One key to increasing transit use: not having to commute during rush hour

One of the ways we can get more people using public transit is by encouraging employers to allow for more flexible work hours and telecommuting.

People who start work between 8 and 9am must take transit at rush hour, when buses are absolutely packed and get stuck in traffic along with all the single-occupancy vehicles (and a few carpoolers) – except in the (still rare) instances where there are reserved bus lanes. The heavy traffic and small chance of getting a seat in the bus during rush hour are two important disincentives working against public transit use.

It is especially difficult to convince people who can afford to drive (as long as driving is so relatively inexpensive in Canada) to take transit when they must stand in a packed bus for an hour, in traffic, surrounded by people in their cars who are comfortably listening to music, or chatting on their (hands free, of course) cell phones.

Commuting just a half-hour outside of the rush hour (around 8-830am in my case), means a seat on the bus. A spot where you can nap, text (or write a blog post on your cell phone as I am now doing), listen to music, or apply makeup and eat a plum like the women beside me is doing. This allows for peopleto multitask, using their commute time effectively (The 2011 McGill Travel Survey) found that many transit users cited “I can do other things while taking transit” as a motivation for taking transit. This combined with the monetary savings and the avoided frustration (not having to find parking, for instance, unless your employer provides it for free which is a whole other issue) makes for happier public transit users.

Further, someone may be more willing to take the bus or train if they only have to go to the office three times per week, avoiding the commute altogether several days a week. Technology like e-mail, g-chat and videoconferencing all make this a breeze.

Let’s get people on transit by doing the best we can to make it not just the affordable alternative, but a truly comfortable ride, that breezes through car traffic via reserved bus lanes.

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