Last weekend, I was scheduled to go to Alexandria, VA, to get the Sunday afternoon session of Camp Wellstone (Citizen Activist Track) that I had to leave too early for when I attended in North Carolina earlier this Spring. I thought, finally, with gas prices at $3.50 a gallon, it would probably be financially reasonable to take the train. But the cheapest round trip from Metropark was around $170. And even with expensive gas, even with wear and tear on the car, I don't see how it would cost me more than $100 to go on my own.As usual with my cross-posts, comments are encouraged there. BTW, I won't be automatically on the front page for another week or so, but this (not my best work, IMO) got front-paged as weekend reading. One I didn't cross-post here, but might be of interest to some, is Why Lautenberg (or Andrews) is probably safe in November, but Corzine isn't safe next year. That also got front-paged, which I didn't notice until right now.
In the end, because I was coming down with a cold and because even $100 on a teacher's salary is a lot for two hours of training, I stayed home. I don't know the economics of Amtrak. I don't know how much we subsidize road transportation in a million hidden ways and how much less we subsidize rail, but something seems wrong. If I had a car full of four people and it was cheaper to drive, I could understand it. But by myself, in my 24 mpg Elantra, I just don't get it.
Why public transit doesn't work for my commute, though, I do at least partly understand This would also cost more than driving, even with NJTP tools, which is still wrong. But time is the major factor, and it's hard for me to see how out internal-to-NJ transit system could be made much better in that regard for my purposes.
To do without the car altogether, I'd need to walk a mile to a bus (20 minutes), take the Coach USA bus 8 miles to New Brunswick (30 minutes), take the train to Newark, (35 minutes), and take a local NJ Transit bus to the corner of Newark (20 minutes). With transitions and waiting time, that's two hours. By car, it takes just under 1. Round trip, that's two hours a day that I have for other activities and two more I listen to NPR instead of four hours on a commute that has no part long or comfortable enough to get much done.
I could save some time by driving the first mile. (and parking for free. I could save some more time by driving to the Jersey Avenue train station (and paying a lot). None of which make it good enough to give up the other things I do with my time.
That feels like a personal failing on my part. But part of what lets me stay relatively sane while teaching in an insane environment is that I do have time for other activities. I guess in a green world, I shouldn't be living in Kendall Park (where I share the expenses on a house whose mortgage is paid off, so I cant afford to move on my current salary) and working in a remote corner of Newark.
All in all, none of this feels right. I've lived in New York a few times in my life, including once from 1997-2001. I didn't like how every square foot of elbow room costs per month what it would take to feed a family of four for a decade, or something. But I did like that getting from one place to another was much less of an issue.
(BTW, I don't know if I got as much out of Camp Wellstone as Tom Wyka did—read his interview below—but I concur it's a good program and if you get a chance, you should attend.)
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