Celebrate Opening Day of Trails on the Chester Valley Trail

4.16.16-Opening Day on Chester Valley Trail Mailer HeaderSaturday, April 16th is the official opening day of trail season across America.  It’s time to dust off the walking shoes, grab the kids and the family dog, and step out for Opening Day!  This year, the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC), the Chester County Facilities and Parks Department, the Friends of the Chester Valley Trail, and Bike Chester County are hosting a trail long event April 16th to kick off the season filled with bike check-ups, giveaways from local shops, and more!

Events will take place along the Chester Valley Trail at major access locations, which include the Exton Trail Head, East Whiteland Township Building, PNC Bank in Malvern, and the Westlakes Trail Head.  The events will take place from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Along with your bikes and running shoes, bring a backpack because they will be giving away some fun items and refreshments at stop locations.  The Friends of the Chester Valley Trail will be handing out Chester Valley Trail maps for users to use on the trail; Bike Chester County will be doing helmet fittings for children and toddlers; and TMACC and partners, PNC, will be giving out refreshments to trail users.

There will also be a few fun activities to participate in!  Paoli Hospital will be hosting a Prescribe-a-Trail walk and talk at 10 AM and 11 AM starting at the East Whiteland Township Trailhead, and Chester County Parks and Facilities Department will be hosting two nature walks at the Exton Park Trail Head.

The Chester Valley Trail is a 13 mile trail that runs from Exton to King of Prussia and is managed by the Chester County Facilities and Parks Department.   The trail is a part of The Circuit Trails, the 750-mile trail network of bicycle and pedestrian trails connecting the Greater Philadelphia Region.

View a complete list of activities at www.tmacc.org.  To learn more about the Chester Valley Trail, visit www.chesco.org.

Event Information:
Saturday, April 16, 2016
9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Chester Valley Trail

Permanent Parity Passed into Law Transit Cap to be $255 in New Year

An end of year tax deal has been signed into law and includes a provision that makes permanent transit benefit parity . The monthly cap on transit, vanpool, and parking will increase to $255/month starting January 1st, 2015. This would mark a major victory for ACT as parity is an issue that ACT and its partners have been working on for nearly two decades.

The legislation also retroactively sets that transit/vanpool cap at $250/month for 2015.

Whats Next…..
The legislative text of the bill amends section 132(f) of the IRS code and actually sets the cap at $175/month, the same as parking. However, the code is based of 1999 dollars and is subject to a cost of living adjustments for the past fifteen years. Said in different terms, the $175 in 1999 dollars equals $255 in 2016 dollars. The IRS will likely send a revised notice which will detail the increase. However, those who administer it can and should be offering and taking the full $255/month in 2016.

A Bit about retroactive benefits…….
The legislative text once again includes retroactive benefits. What does this mean? If you (as an employer) allowed employees to withhold above the cap and purchased fare media for them with taxable dollars, you will be able to retroactively apply the $250/month cap for 2015. Again, this only applies to those employees and employers who withheld above the cap. If employees used their own money to buy fare media the new cap does not apply (even if they have receipts or other proof of purchase).

For reference, below is a link to the 2013 guidance related to retroactive transit benefits. We expect the IRS to issue similiar guidance early next year, but for now interested parties should consider this guidance in making appropriate adjustments:

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-13-08.pdf

For additional information, contact Jason Pavluchuk at Jason@Jpavllc.com 

Transportation Committee Passes Transportation Bill

Yesterday, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bipartisan bill to spend up to $325 Billion on transportation projects over the next six years. The Bill, called the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 (STRR)” would spend $261 billion on highways, $55 billion on transportation, and $9 billion on safety programs.

This is an important step to approving this long-term transportation bill, but we’re not out of the woods yet. There are still large hurdles to jump before it gets approved. Most importantly, the funding aspect of the bill. STRR Act is set to pay for projects over the next six years. However, funding is only secured for the next three years. The bill passed Thursday by the committee would require lawmakers to pass legislation to “unlock” additional funding after three years, but where that funding comes from is up for debate.

The traditional source for transportation funding is revenue collected by the federal gas tax, which is currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon. The federal government spends about $50 billion per year on roads, but the gas tax take only brings in $34 billion annually. Lawmakers on the Transportation Committee has said that it is up to the Ways and Means Committee to identify new funding sources before this bill can move forward.

Because Congress has less than a week to approve a bill before the federal transportation fund expires on October 29th, lawmakers are expected to pass another temporary extension-the 35th extension.

