Confessions of a Driveaholic

Three months ago I started a new job at the City of Edmonton. I’m part of a new team working to encourage Edmontonians to change the way we get around the city – to leave the car keys behind and take transit, or walk, or cycle, or carpool to get where we’re going.

I knew the City was expanding the LRT and adding bike routes to our streets. I’d read The Way We Move – the City of Edmonton Transportation Master Plan ­– and liked its vision for a future Edmonton with an interconnected transportation system where citizens can walk, bike, bus and train efficiently and conveniently to their desired location.

The thing is . . . at my previous job, I drove to work. Every day. By myself. In my car.

But, with this job I knew I needed to put my money where my mouth is. If I’m going to talk the talk, I better walk the walk as it were. So, I bought my transit tickets and got ready for my first day of work and the LRT ride downtown. Here’s how I did . . .

Car-free commuting – take one: short lived enthusiasm

Getting ready for my first day of work, I was so anxious and fussy about my clothes, my hair… suddenly, while I started out early, now I was running late. So, I grabbed the car keys and I was off.

Car-free commuting – take two: sadly . . . ditto

Car-free commuting – take three

I finally got my act together and walked-jogged to Health Sciences LRT station, caught the train, and made it to my office… 15 minutes earlier than I thought I would. Hmmm. That was fast and pretty easy. The train was busy, but not uncomfortably crowded. And a heck of a lot cheaper than parking downtown.

So far so good?  Not so fast . . .

I tried to keep up the habit of the car-free commute. LRT to work in the morning then LRT or, if the weather cooperated, a nice relaxing walk home.

But . . . as happens in new jobs, I got really busy and I fell off the wagon – or train in this case. I found ‘discount parking’, and started driving again.

Fast forward 3 months later . . .

Changing how we travel in the city and making travel choices that are sustainable – taking the bus, cycling, walking, carpooling – is not always easy. Let’s face it, changing one habit for another? Very tough stuff! We need to understand that taking baby steps and making good choices when we can is the way to go. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and that’s ok.

The good news? I am more aware of my travel habits. I haven’t surrendered my car keys completely, but I am taking the LRT when I can . . . one day at a time!

My commitment?

It’s up to me to stick to it, to make sure I ask myself every time I reach for the car keys, “Do I need to drive, or is there a better way?”

Parked Car Free Day

Learn more at Parked Car Free Day!

Join the City on 106 St. between Whyte Ave and 84 Ave Thursday, September 22 from 4-7pm for fun free family activities and learn more about The Way We Move – the City of Edmonton Transportation Master Plan. You can also check out the new bike lanes and get some tips on how you can kick the car habit – even once a week. Visit TheWayWeMove.ca for all the details.

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8 Comments
  1. 6 years ago

    I found this pretty unsatisfying as an explanation. As someone who’s job it is to get people out of their cars, simply saying “I need to think about it every time” doesn’t provide a solution.

    What are the barriers that are keeping you behind the wheel, and what can you learn from those barriers that can help you convince others to use alternative transportation.

    Is it actually faster? Day 1-3 seems to indicate that you were driving the first couple of days because you thought the trip would take longer than it actually does. But then later, you seem to indicate that “being busy” means that you need the car to free up time.

    If driving is actually faster, have you explored other options. You sound fairly centrally located, so

    Would buying a bus pass instead of tickets make transit the prefered option? I know I’m busing (instead of biking) more these days because I was required to buy a U-Pass. If so, would a free 3-month trial bus pass be a good policy to get people to change their habits?

    Do you need your car at work? I know one guy I work with drives 10 blocks – saving about 2 minutes over walking – because there’s only one company vehicle available for getting to client meetings, and it’s a gamble whether it’s available. If this is a problem at your office – given that reducing car use is an essential goal of your office – having a car or two available for that kind of use might be worthwhile.

    In the end, what I’m trying to say is: reach for the explanation and an actual solution. If you can’t convince yourself to give up your car, how can you expect to convince other people.

  2. Dave
    6 years ago

    I moved here from Victoria, BC. The public transit there is actually quite good and a huge section of the population uses it. I expected the same sort of system here in Edmonton, I was very disappointed.

    This is a driving city. I either take two buses to get to my nearest LRT station to get downtown, or Park and Ride.

    The problem is my nearest terminal is Southgate, but I can’t park there and take the LRT downtown because I’ll get hit with a nasty ticket, so I have to get all thew way to Century Park (which is further south) to catch the LRT.

    Driving to the park and ride at Century Park to take the LRT downtown takes me almost fifteen minutes longer (one-way) than hopping in my car and driving downtown. It adds 30 minutes to my daily commute taking transit (assuming I avoid 111th, which is a total disaster any time of day).

    Since transit doesn’t run very frequently here, I have to leave for work 15-20 minutes earlier than I do when I drive and get home 15-20 minutes later. So not only is my commute 30 to 40 minutes longer each day, but I’m also gone almost 40 minutes more in my day. Driving gives me over an hour more each day with my family before the kids go to bed at night – well worth the extra $175 I pay in parking each month.

    Taking public transit here in Edmonton just isn’t worth it…except for the free non-stop service to football games! That’s awesome!

  3. Gary
    6 years ago

    I will repeat myself. Car pool lanes.

    No silly car free days. It doesn’t work in my opinion. Although I don’t work for transportation so you might feel differently.

    When people see that they can zip through faster with a carpool they will buy into it. The problem is there is hardly any incentive or interest to do it. Alberta is going to grow along with Calgary and Edmonton, we could hit 7 million at the rate we are going and if that’s the case there will be increased road rage and less productivity

  4. 5 years ago

    You’re so right, Gary. This is a big thing in the States and it works well. And to grumpy Neil, I think that Pam’s personal experience was hilarious, and it was nice of her to be transparent rather than pretentious.

    -Jerry

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