Michael J. Walk,
Performance Management, MTA
Any investment person will tell you that diversity is fundamental to a successful investment portfolio. That’s true for your personal transportation “portfolio” as well. When you diversify your ways of getting around to include walking, biking, car-sharing, taxi, and, of course, public transit, you’re likely to find more money in your pocket, a healthier, more energetic body, and even new friends.
I’m living proof that this approach works. So if you’re open to considering the rich variety of transportation options available to you, consider some alternatives that are both good for you and good for the planet too.
Each day (unless I'm biking, Zipping, or taxiing), I walk about a total of 30-40 minutes between my house and the bus stop. Not only is it great exercise, but it gives me some time to just enjoy the scenery. That 30-40 minutes may seem like a lot, but if drive now, you probably already walk at least half that time just to get to and from your car, depending on where you park. If you live within 15-20 minutes of a transit point, consider making walking part of your transportation portfolio.
Adding a bike to your transportation portfolio and integrating it with other modes of transport greatly extends the distance you can travel in a single trip and multiplies your transportation options. Bikes can be used on almost all forms of MTA’s transit services, and they can be the perfect solution to the "last mile problem."
Zipcar is an excellent transportation option for those trips where you really need a car, for rural destinations, major grocery store shopping sprees and the like. It's basically car rental without the need to go to the rental store every time you need a car. You don't have to pay for gas or insurance, either, and you can rent by the hour or the day. There are cars located in key locations throughout Baltimore City. I use Zipcar when I've got really late nights and/or early mornings or I just need to take a trip right now. Zipcar users in Baltimore will even find they’re eligible for discounts on coffee at select establishment or two around town.
Guaranteed Ride Home
The Guaranteed Ride Home program is another excellent addition to your transportation portfolio. You can get free (yes, free) taxi rides when you have emergencies or unscheduled mandated overtime. This program helps to answer the “what if there's an emergency and I have to get home right away?” question. I've used it once so far, and it was really convenient.
Although transit users may not always think of taxis as an alternative, it really is a great way to get around when you have to go far, are in a rush, or when you really just want to get home right now. I use a cool little app called Taxi Magic, which lets me book and pay for taxi trips right from my Blackberry. The app also provides an estimated fare so you won't be caught off-guard when you get to your destination.
Sometimes all it takes to get to where you want to go is to go along with someone else. Programs like Zimride let you tag along with others! If that doesn't work, try shooting emails off to your friends or colleagues. Bet you’ll get more than a few responses, fast.
I've ridden all forms of MTA transit service except for Mobility (which I can't ride anyway). Google’s trip planner has all of MTA's service in it and it can help you find the best way to get around on transit. If you download the Google maps app to your phone, you have an instant on-the-fly transit navigator. In fact, if you have a web-enabled smart phone, you’ll also have much more flexibility when making day-to-day decisions on how to get around.
The real test of a successful Personal Transportation Portfolio
Like a snowflake, your own Personal Transportation Portfolio is probably unique to you, depending on your location, physical abilities, access to a web-enabled mobile phone and lots of other factors. I created my own transportation portfolio to help me keep track of my trip mode history. I figure I’m successful if I consider car-alternatives for every trip I take, and if I manage to actually use those alternatives more than half the time. As you’ll see if you visit my portfolio,
I manage to use alternatives to my own car almost 59 percent of the time. (The purple portion of the graph is how often I used my car.) Whether that test of success works for you depends entirely on your own transportation situation.
In any case, if you’d like help exploring your options, just contact the MTA to get up to speed on how to “live the Transit Life” and start to develop your own Personal Transportation Portfolio. And if you’d like to share your experiences or have a few suggestions, we'd love to hear them! Maybe as one of our upcoming blog posts….?