When I was in high school I drove to school. Not at first, of course. My parents, in their ever-giving way as parents, drove me to school. I couldn’t take the bus. There wasn’t one. So they drove me and eventually, at least some of the time, I drove myself. It was a typical commute for someone in Connecticut, less than an hour. Traffic was always a concern.
Today I drove to a school at which I work a few days each month. I drove 28 miles each way. It took about 40 minutes to get there this morning. I encountered some traffic but nothing worth noting, at least for me. I stopped at some traffic lights, went the speed limit on the Interstate, and generally kept moving the whole way. No big deal.
I do encounter delays some days. If there happens to be an accident in the right place at the right time, traffic can get snarled. One morning I was an hour or so late getting to this same school and I had to go a long way around to get back. My drive home took hours, but that was unusual.
The volume of traffic is way higher than when I first moved to this area. Driving always seemed to be easy, even at the busiest times on the busiest roads. My wife points this out regularly. Having grown up here, she has seen the change. Even since the days we first began to spend time together in her adult years, there are many more cars on the road. Her typical questions: “Where did all these people come from? And where do they all live?”
The thing is, this is nothing. I remember listening to traffic reports on my high school commute. Would traffic on the bridge over the Connecticut River on Interstate 91 be slow? Should we take the other route? Should we leave a little earlier? Could we expect to be on time? Accidents, or at least breakdowns, were common. There were a lot of people and a lot of cars, and we didn’t even travel through Hartford. That was busy.
But the roads are getting busy around here. When I drive north past Burlington during peak commuting time, cars line the highway southbound waiting to exit toward Vermont’s largest city. It gets crowded. We have pretty crappy public transportation, partly because of the still somewhat rural nature of the surrounding communities. The backed up roads seem a good reason to invest in public transportation. Rail lines already exist in many areas in northwest Vermont, but there is only one commuter train to speak of.
I don’t mind the driving, knowing that it could be a lot worse. It did used to be much smoother to get around in a car, but I won’t complain. If it gets so bad that I feel I need to complain, then I need to make sure I am taking action to make a difference. I don’t know that I can swing commuting on a bicycle 28 miles and still help the kids get to school in the morning, but if I get it together I could travel to other places by bike. I am working at home tomorrow, so that helps a little.
Really I would rather take the train, or even the bus, but until that happens I will add to the general melee. I will be one of those about whom people who grew up here wonder. “Where do all these people come from?” they might ask. “And why is that guy smiling in all this traffic?”