Monday, September 29, 2008

It Isn't Easy Being Green

I'm lucky. I live right near a T station in the Boston area, and a good bus route, so I can pick using car or mass transit any day of the week ... BUT ... and here's the problem. Just like Ryan Chin from MIT explained last week at the EmTech Conference, it's all about the LAST MILE.

They use the "last mile" concept in telecom more often than in transportation to describe getting the connectivity to each consumer or end-point on the network, but he meant the often ignored fact that even with the best mass transit, the distance between your house and your destination can be very close to the T stops (or bus stops) or not very close at all. Today I actually have a workable "last mile" between home and my first meeting, call it "meeting1" One is in Newton Highlands (good T), one is in Arlington (good frequent bus near T), but then when I add in a third meeting in Lexington, which isn't on the T, but in the suburbs with very limited, infrequent bus routes, and most locations far from the bus stops, it all falls apart.

Then figure in the TIME and WEATHER. So I have the time to walk from my place to the T (about 12 minutes) and then take the T to my 10:00 meeting (about 35 - 55 minutes depending on many things like crowds, or slowdowns, or breakdowns) and I have the 10 minutes to walk from the endpoint T to my meeting. All good. Except I might get drenched and arrive at the meeting looking like a drowned rat ... and for all you Green-living warm climate people in CA, believe me the weather in Boston is daunting. Even in late September, it could be a 70-degree sunny day here in the morning that turns into a 45 degree rainy day here in the afternoon. And don't ask me about some winter days, which start reasonable and you have a teeth-chattering blizzard to deal with by tea time and pneumonia by dinner, if you're a green fan.

And there is a female angle to transportation Ryan Chin and his MIT team better be studying, like my hair gets totally wrecked, as do my shoes, and forget wearing pretty girlish clothes that don't withstand weather and don't even get started on the subject of stockings and high heels ... yeah, right, sure, try those in the T and walking the last mile or two. You practically have to dress like a Boy Scout to handle the unexpected mass transit challenges in this town. I can't remember how the hell I managed in NYC with the subway. And add the special green benefits for women in the T or subway -- potential fondlers, creeps that feel it's their duty to oogle you if you're dressed in any thing better than a burlap sack, maniacs who might want to kill you, all on your way to work where you do need to look good.

So, unfortunately, despite trying hard to be as green as humanly possible, some days I just give up trying to figure out the logistics and TAKE THE CAR. I don't want to take the car for the day, but if I want to get to from one meeting in a T accessible spot to an ungreen meeting, I'm stuck using the car all day. Of course, we are going to have to bite the bullet and make the transition from bad urban planning (around autos) to GREEN urban planning. It's not only transportation, but the way cities are planned that must change.

Enough of this, gotta get outta here or I'll be late no matter how I get there.