7 Cool Commutes
Image by John Biehler
Getting to and from work doesn’t have to be a pain. Check out these seven rad commuter alternatives, from Vancouver to Hong Kong
Long waits, bad traffic, equipment breakdowns, road construction, overcrowding, rising gas prices, ads for Justin Bieber’s latest album/book/chew toy—these are but a few of the horrors commuters face every day.
But getting to and from work doesn’t have to be this way. People around the world are increasingly discovering the benefits of cycling, while politicians and employers are finally trying to cut down on traffic congestion and pollution by encouraging car-pooling, telecommuting and staggered work hours. And, hopefully, any day now engineers and scientists (or maybe Steve Jobs) will announce the first mass-produced solar-powered jetpacks.
In the meantime, there are options found around the world that make getting to and from your 9 to 5 a little less stressful, more fun and more sustainable. Here are seven cool commutes…
Cool commute #1: SeaBus – Vancouver, British Columbia
A SeaBus ferrying commuters to downtown Vancouver from the North Shore. (Image: disordered.org)
These passenger ferries transport commuters and tourists between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver across Burrard Inlet in less than 15 minutes for only $2.50 Cdn.
What makes it cool: In minutes, passengers can be in downtown Vancouver, joining the stream of people leaving the historic Waterfront Station—or catching a SkyTrain, the city’s elevated driverless light rail line, to other parts of the city or outlying suburbs.
Though enjoyment of the scenery can depend on the weather, when the sun is shining it’s a glorious trip, with towering mountain peaks to the north, a sparkling skyline to the south and a clamour of interesting marine traffic competing for sea and sky. And even when the fog comes in, it’s probably the most relaxing way to get to work—just grab a seat, enjoy your coffee and muffin, and read the paper as someone else pilots you to the office.
“Cheap, convenient, clean,” says one Yelp reviewer; in short, Canadian.
Cool commute #2: Bike – Portland, Oregon
That's one way to get to work. (Image: Flickr / Gwyn Fisher)
It’s not just about the bike anymore—many North American cities, including Vancouver, are embracing bike culture by installing bike corrals (pictured below), building more bike lanes and even electing biking mayors...
Vancouver's first bike corral was quickly yarnbombed.
(Flickr / Roland Tanglao)
What makes it cool: Portland, Oregon, has consistently been among the top-rated U.S. cities when it comes to bike-friendliness, with cities like Vancouver and New York taking note.
With its own bike-riding Mayor Sam Adams leading the way, the city has been adding miles of bikeways (69 miles, or 111 kilometres, in the last two years), dozens of elementary schools have joined a bike-positive program called Safe Routes to Schools, and Adams estimates 85 bike corrals will be on commercial streets by the end of 2011.
With numbers like this, the city known for the slogan “Keep Portland Weird” shows no sign of moving away from its bike culture.
A prime example via IFC's Portlandia:
Cool commute #3: Gondola – Venice, Italy
Traghetti commuters in Venice, Italy (Image: Flickr / Funky Chickens)
Though largely a pedestrian city, Venice still has its famous gondolas. Some of the gondolas, called “traghetti,” are used by commuters to cross the Grand Canal. Cost: 50 Euro.
What makes it cool: Traghetti are usually old gondolas that have been stripped of their brocaded chairs and other luxury trimmings, and are rowed by two oarsmen. The same families have owned the traghetti for generations, making this commute traditional, sustainable and very Italian.
Cool commute #4: Golf cart – Peachtree, Georgia
A separate golf cart parking lot was created at the local high school—and is full
every day. (Image: Betsy Tyler via ElectrifyingTimes.com)
Golf carts—thousands of them—take Peachtree residents along 90 miles (144 kilometres) of paths to just about any destination within city limits.
What makes it cool: For a small city (with a population just over 34,000), Peachtree sure has a lot of (registered) golf carts—more than 9,000 of them, in fact. To accommodate this alternate, mostly green method of transportation, businesses have specially designated golf cart parking spaces.
They are a great alternative to cars for blurry-eyed senior citizens (the city has been named one of the Best Places to Retire by US New & World Report) and even police, who use them as patrol cars. As well, children 12 and over can drive the carts if accompanied by an adult, and 15-years-olds can drive alone with a learner's permit, meaning local high school students are riding them in droves, parking them in the purpose-made golf cart parking lot provided by the school.
Electric, quiet and safe, golf carts could be the way of the future if those jetpacks don’t come through.
Cool commute #5: Segway – Anywhere
Gob of Fox's Arrested Development is a real cool dude commuting by Segway. (Image: Fox via autoclerks.com)
The Segway is the much-mocked-yet-still-kinda-cool two-wheeled “self-balancing” contraption you stand on. It plugs into any wall socket and costs pennies to charge—a full charge takes about six hours—and can go 12.5 miles (20 kilometres) per hour. Average cost on eBay: $5,000.
What makes it cool: The Segway has been called a high-tech lawn-mower and was played for laughs on the sitcom Arrested Development. But for those who can’t or just don’t want to bike to work and don’t relish a crammed public transit ride, the Segway is definitely one alternative. And with gas prices rising, it may save you money.
Though not used much as a commuter vehicle, some companies in large cities offer Segway tours. And increasingly they’re being seen at airports and on boardwalks for security personnel.
If you do want to try one for your commute, just be sure you get permission from the boss to plug it in for a charge—lest you get fired like this guy. And check local bylaws to ensure Segways are legal on sidewalks. Also, don't fall off...
Former U.S. Prez George W. Bush "exits" his chariot
(Image: Fox via autoclerks.com)
Cool commute #6: Funicular – Hong Kong, China
Besides being one of the best words in the English language, a funicular is also a rather cool way of getting up and down hills. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)
A funicular is (usually) a two-car, electric-powered tram carrying people up and down mountains and hills. The Peak Tramway funicular carries a daily average of 11,000 tourists and commuters less than a mile (1.4 kilometres) from Central District to The Peak, a shopping and leisure complex on top of Victoria Peak mountain.
What makes it cool: Besides being a functional, electric and painless way to get up and down a 1,811 ft (552 metre) mountain, the Peak funicular, which dates back to 1888, offers views of the harbour and Hong Kong skyscrapers. And who doesn’t like the word “funicular”?
Cool commute #7: Train – Ossining > New York, New York
Don Draper of AMC's Mad Men commutes from Ossining to New York via the Hudson Line commuter train. (Image: AMC via idesignyoureyes.com)
Connecting the village of Ossining in Westchester County, New York, a commuter train transports people to and from Grand Central Station in New York City. It’s a 48-minute ride—just long enough to remove your fedora and think about that first scotch of the day while pretending to read the paper.
What makes it cool: Granted, things have changed since Don Draper’s day, but part of the thrill of the hit AMC show Mad Men is its glamorous depiction of a bygone New York City lifestyle—which includes (in the first season, at any rate) protagonist Draper’s daily commute between Ossining and Grand Central Station.
Meanwhile, just south of Ossining Station is a section of track leading to a decidedly unglamorous destination: it runs through the middle of Sing Sing Correctional Facility.
Sing Sing is one of the most notorious maximum security prisons
in the world. (Image: Ossining Historical Society Museum)
And that's a commute you don't want to make...