If this bill would be approved by the full House of Representatives, its next step would be to gain approval from the Senate.  Important progress has been made for the STRR Act, but more agreements need to be made before a final bill is made into law.

To learn more about the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 click here.

“We’re All in This Together” – Shannon’s Final Alternative Commute Challenge Post

As per usual, this last installment didn’t go quite where I expected it.  I have learned SO much about commuting over the last 8 ½ weeks.  My one piece of advice to part to you?  No matter how you’re traveling the world – Think Selflessly.

It’s important that we all obey traffic laws – pedestrians, bikers, motorists – it’s both for safety and for the movement of people.  Last week, I witnessed a motorist trying to make a left turn who was frustrated by his inability to get across both lanes, so he stopped the first lane of traffic while he waited for an opening in the second lane.  He became increasingly frustrated by the traffic congestion, but what he didn’t see was that his choice to cut off one whole lane actually backed up a signaled intersection in two directions.

Similarly, I often see pedestrians ignore the walk signals or “No Pedestrian” signs.  Sure, as a pedestrian we often think that we have Right of Way, but the simple act of crossing when your sign is red can send a whole lane of traffic backing up for several blocks.  Why can I cross this intersection on three sides but not this one?  Maybe because now you’re holding up a left turn lane.  It’s hard to see while you’re a part of it, but these little decisions can have a big impact.

Cyclists, frustrated by lack of bike lanes or appropriate parking, will ride in the middle of the road or cross lanes of traffic – a dangerous undertaking with so many distracted drivers on the road these days.

Sometimes we’re focused only on our own reality and convenience, but it’s important to remember that rules of the road exist for everyone’s success.  Instead of thinking about what it will take to get ME to my destination, think instead about how you may fit into the big picture- the world moving around you.

Since so many people have asked, here’s a few of my most memorable experiences in a nutshell, though all of these are more epic stories to be shared at a future TMACC event or Chamber Happy Hour:Creeped out Transit Guy

  • While trying to get pictures for the blog, my favorite Amtrak conductor caught me trying to sneak his picture two days in a row. Apparently this was a bit too creepy.  He refused to look me in the eye and our relationship was markedly less friendly for a few days until I put my camera away.  Worry not, we have since reconciled.
  • After hopping on an unmarked Krapf A Express bus by accident, I proceeded to get off at the wrong stop and had to walk ¾ of a mile along Business 30 while carrying two bags full of bike parts and using high knees since the wildflowers were unkempt. Somehow this was interesting enough to command cat calls from onlookers, which made me wonder which of us was more awkward.
  • Watching a business traveler tear through his bags in a panic trying to find exact change to ride the bus, then handing him a SEPTA token so he could board. His gratitude was palpable, and I felt like a Transportation Ambassador.
  • Feeling like a rockstar on Day 58 as an elderly couple watched me in awe at the train station break down and lock up my foldable bike in 90 seconds. On Day 1 this process took me approximately 5 ½ minutes and a lot of pinched fingers.
  • My morning tradition of greeting the cows eating in the pasture on my way to the train. At first the sound of my electric bike made them jump back as I rode by. Now they just look up at me and continue chewing.

In case it is not obvious-I would do this again.  In fact, it was so rewarding that I recommend it to anyone who would like to see the world in a new way and make a difference in the environment.  Between train, bus, rideshare, bike, and telecommuting I saved just shy of 2500 pounds of CO2 emissions.  If 10% of Chester County commuters tried this for even a week, the environmental impact would be substantial and the roads would be noticeably less congested.

We’re all in this together – let’s all choose to make a positive change.

Shannon Maria JonesShannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

If you would like to re-publish this blog, or ask Shannon any questions about her commute please contact her at shannon@tmacc.org.

Chester County Commissioner’s Announce Additional Funding for CHESCOBUS

09022015_6 Group Shot
As you may have read on our media partner’s website, 60 or more business owners, residents, and partners of Coatesville gathered in Coatesville’s Gateway Park for a press conference organized by the Chester County Commissioners.

At the press conference, the Chester County Commissioners announced investing $2.2 Million directly into Coatesville.  Included was a $130,952 investment into TMACC’s Coatesville LINK.

Coatesville LINK is a bus route within CHESCOBUS, which TMACC manages.  The service connects the Coatesville area to Parkesburg Monday through Friday and carries on average 6,000 users each month.  Earlier this year, Coatesville City Council grappled with balancing their budget and was forced to cut their funding for public transportation.  The loss of funds created a challenge to the access to significant matching funds from the state, and resulted in TMACC reducing Coatesville LINK service.

