (usually because I'm taking a pool car back in the morning after driving to a conference...), it has convinced me that I want to use the train each time!

The morning commute is: 20 minutes walk, usually 5 minutes waiting for the train, 10-15 minute train journey, 15 minutes walk - total time 50-55 mins. The drive takes an hour to an hour and a half depending on which area they are digging up. The cost of the train is £16 per week. The cost of parking is £9-£15 per day. Even financially, and in my time it is better to use the train! Plus I like to think I'm getting some of my fitness benefits from walking as well :-)