Wow, so I suppose I can be dense at times. Yesterday I was mentioning walking with your fingers and I didn’t even realize that, in a way, that’s what Jake and I have done a couple of times this week. You see, he lives up on the Westside and I live in the eastern side of Downtown, about an hour’s walk apart. So instead of him coming down here, me going up there, or trying to meet somewhere in the middle, we met online. We were tele-commuting! I have certainly used this technology for pleasure, but I think this may have been the first time I used it for work. Specifically we were using the messenger service in gmail. 

It worked pretty well aside from a misunderstanding we had over the definition of public transit. I was operating under the belief that public transit was only transportation that was operated by a professional driver but that the public was free to use within a service area, and was probably run by a government agency i.e. a bus, train, trolley, ferry, etc. Jake’s definition included sidewalks, trails, and bike paths, which I view as being essential to a public transportation system, but they are not public transit. They are infrastructure. Once we were able to get over that hump, our discussion made much more sense. One of Jake’s points was that he would want to design a system for the person least likely to use the system. I don’t know if this is implied, or a given, but I would add that you also need to make sure that the system serves those who need it the most, those who have no hope of getting around by private conveyance. In other words, the goal must be to appeal to both, the people most likely to use the system (because they don’t have any other choice), and also the people least likely to use the system (because they have every other choice). 

I don’t think I really like telecommuting now that I have inadvertently tried it a couple of times. I think there is so much to be gained by being in the presence of other people. We are here to help and provide support for one another. It would be a nightmare for me to not leave my property and commute with the outside world through the internet. I remember learning when I was a lot younger about kids at remote sheep stations in Australia attending school from home through radio broadcasts. I would assume that has been replaced by online distance education courses. When I was at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon earlier this decade there were distance ed classes being offered but I cringed at the idea. Posting to message boards instead of class discussions? I can see some attraction in the freedom of the anonymity, but I think this is a tendency I would like to fight rather than encourage. I would like to not feel strongest when I’m hiding behind a screen but when I’m working with other people as a team. Is that idealistic? old fashioned? common sense? Now I suppose I should point out the irony that the bulk of the work for this program is appearing online for world-wide consumption. I guess this is where I somewhat reluctantly admit that the internet is a useful tool (for reaching students in remote outer suburbs and edgecities) in addition to being a highly addictive medium. 

I was thinking today about what my commute used to look like in high school. When I walked to school in Berkeley, I could probably get down the hill in a mad dash that would take twenty-five or thirty minutes and which undoubtedly took years off my knees. Getting back up the hill would probably take about forty-five minutes. It was a nice walk taking me through the Olmsted designed UC Berkeley campus. But forty five minutes didn’t seem bad. Besides, had no interest in driving a car in the Bay Area, the bus system in the hills is weak, and they are way too steep for me to want to bike up them. Walking was just the best way to get around. 

In Anacortes my walk to school was about thirty minutes. I remember I never had a discman or walkman so I had time to think as I walked home. I don’t remember what I thought about, but I remember the walk being mostly pleasant. I also walked to work when I came back to Anacortes after high school before I bought my long board or my road bike. The walk from home to work was about forty-five minutes. The bus system in Anacortes is also pretty weak, and didn’t go where I needed to go. I didn’t have a car, nor did I need one. 

So having looked back at what was normal way back then, have things changed for me much? Just a little bit. As I have said before, most of my needs can be met within a thirty minute walk with the exception of education. Nowadays that is way out of my league. However, both public transit and private car are more available to me now than they were when I was in high school. The car gets used more than the buses, but the buses get used, too. I am convinced that at this time, the best way to get around downtown is either by foot or bicycle, and the best way to get to campus is by bus. If I’m not in a hurry, I think I prefer walking downtown to bicycling because on foot I feel more like a part of downtown than on bicycle. I think downtown is small enough that when you’re in the saddle you’re likely to be passing through it, than being part of it. I’m really curious to know if other people share this sensation.