Thanks to TMACC’s support from our ridership, the Commissioners received many calls from the public explaining their reliance on the LINK.  “The Coatesville LINK is woven into the daily lives of those who depend on the bus to get to and from work, medical and social service appointments, and shopping.” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline, “It stops at major locations such as the Brandywine Hospital, the Coatesville Veteran’s Affairs Hospital, and Handi-Crafters.  We couldn’t let a significant amount of match funding from the State slip away.”

The $130,952 given by the Commissioners will enable TMACC to match the funds needed to receive a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation grant for $880,000.

“With this generous County funding allocation, the Coatesville LINK can continue to operate effectively and serve the community.” said TMACC Executive Director, P. Timothy Phelps. “We greatly appreciate the financial support and partnership of the Chester County Commissioners.”

The Commissioners said they will continue to work with Coatesville City Council, TMACC, surrounding municipalities and private sector parties to ensure the Coatesville LINK service continues into 2016 and beyond.

For more information on Coatesville LINK or CHESCOBUS, visit www.chescobus.com.

How I Got into the National Bike Challenge: An Interview with Mario

“I wasn’t born in the US.  You’re looking for your readers to identify with me, right?  I don’t know if you need to put that in there.  You don’t want anybody to say ‘ah, yes, that’s probably a foreigner thing’”

Well, do they ride bikes a lot where you are from?

Mario Laughs “No, not really. At least not 22 years ago when I left.”

Mario is a Chester County resident who works for Johnson Matthey, a sustainable technologies company.  He’s a private man that thankfully agreed to be interviewed.  Other than being a resident and employee in Chester County, he is also one of the top riders for the National Bike Challenge in Chester County.  Every day this challenge, he has rode his bike – through the heat, through the rain, through everything.  Mario hasn’t stopped for anything.  So when I met him on our last community ride on the Chester Valley Trail, I was surprised to meet a very normal looking man in gym clothes-no lycra was found.  He is not your typical cyclist, but Mario’s story is here to show you that you don’t have to be a typical cyclist to make great strides in biking.

How did you get into biking?

The National Bike Challenge actually got me into biking.  I injured my knees after decades of playing soccer and running, to the point that I had stopped playing soccer last year without much hope for a comeback. Around that time, I asked my son what he wanted for his 21st birthday. He said a bike, but not just any bike, he wanted a fixie.  I never heard of a fixie until he explained to me what it was.  The no-breaks, no-freewheel mechanism sounded very dangerous.  But I got him a fixie, and the first thing I did – like a good helicopter father – was test it.  Even though it was difficult, especially up the hills, I could feel my legs all pumped up.  It was the same feeling I used to have when running before my knee problems.  So, for Father’s Day a couple of weeks later, I told my son I wanted a bike for myself.  A regular hybrid, though! My first bike accessory was a coffee cup holder. It just happens that the guy who promotes the National Bike Challenge within my company sits next to me and had been talking constantly about biking.  At first I didn’t pay much attention to his biking stories, but when I got the bike, I started to get interested.  He explained me some of the basics of biking and insisted that I should sign up for the challenge.  I told him I’m not a biker, I’m a soccer player with a bike.  He said, ‘So what?’  So I signed up.

So how did riding every day start?

When I began the challenge last year, my coworker mentioned the rules to me.  I noticed that I get a lot of points for every day that I ride.  I began looking at the statistics and numbers.   I love numbers, and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘Hey, I can ride just a mile every day and be among the top riders of the company.’  So that was my first challenge: Do one mile per day and accumulate as many points as possible.  My first goal was to be in the first thirty of my company.  Then I got that, and decided to increase my miles and go for top twenty.  Then top ten. At some point I realized that I had been riding my bike every day for a whole month trying to beat these small goals.  And then I thought, ‘what if I could make it to one hundred days straight?’  So I set my goal at 100 days.  As I was approaching that goal I realized I was getting close to 1000 miles, so I set that goal, too.  I hit 1000 miles on day 100 exactly. And then I continued riding until the last day of the challenge, day 103 for me.

This year, I was not going for miles because it was starting to take me a lot of time, I was just going for as many days as possible of the 155 days of challenge. But the goal may change.

You haven’t missed one day, yet.  It’s impressive.  What keeps you so motivated?

