One of the things I like about the warmer weather that’s coming to the northeast is the opportunity to walk more. It’s a good non-impact exercise, and it can be purposeful, getting one to where one needs to go, so it serves the great god of the twenty-first century – productivity – and its acolyte – multitasking.
But how practical is walking? It depends. If you want to walk to Target or Wal-Mart in East Greenbush, lots of luck. Not only does Third Avenue extension lack sidewalks, for large parts there is no shoulder to the right of the fog line – the driving lane is all there is to the road. If you want to walk around Rensselaer, wait until all the snow has melted. The city sees no need to clear the sidewalks of its two bridges that span the railroad tracks (in dramatic contrast, the State does a great job on the pedestrian walkway of the Dunn Memorial Bridge between Rensselaer and Albany).
Leaving aside bad weather and impassible routes, I have found that, for trips of as much as two miles, a walk can compare very favorably with CDTA in terms of actual time spent getting from point A to point B. The infrequency of CDTA service often leads to long waits for the bus, which may be compounded if the bus is running late. Frequent stops and circuitous routes lengthen the journey once travel has begun. When you walk – in addition to saving $1.50 each way and feeling good about the health benefits you are providing yourself – you leave precisely when you are ready, and you usually can take the most direct route. If you’re going shopping, walk one way and take the bus home with your packages. Give it a try – you’ll feel better and save money.
Driving, alas, is another story. Most of our suburban environment is inhospitable to walking and transit, and the distances between homes, workplaces and shops can be too great to allow walking by even those whose tolerance for delay and danger is greater than average. Shame on the developers who built our sprawling environment, and shame on the government zoning and planning officials who let them. I remember when, I few years ago, my employer temporarily relocated from downtown Albany to a suburban office park while our building was being renovated. Getting in my car to run to the bank or post office at lunch time – and often getting stuck in traffic while trying to do so – got me so angry, not just at the waste of my time, but at the collective waste of untold hours of human productivity and gallons of precious, expensive gasoline.
Our land use situation is toothpaste that will be very difficult to put back in the tube, and most people seem to tolerate if not prefer the suburban, auto-dependent life.