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January 5, 2012

Resolving to Take Multimodal Transportation in St. Louis, Part Two (Do One Thing a Day)

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Riding the bus with Steve Patterson, one of the fellow St. Louis transit supporters I've made friends with along the way.

Does change happen all at once, or little by little, each day? Yesterday, I discussed the first three tips by Margie Warrell in the recent Forbes article “Want to Keep Your Resolutions the Entire Year?” in regards to taking more multimodal transportation in St. Louis. The first three tips focus on inciting change, excitement and momentum, but as we know, real change usually happens gradually, with bumps in the road. The last four tips encourage us to gather ourselves up when we are discouraged, and to keep in mind what is important to us, and to take time to enjoy it.

4. Focus on one major resolution at a time. As Warrell points out, if you try to do everything, sometimes you end up accomplishing nothing. Trying to use more multimodal transportation does not have to mean selling the car, buying a fixed-gear bike, and while you are at it, biking 15 miles to work each way.

Focus on a realistic goal you can attain, and put your energy towards it. If taking transit from your home takes up too much time, try making a goal of biking to a transit center or to a MetroLink station once a week. Or, if you made several New Year’s resolutions, find ways they can complement each other. If you want to lose a few pounds, continue to focus on your weight loss goal, but consider walking or biking as part of your exercise routine.

5. View failures as a temporary setbacks that make your goal meaningful. Often, temporary setbacks and distractions are the nemesis of well-intentioned change, including using public transit, and biking and walking more often. A late bus or flat tire happens from time to time. A rainy day may be an excuse to use a personal vehicle, but it is not reason to give up your resolve.

When setbacks rear their ugly head, take a step back and remember why this is meaningful to you. Do you save money? Do you appreciate the quiet walk to the station? Do you like to read during your ride? Do you believe in walkable, urban development? Do you love and support bike infrastructure? Come back to the mindset and values that inspired you, and reach out for help, if necessary. Local organizations can provide tools and programs to be successful.  Trailnet is featuring an evening pub presentation series on topics like winter bike commuting, and Citizens for Modern Transit offer a Guaranteed Ride Home program for free cab rides home for emergencies.

6. Focus on the process. Remember how many other activities in your life are all about the process – walking a long walk, reading a novel, holding your child, or preparing a home-cooked meal. The amount of joy and fulfillment I gain from these simple activities is often about taking the time and mind to appreciate the moments. Mindfulness, whether it is riding your bike or eating a healthful meal, can keep us in the moment and help motivate and engage us through distraction and obstacles.

If I didn't take the time to enjoy my walk, would I have missed this?

Even on days when the weather is poor and the daylight hours short, I try to look around and appreciate the things I love about taking transit – the quirkiness of some fellow riders, the sense of community, the neighborhoods I travel through, and the smells of fallen leaves and backyard grills on my walk home. I feel very similarly when I choose to ride my bike to the store, or walk home from the market. Taking time to focus on the process reminds me that traveling is not simply getting from Point A to Point B, but so much about the path I take in between.

7. Do One Thing Every Day. To me, this may be the best tip for continuing any resolution, including taking multimodal transportation instead of always using a car. Doing one thing every day makes the exceptional ordinary and habitual, and that is a good thing. Ride your bike down to the local park. Walk home from the grocery store on a pleasantly warm afternoon. If you drive, combine multiple trips into one. Learn how to change a flat on your bike. Buy a warm pair of gloves. Map out a transit trip to the library. Encourage your friends to carpool to the bar. Take the long and winding way home from the bus stop, past your favorite tree. Each day is an opportunity to support alternative transportation, while enjoying your neighborhood, saving some money, or exercising a bit more.

Supporting multimodal transportation in St. Louis is like a lot of other commitments of civic pride. If we strive for perfection, or big, sweeping changes, we may encounter disheartening challenges. But focusing on our values and goals, and paying attention to the process, may just be the wave of change we wish to see in a multimodal St. Louis.

3 thoughts on “Resolving to Take Multimodal Transportation in St. Louis, Part Two (Do One Thing a Day)”

  1. RTBones says:

    Hi Courtney –

    Hope your New Year was good. Just saw your series of articles here, thought I’d add a thought or two.