Most of all, the impact on my health. Only after a couple of months of riding, I was back on the soccer pitch and I have not got injured since. Also, I have to travel a lot for work and making sure I don’t miss a day is the real challenge. The logistics of those arrangements are part of what makes it fun. In long car trips, for example, instead of driving straight to my meeting I would take my bike with me, stay overnight halfway to my destination and ride early in the morning before continuing my trip.  When flying, I have to make sure I’ll get back home and ride at least one mile before midnight, even under thunderstorms. Sometimes I rent bikes when travelling for more than one day.  On top of that, my colleagues are great.  They support me with my goal whenever they can. They help me with planning, give me rides to the bike shop when travelling together and they’re very inventive with keeping me committed to my challenge.  One suggested that if I can’t rent a bike, I could go to a Target and test a bike inside the store.  We even downloaded a print of the store and estimated how many laps it would take to reach a mile (23 times if you’re wondering).  We called it the “Tour de Tarjay”.  I haven’t had to do it yet, but that is my plan B.

If you were trying to get someone to participate in the National Bike Challenge, what do you think would be the best reason to sign up?

I lived in the area for ten years.  For the first time, I’ve gotten to know the area well because I’ve been riding my bike everywhere.  When you’re in the car, you go too fast to appreciate places.  The National Bike Challenge gets you on your bike so you can see those beautiful scenes that you’ve been missing.  It’s a great way to get healthy, too.  I have a friend who’s over 50 and was trying to get healthier, so he joined the challenge.  He first would just do a few miles once in a while.  Motivated by the fun challenge stories he started to increase his miles and commuted on his bike to work. By the end of last season, his daughters bought him a better bike.  This season he set a goal of 1000 miles and he is on track to meet it.  He looks healthier and happier! It really changes someone.

Mario hit 1000 miles on 100 consecutive days of riding his bike last week for the second challenge in a row and he hopes to continue riding for the remaining days of the challenge. He already arranged for the owner of a bike store in a Midwest town to meet him at 5:45am on Monday so he can rent a bike for one hour, the only chance he will have all day to ride during that trip.

The National Bike Challenge is a nationwide event uniting thousands of current bicyclists—and encouraging countless new riders. In its simplest form it is a logging center for users to record miles ridden and be part of the national community of bicyclists. It is a free and easy way to challenge yourself, colleagues and the greater community to ride more.

If you are interested in signing up for the National Bike Challenge, visit www.nationalbikechallenge.org!

“I gave away my car” – Shannon’s Alternative Commuter Part 5 of 5

This 5 part blog series is about TMACC’s Manager of Member Services, Shannon Maria Jones, navigating through the next 4 weeks car free.

I gave away my car.  I suspect that’s not how you expected this 30 day challenge to unfold, and admittedly- that makes two of us.  To be fair, I lent it to a friend who lives an hour away and has need of it for a few weeks.  Turns out- I don’t NEED a vehicle and that’s a really great feeling

The most surprising thing I discovered by giving up my car is a feeling of freedom.  Though I am locked into the bus and train times, it lets me stop focusing on playing the traffic game.  I can do practically whatever I want during my commute time: read, listen to music, write my blog, prepare for my work day, nap.

As I was walking to the bus stop yesterday I realized that EVERY single person who passed me was #1- in the car alone and #2 – distracted by something: phones, digging through purses, eating.  My first thought was, “wow! Would I even want to drive in this knowing how unsafe most of the other drivers are?”  Then I realized that a mere 30 days ago, that was me!  I use Waze almost every time I’m in the car, so even if I’m not texting, I’m looking at the map and directions,  not to mention my obsession with my Bluetooth and using car time to knock out phone calls.

For a collection of reasons, I have decided to up the ante and keep commuting tokenswithout my car.  Some reasons are simple – I did a terrible job of estimating and I have 33 SEPTA tokens remaining.  Others are more coincidental – since I chose to do this in the summer, several of my regular meetings have been cancelled.  As such, I have only used the SEPTA, Amtrak, and Krapf A transit options thus far.  TMACC runs Coatesville LINK and SCCOOT routes – it would be crazy to not use them during the challenge.  To make sure I have a reason, I have three meetings scheduled in Coatesville in the next four weeks.  I also haven’t gone to Philadelphia, Lancaster, or Harrisburg via train yet, and I think it’s high time to try a new adventure.

TrainI’ve found a comfort level in public transit that makes me want to continue!  I won’t fill the Blogosphere every week, but I will weigh in at the end of the summer with my final impressions.  When I return to “post-challenge normalcy” I anticipate utilizing public transit for my commute several times a month- especially if Amtrak adds the new train they were talking about which would reduce my commute time by 15 minutes and better align the train with the bus in Paoli.  What likely will change is the biking portion of my day.  As the weather gets more severe I anticipate driving my car to/from the train station, but with free parking it’s an easy switch!

