Hey guys!! Hope you are having a great week and getting ready for the holiday weekend. I am heading to Chicago tomorrow to visit my family. I haven’t been home since June 1 of last year, so I am looking forward to it, even if I have to share a bed with my sister (my parents sold mine and my dad moved into my room so I don’t really have a place to sleep or a room). Today I want to talk a bit about being a train commuter as the Amtrak train that derailed affected my commute in addition to thousands of other people’s travel plans and commuting.
I have been taking the train to work for 11 months now. Some days seeing the train pulling into the station still excites me, like that big engine in front. Trains are massive!! I probably sound like a complete weirdo now. Anyway, it’s a new adventure for me. My last job I used to drive about 20 miles to work on the highway. In the morning the commuting time was usually under a half hour. In the afternoon it varied from 30-60 minutes on an average day to as long as 3 hours it once took me to get home due to snow…
After moving last year, I was excited when I got a job opportunity that was in the city and I could walk to the train station. This meant I did not have to worry about driving or parking. I really had no excuse to not get to work unless the train wasn’t running. For example, winter snow storms. Philadelphia doesn’t get snow storms like Chicago. In fact people freak out (aka clear the entire Trader Joes store) when a storm is coming. With the train, I still made it to work on time even in the snow storms.
Most days, the train ride is smooth. I find on Mondays and Tuesdays the train is packed and I am usually standing, but that’s ok since I sit all day at work. My ride used to be a quick 15 minutes but after moving in April and taking a different train line, my train ride ranges from 18-30 min depending how fast the train goes. I always look out the window and notice the traffic on the highway and am thankful that I am traveling a lot faster than they are. Plus, since I am not driving, it gives me more time to read blogs, so I feel more productive during my commute. So whether the train takes 18 or 30 minutes, that is time I have to read, which I love!
Looking around on the train, you will see people with kindles, ipads, tablets and phones. Whether the people are reading, playing candy crush or mindlessly browsing Facebook, everyone is much less aware of their surroundings when they are looking down at their device. Sometimes when I am tired of staring at the screen (or my internet connection isn’t good), I take a moment to look around, look out the window for a bit, noticing something new I haven’t seen before. I also notice as we go over little bumps in the track or make a turn, you see everyone’s head bob the same way, bump to the right then to the left. The first time I noticed that, I laughed to myself. I don’t really know why. It was just so in sync and it reminds me that I need to take note of my surroundings more.
When commuting by train there are a few downsides, such as the one time I was on the train and suddenly service was suspended due to a tree being down on the tracks. Luckily we got permission to back up and get off at the station before mine and I was able to walk home from there (the stations were only a mile apart). Then there are the frustrating times when the trains are delayed. Sometimes with delays, there are so many people waiting at one station that squeeze into the train cars, that the train just skips the next stop. Talk about frustrating when you have been waiting 30 minutes and the first train just passes the station. Fortunately these occurrences don’t happen too often.
But let’s talk about this last week… The night of May 12th, an Amtrak train derailed on the track I ride every day to work. It is a sad story in the news right now. This is one of the rare times I keep up with the news (I know I should probably more often). I just couldn’t believe the train was going at over 100mph. There is still some investigation going on in why the train was going so fast.
Wednesday morning, I needed to come up with my plan B to get to work and I decided to drive. Well that was a slow 15 mile drive and I made it in exactly one hour to work and park. I was actually surprised how calm I was when driving. [Because of riding the train and walking a lot, I don’t drive often and the area I am in is still new to me so I don’t know the roads well and I get high anxiety when driving.] Must be my yoga training and meditation I have been trying to do daily is helping finally. I just tell myself over and over that this situation is out of my control and just breathe and go with the flow. I also had notified my boss that I could be late and it helps when you are not rushing, the goal is just to get there safely.
Thursday, I needed to find another way to get to work. If I kept driving, not only would I go crazy, but also broke paying $16 a day for parking plus the gas. So I drove about 7 miles (practically half way to the city) to the subway. I found the parking garage and my way to the train. The confusing part on the train was the fact that the train was announcing 2 stops behind. I had to keep glancing out the window to see which station we were at and looking at the map I had on my phone (seriously what did we do before cell phones with internet?!?). The subway took about 30 minutes, but the hard part for me is that I am more prone to feeling a bit motion sick on a subway as compared to the regional rail or an Amtrak. I think due to more frequent stops (literally there are 14 stops before mine) and also going underground so you can’t glance outside. I felt fine on the way home when we were mostly above ground, but below ground is hard I guess. I then have to walk a little farther to the office, but the walk isn’t bad since the weather has been nice.
On my way home Thursday, I found my way to the train fine and then got to the station where I parked my car. I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the parking garage and actually had to ask how to get there. Once I found the parking garage, I discovered I could only pay in cash because it is under $20. Luckily it is only $3.15 for the day, which is much better than $16. Once I got to my car after paying, I turned on my ipad GPS which then guided me to take I-95 home. Since I don’t know the roads and the GPS was already re-routing me because I took a wrong turn, I wasn’t sure how to get to the road I took to the train station in the morning, so again I was sitting in highway traffic for a couple miles before it opened up and made it home, quickly changing for the gym and heading out again. I realized in the morning that I should have brought my gym bag to head straight there but didn’t think of that in time.
On Friday evening going back to the train station, I actually took a cab since I went to the Phillies game. I made the cab driver drive around the whole station to get me closer to the parking garage stairs. Then I paid for my ticket, took my change and headed to my car. Once I got to my car I realized I forgot to take my ticket back out of the machine, so I ran down the steps and grabbed my ticket (luckily no one else took it, there weren’t many people around) and then ran back to my car and started my GPS. I tried to avoid I-95 and take the road I take in the morning which would have worked except I forgot that that road is currently closed at night for construction, so I was redirected to I-95 anyway…and there was still traffic at 11pm…but the important thing was I made it home and got ready for bed right away with my busy weekend.
Saturday I was at 30th Street station for the first time after the derailment and you still saw all the cancelled trains on the board.
Monday morning, service was resumed. I watched the news as the first Amtrak train to NYC since the derailment departed 30th street station around 6am and made the turn successfully, maybe going a bit slower than normal, but that was good. Even though my train was back up and running, I stuck to my plan B on the subway for the day since my train had 60-80 minute delays. At least this time I remembered my gym bag and headed straight to the gym after work.
By Tuesday trains seemed pretty normal, though my usual express train was cancelled but luckily I was watching the train viewer online and was able to run out of my apartment to catch the earlier train. I was just so happy to not have to drive to the other train station and only have my 50 min commute (including all my walking to the train and to the office, the train ride was only 20 minutes or so) and the train ride is much faster with only 1 stop in between my station and the city and no motion sickness feeling.
While it is scary to think about how I ride the train on that curve every day where the derailment occured. I am not too concerned about the SEPTA trains because they travel slower than Amtrak, but I do hope the repairs and the new system they are installing to communicate with the train if it is speeding keeps us train commuters safe.
I continue to think about the people that lost their lives and all the people in the hospital with injuries due to tumbling around, people falling on each other and luggage falling on them. Trains don’t have seat belts and I can’t even imagine how scared those people riding were when the cars were tumbling off the tracks. Praying for those families who lost a loved one and those in the hospital a good recovery.
I know that was a long post and thank you so much if you read until the end and thanks to Spoons for the link up. Hope everyone has a great weekend!!
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