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Meet Laura

Name: Laura
Occupation: Commute Trip Reduction Coordinator
Employer: Downtown On the Go
Gets around by: Bike, bus, and walking

Where do you live and where do you work?
I live in the Hilltop neighborhood and work in downtown Tacoma.

How do you get there?
Now that I’ve moved closer to downtown, I walk more. I used to live a farther away and would bike or bus; sometimes I would bus in and take a long walk home.  If I have a lot to carry, I’ll take it on my bike and go the gradual way out of downtown on Stadium Way, but otherwise I prefer to walk straight up the hill.

How does it all add up? How much money or time do you save?
I definitely save money, as my only real commute costs are shoes to walk in and bike maintenance. My employer pays for my ORCA transit pass, and I don’t need to deal with parking. To track my dollar, gas and emissions savings, I log my trips on the new trip calendar at PierceTrips.com. Even though I live close to work, I estimate I’ll have logged about 1,000 commute miles by the end of 2014, and none of those have been on our car. My partner and I both work downtown, so we can bike, walk or ride the bus to work instead of driving, and we don’t drive much in town for other reasons, either.

We recently switched our car insurance to a by-the-mile plan, which has saved a lot of money. Since we’re now paying for every mile, it also helps us question whether we really need to drive somewhere, or if we can bike, walk, take the bus, or combine it with another car errand later. Being able to skip or combine some driving trips saves a lot of wear and tear and extends the life of our car.

What’s in it for you? 
I really enjoy the extra money in my wallet. Having low transportation costs helps buffer other expenses and helps my income go further. I notice a difference in energy when I walk or bike home. I feel more refreshed and ready to take on other things after work. Also, Tacoma has a plethora of opportunities for what I like to call “urban hiking”. I love hiking in the woods, too, but some of our hills in downtown deliver a great workout, minus the drive to a hiking trail.

When walking and biking, I notice the sunset, weather, leaves changing, flowers budding – when I choose a faster mode, I quite literally don’t “stop and smell the roses”. I also avoid the aggravation that I sometimes experience in a car. Cars seem like they should get us places very fast, so I feel impatient and rushed more easily when driving than when I choose a mode I expect to be a bit slower.

Do you have any tips for people who may be trying these modes for the first time?
Yes, absolutely:

Walking – make sure you have the right shoes! For example, I don’t like walking far in my work shoes, so I’ll bring a pair of old running shoes with me in my bag to walk in. Mix up your walking route by a block or two every now and then; I’m always finding new and interesting places I like to walk past.

Biking – Give it a try when you aren’t under time, weather, or other pressures! Try a short trip to the grocery store, a friend’s house or park. Find another bicylist to show you their favorite way around the area on the bike map, or try riding a new route together. Biking to work feels more comfortable when it’s already a part of your routine.

Bus – Transit can seem intimidating if you are not (yet!) a rider, but the learning curve is similar to building skill and confidence in driving a car, though some of us may have forgotten the time in our life when basic car navigation was challenging. Getting started riding transit is much the same: It’s best to learn by doing. With a bit of planning, advice, and practice, you can quickly get over the learning curve. My advice is the same as biking; give it a try when the pressure’s not on and preferably with a buddy. Use a trip planner tool (available online from Pierce Transit or Sound Transit), ask a transit-savvy co-worker or neighbor to show you the ropes, or ask any of us here at Downtown On the Go.

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