If you want a true count down to THE END, then I’ll meet you here on September 10.  We’re kicking off fall by saving the planet and my sanity along the way.

Shannon Maria JonesShannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

If you would like to re-publish this blog, or ask Shannon any questions about her commute please contact her at shannon@tmacc.org.

“Will you Share A Ride?” – Shannon’s Alternative Commute Challenge Part 4 of 5

This 5 part blog series is about TMACC’s Manager of Member Services, Shannon Maria Jones, navigating through the next 4 weeks car free.

Not everyone likes talking to strangers.  I get it, sharing a car and a commute with someone you don’t know can be intimidating.  But what happens when you bite the bullet and climb into the passenger seat of someone else’s car for your regular commute?

011Enter Sam.  He’s the lucky intern with whom I shared rides this week.  Sam and I hadn’t met before our Share-a-Ride challenge started, all we did was exchange a few emails, and we knew that we both have Gettysburg College in common.  That seemed fair as often your carpool buddy works at the same place, so again, you have something in common before you begin.

The biggest lesson up front is relinquishing control.  Sam did all of the driving and I focused on navigating.  Sure, sometimes we might be going a different speed than I would have, or he might not have spotted the traffic backing up in the places that I know get tricky because I drive these roads every day.  But you know what?  We were safe the whole time.  No accidents.  No tickets.  I consider that a victory.

Shannon and SamDue to the nature of our arrangement it wasn’t just commuting to and from work, we also went together to Chamber events and some afterhours work events.  We learned quickly that we had plenty to talk about!  Just the first morning we were excitedly discussing craft beer, vacations, and our favorite summer jobs.  At the end of each day we’d often talk about the events of the day, or plug in Pandora for some country music- something else we learned we had in common.

Similar to my public transit commuting I found that my stress level was lower.  It took about the same amount of time as driving myself but I wasn’t focused on the traffic, the other drivers, or listening to radio ads which just feel like clutter to me.  Sometimes we’d talk and other times we’d just listen to music.  I can see how a great friendship could easily grow if you spend any length of time commuting with someone.

An even better perk is the price!  Splitting gas makes the fill-ups more palatable and thanks to Share-a-Ride programs, you can even qualify for gas cards or free Emergency Ride Home programs!

Want to try Share-a-Ride for yourself?  There are seven Park and Ride lots in Chester County where you can meet up with coworkers and park for free.  Check here for one near you.  If you don’t know of anyone at work who lives near you, TMACC can help you find someone thanks to our Share-a-Ride database.

Carpooling- I liked it.  But admittedly (and a little unexpectedly) I miss my morning bike rides.  I’ll be excited to get back in the swing of those – and my one work from home day – starting next week.

In carShannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

If you would like to re-publish this blog, or ask Shannon any questions about her commute please contact her at shannon@tmacc.org.

A New Comfort Zone: Shannon’s Alternative Commute Challenge Part 3 of 5

Parkesburg Train Station

This 5 part blog series is about TMACC’s Manager of Member Services, Shannon Maria Jones, navigating through the next 4 weeks car free.  

The tricky part about my current commute is that in some ways, it’s unrealistic.  Right now I’m riding my bike (mode one) to the train (mode two) and then getting on a bus (mode three).  I have created for myself a morning respite at the Paoli Starbucks, which I must walk two blocks to get to, and that walk could be called mode four. Four modes each morning gives many opportunities for things to go wrong – delays, malfunctions, timing issues, though admittedly I have been lucky so far.

After my first day of snafus, days two and three were quite comfortable.  Instead of focusing on the logistics of getting myself to each place at the right time, I had the opportunity to work at learning the etiquette and flow of the people who use mass transit.

I’ve tried to take pictures to help reinforce some of these lessons when possible:

  • There are never going to be two empty seats on the Amtrak, as it starts in Harrisburg and heads to Philadelphia picking up and dropping off scores of people along the way. Don’t worry about walking yourself and all of your baggage through several cars.  Find an empty seat and plop down, everyone else will be glad and other passengers getting on the train can now get by more easily.
  • Handicapped SeatingThe bus seats reserved for the handicapped and elderly are clearly marked. The people who get priority seating in those seats are also fairly easy to spot.  You CAN sit in these seats when the bus is full, just realize that you may have to abdicate your spot if someone in a wheelchair or is older comes onto the bus.
  • You can eat, drink, and be merry on the train. I’ve even seen people drinking fine wine out of Styrofoam cups.  You should not, however, eat or drink on the buses – so finish your coffee before boarding.  There are signs to this effect and most people respect them.
  • Shannon Biking 2As a biker you know that cars should respect your space on the road, but realize that the onus is on you to make sure you’re easy to spot. Consider wearing bright colors or a vest and helmet so that you can be seen in a variety of conditions.  Remember, unfortunately many drivers are distracted by cell phones, music, other occupants, etc.

