Drive alone? Not if she can help it

York Region District School Board (YRDSB) employee, Branislava travels to work many different ways, but driving alone is not one of them.

What are the different ways you commute?

Carpooling, public transit (bus), biking and walking.

Why do you choose to commute sustainably?

When I carpool with my husband, it gives us time to enjoy each other’s company. Also, of course, we spend only half the money on gas and it’s less wear and tear on one of our cars.  My husband is the one who works farther, so for me, it’s a nice perk to be dropped off right by the entrance to my office building when the weather is bad. My c0-workers love me because I do not take up a spot in our workplace’s limited parking lot.

In spring, summer and fall I bring my bike along in the morning when we carpool and pedal home at the end of the day. In nice weather this is the most enjoyable commute and, although it takes me longer to get home, I quite enjoy the exercise, fresh air and sunshine on my skin. This costs nothing, reduces traffic and there’s no pollution either. In winter, when our schedules do not match, I use public transit, mostly bus.  I opt to do this rather than drive alone as I appreciate the chance to put on some steps and expose myself to some fresh air while walking to and from the bus stop. I welcome some “me” time while on the bus where I can relax, read or even nap and I don’t contribute to traffic congestion. Plus, it doesn’t cost me more than what the gas for the car would.

Do you have a favourite way of travelling to and from work?

My favourite way of travelling to and from work is:  carpooling with my husband to work and biking back home.

Do you find there are many challenges to commuting sustainably?  If so, how do you deal with those challenges?

There are definitely challenges to commuting sustainably. With regards to carpooling, one needs to be flexible and you need to be pretty organized as well.  Also, there are days when things will happen and one person will have to wait for their carpool partner; it is an interdependent relationship.

When I bike, weather can be a big challenge. I won’t bike in the rain. Not only do I find it extremely uncomfortable, I find it unsafe.  So, if the weather forecast predicts rain I opt to take the bus. If it starts raining half-way through my ride, I stop at the next bus stop and mount my bike on the bus. It is very easy to do.  Also, I find some stretches of my route very unsafe as well.  I plan my route so that I avoid roads that have no shoulder or bike lanes as much as possible. I wear my helmet and bright clothes. Another challenge with going by bike is what you can take home with you. So, if you need your laptop, it might not be the best choice. I find that biking to and from work involves a lot of planning and preparation but it is well worth it. One more challenge that I’d like to mention is that it can take more time.  However, if you count it as your exercise time, you can skip the gym that day and you have actually bought yourself some time!

With public transit, the biggest challenge is unreliability.  Although the actual departure and arrival times do not often deviate from the official timetable, it happens. The way to deal with it? I guess the same as if you encountered an unexpected traffic jam when driving; just let the other party know that you are delayed and why.  When you’re on the bus though, you can actually use your phone to inform them without being charged for “distracted driving”.

What are the benefits you get from commuting sustainably?

It’s more active than driving,  more cost effective and less stressful

What advice do you have that would encourage or inspire others to commute sustainably?

Try it and you’ll love it! Just give it a chance.

Have you been thinking of joining a gym? Well, biking to and from work (even for part of your trip and busing the rest) will be great exercise and you won’t have to pay for a membership – on the contrary, you’ll save money and help the environment.

How long has it been since you’ve read a book?  No time for it? Try taking a bus or a train when commuting to work. Maybe once or twice a week to start.  Not only will it be less stressful but you will have time to relax, listen to music or read a book. Plus you will put on some steps (towards your daily goal of at least 10,000) by walking to and from that bus stop.

Commuting sustainably helps us lead healthier lives, helps protect our environment and builds a healthier future for our children.

How does your workplace support sustainable commuting?

YRDSB offers flexible work hours when possible. Also, there are bike racks at most locations and the board supports and promotes smart commute options and campaigns that encourage staff to change their travel behaviour.

“I have to say that I was very hesitant about using public transit at first. In my head I somehow used to connect it with hustle, lateness, crowds.  Then one day I was not in the mood to wait for my husband – he had an emergency and could not pick me up until later. So, I looked up bus routes and boarded the bus home.

I was pleasantly surprised! I made it home way before I would have had I waited for my husband; I was able to get a seat without a problem and there were no crowds to tackle. The stop was near my workplace and my home.  I had the option of transferring to another bus or walking 20 minutes to my house and I opted for the latter. It was really an enjoyable experience. The tickets were available at the stop so there was no issue that I didn’t buy them in advance (now, I have a PRESTO card which is very convenient).  So, I said to myself, the next time I’ll bring my book with me!”