December 18, 2009

My Top 10 Ways to Keep Warm Using Transit (keep your metallic pants at home)

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Hey St. Louis, guess what!  It’s winter!  (OK, maybe not yet technically, but according to my internal thermometer, it’s cold.) If you take transit, that means dealing with the elements.  Here are my tips to to best deal with the elements while using public transit:

1. Wear layers. I know, typical cold weather routine.  But layers help keep the wind out, body heat locked in, and can be shed if you get too warm once you are on the train or bus.

2. Gloves, hat, scarves. If you’ve ever waited on a train platform in the cold, I bet you can pick out the parts of your body that notice the wind and cold first: your head, hands, face.  Even if the weather seems fine when you first step out the door, it might not feel so warm after a 10-minute wait for the bus.  Warm people look cool.  Cold people look cold.

Good winter commuting gear.

Good winter commuting gear.

Bad winter commuting gear.

Bad winter commuting gear.

3.  Have pass or fare ready. If there is a line of people waiting to board the bus, no one wants to have you digging in your backpack or purse.  And you don’t want to miss a train because you needed to purchase a pass.  Buy in tickets in bulk and validate before each trip, or use one of the day, week, or month passes.

4.  Eat just before your trip. After you eat, your body temperature rises. Take advantage of your internal metabolic space heater and fill up before you head out.  While please no eating or drinking in the vehicles, digestion is quite welcome.

Stocking up for the wintery transit rides ahead. (Photo via Justin Mclean)

Stocking up for the wintery transit rides ahead.

5.  Plan your trip ahead of time. Minimize your waiting time by planning out your trip ahead of time.  Use Google Transit or TripFinder from your computer.  Google Maps also has a public transit application for smartphone – use your phone’s GPS system to plot your transit trip from your exact location.

6.  Customer service. If you are out but don’t have a smartphone, you can call Customer Service at 314-231-2345 in MO or 618-271-2345 in IL from 7:30am – 4:30pm to find out schedule info.  Schedule it into your contacts.  We are currently working on getting a text-based service that will send schedule info to your phone via text, so any phone can receive schedule info. (BONUS: My colleague in Vancouver said they found just knowing when your bus will arrive cuts your perceived waiting time in half, even if real time waiting has not changed.)

7.  Pace. Think I’m joking?  No, this is one of my best tips for keeping warm while waiting for a train or bus.  Sounds unpleasant, but it’s not.  Walk back and forth, get into a smooth rhythm, spend some time thinking.  Keeps the chill off, and lets me unwind from a long day.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

This guy knows what I'm talking about.

8.  Watch your step. Buses, trains, station platforms and parking areas can get icy, slushy from all the foot traffic.  Step carefully and deliberately to avoid slipping and wearing five pounds of wet slush on your coat.

9. Wear tights under skirts. Ladies: tights are not just for American Apparel models and the female cast of Gossip Girl:

Excellent use of transit-savy legwear, ladies. (Photo via

Excellent use of transit-savy legwear, ladies. (Photo via

Tights keep the wind out and warm in.  They make it easier to combine skirted business casual wear with transit use.

10.  Take advantage of the MetroLink station heaters. Station heaters are at Forest Park-DeBaliviere and all Illinois MetroLink stations.  You have to turn them on yourself (buttons located in the center of the station), and they run on timers.  Thanks to a grant, we will be installing heaters in approximately six of the most popularly-used MO MetroLink stations this winter.  Trust me, they are a godsend on a blustery winter’s night.

Stay warm, transit riders.  I’ll be out there too, under the heaters, full stomach, with my leggings on.  If you have more ingenious tips for staying warm while using Metro, please let us know.

UPDATE: Metro Customer Services hours are from 7:30am – 4:30pm.

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