At TMACC, we spend a lot of time speaking with our member organizations and the general public about strategies to mitigate traffic congestion, specifically the idling single occupancy vehicles (SOV) that clog our roads.  Page 7 of our summer newsletter, contains five tips that you and your employer can use to avoid commute headaches. So far, I’ve tried the FlexTime and the Telecommute.  Next week I try my hand at ride share!

Shannon BikingShannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

If you would like to re-publish this blog, or ask Shannon any questions about her commute please contact her at shannon@tmacc.org.

“What Did I Get Myself Into?”-Shannon’s Alternative Commute Challenge Part 2 of 5

This 5 part blog series is about TMACC’s Manager of Member Services, Shannon Maria Jones, navigating through the next 4 weeks car free.  This blog is about Shannon’s first day on the challenge.  

July 15, 2015- It rained.  It poured.  Thunder rolled and lightning flashed.

At 3:15 AM my husband turned to me after a crash of thunder shook us both awake.  “You’re not riding your bike in this, I don’t care what you committed to on the internet.”

By 7:00 AM, the rain stopped though the clouds were thick and heavy.  We compromised: he drove me to the train station where we locked up my bike for later.  With that, he departed for work and I rushed to get to the train platform.The train was of course late, due to the extreme weather.

All was well as the Amtrak pulled into Paoli where I would transfer to the Septa 206 bus.  I thought I was prepared with my Septa token in my pocket (saving me 15% per ride because I bought ahead of time ) until I disembarked the train to realize the deluge had resumed and I hadn’t thought to bring an umbrella.

As I crossed the parking lot, I approached the bus.  I was unsure if I could board because I couldn’t find the driver and we had 26 minutes before departure.  As I stood awkwardly in the rain holding my bike seat, as it was too big for the bag that I brought, I located the driver who told me 2 important pieces of information.  #1- Yes! I may escape into the welcoming dryness of the awaiting bus, all I had to do was drop my token into the fare box as I took my seat. #2- Due to the inclement weather the Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail train was delayed.  As per Septa rules, and for the convenience of customers, the bus would wait up to 10 minutes for the late regional rail.

“Amazing,” I thought.  “Day 1 and I arrive late and soaked to the bone.  Clearly my judgement is lacking.”  I called ahead to my office to warn them of my unforeseen tardiness and that my ETA was unknown.

The bus departed promptly at 8:27 AM (the full 10 minute window being used, and still no train) and before I knew it, we were cruising up Lancaster Avenue, stopping occasionally along the way to deposit passengers at their respective destinations.  We quickly reached my stop, one of the last on the run.The driver even dropped us on the ideal side of the street so that we didn’t have to cross traffic.  I slogged across the street at the crosswalk, now chastising myself for both the umbrella snafu and also my inappropriate footwear as there are no sidewalks in the industrial park and the grass was sopping wet.

I walked into my office only 12 minutes late- less than many days when I drive in treacherous weather.  Surprisingly, my stress level was LOW despite the collection of new experiences and being drenched, as I did not have to deal with traffic, accidents, or being inundated with radio commercials.  I changed into one of several dry outfits I stashed in my office, and went about my work day with a clear head and focused attention.

On my way home it did, of course, rain again.  A co-worker offered to drive me to the station, an extreme act of kindness especially after letting me borrow an umbrella, but due to traffic we missed the train by 45 seconds.  Watching it pull out while sitting at the traffic light was disheartening, but I went into the station and read peacefully for 54 minutes until the next Amtrak came along.

All in all, I arrived home in good spirits and biking through the country during the evening hours was beautiful.  Though it was a comedy of errors, it was a good day.  Full of commuter lessons to be sure, but I’ll be ready when I do it again tomorrow.

Have I mentioned that it hasn’t rained since?

Shannon Riding

Shannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

If you would like to re-publish this blog, or ask Shannon any questions about her commute please contact her at shannon@tmacc.org.