    The most difficult aspect of taking multimodal transit here in St. Louis is mindset. As a transplant to the area, one thing I’ve noticed is that locals simply don’t consider getting around by any way other than by car. Its a fact of life. Since the migration of population to the suburbs, transit is less than an afterthought for most of the region, in part because connectivity has been poor (for a wide variety of reasons). Yet transit has a number of benefits to the community, so how do you commit to transit knowing just some of the obstacles in your way?

    The simple way is to be specific about when and where you’re going. You don’t have to sell your car. Target when and where you are willing to invest the time to take transit – and understand that it may not be on your morning commute. Tell yourself that you’d like to get around without driving, then convince yourself to do something about it. Research and learn the routes that serve your neighborhood – or close to your neighborhood, where you can drive to and park your car then pick it up after you’re done. Figure out, if you -had- to do it, how you would get home without a car. Plan for a ‘taxi contingency’ for times there is a possibility you could get stranded. In this day and age, time is valuable. Instead of taking transit when I know I have to be somewhere at a certain time, I take it when I know I can be flexible. That means if I’m going shopping, or meeting friends, going to the movies, etc. If I am going out for an evening, I consider where I want to go, and about when I want to get home. Then, I plan. I’m fortunate enough to live within a ten minute walk to a Metrolink line, so I look at when I need to be at PDQ station to catch XYZ train home. I get exercise to/from the train station and to and from the bus stop, I get to see my neighborhood, and I get to leave my car at home. If my schedule allows it, I take transit to work – but I also understand that in many cases, I need to drive on my commute.

    In short, commitment to transit does not have to be an either-or proposition with your car.

  2. mike says:


    Just got in from New York and trying to play catch up on things around here. By the way, I was spoiled again by the NYCTA’s efficient and convenient public transit system.

    You touched up in a previous comment posted back in July of how multimodal public transit wouldn’t be a viable, if not impossible alternative for general use in our region, when I suggested catching a bus from the Chesterfield Mall to one of the MetroLink Stations, to travel downtown for the 4th of July fireworks celebration.

    Unfortunately, a large number of Metro riders in our region are transit dependent, and many of those individuals who use Metro in a mutimodal capacity, use it out of necessity rather than using it as an option. After all, who wants to wait for prolonged periods this time of year in the elements for slow running buses compounded with low headways, if they don’t have to. Why is it necessary to spend extra time planning a strategy for even a routine trip to use public transit, just to get to such places as a nearby store, post office, or run simple errands, in a major metropolitan region such as ours? They do that in rural areas. Our regional public transit lacks the convenience to lure many people out of their private vehicles, who would use as an alternative to driving.

    In this day in age in our time-ridden society when many people are pressed for time, public transit would have to be almost as convenient as using a private vehicle, in order to lure more people out of their vehicles to use public transit as an option. Otherwise, people who choose to use public transit as an option, would probably use it only if they have “time to spare”.

  3. mike says:

    The Washington, DC-Baltimore region operates an excellent multimodal transportation system, both intercity and intracity. I’ve used every mode of public transit in both of their systems which includes local subways, transit buses and lightrail. Public transit in both locations is very efficient and convenient. In addition, MTA operates an efficient commuter rail and bus system that connects the DC and Baltimore metropolitan regions, and points in between. Service provided by MTA is efficient, and they provide convenient connections to the local transit systems at each location (DC and Baltimore), as well as points in between.

    It’s amazing how two major metro areas have coordinated and operate a successful multimodal transportation system to the extent where either traveling within one of the regions (DC or Baltimore), traveling between regions, or traveling involving the use of both the commuter and local transit systems is convenient and desireable. Hundreds of thousand of commuters combined, use the region’s multimodal transportation systems daily during weekdays, and from my experience, there were rarely any problems with scheduling, headways or making connections. It provided an ideal alternative to driving.

    A dependable, efficient and reliable transportation system must first be in place to lure people out of their private vehicles, in order for a mutimodal system to be useful and practical, even in our region. If a much larger and more complex megalopolis such as the Washington, DC-Baltimore area can operate a mutimodal system with great success, why can’t we make it happen here in a much smaller region? Metro needs to stop thinking smalltime and allow itself the opportunity to grow into a major, respectable transit system.

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