Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking forward

I intend to do a separate post that reflects on the past year, but who knows if I'll get around to it. At any rate, I've been thinking about any sort of resolutions/hopes I have for the coming year. I have a few!

Fitness: My city does a series of 5ks that cost $5 each that runs from May to October, and if they’re not an insane mass of people, I’d like to do those this year. I also want to find a 10k to run in the fall (or sooner, if things are going well – we’ll see).

Weight: I'm going to keep eating healthily and will keep tracking what I eat. That, coupled with running, should do good things.

Mindfulness: I received a 5-year journal for Christmas – each page is for a day of the year, and there are 5 writing areas of about 4 lines each. I want to just take little notes about good things that happen on most days, so I can look back and see what was going on each day without having to dig through lots of boring navel-gazing (as in my previous journals that I got sick of writing!).

Money: Keep up the good work, mostly. I'm saving 16% of my salary toward retirement, returns have been good, and I feel like my savings in that area is adequate. This year I started saving the equivalent of four mortgage payments per year (mortgage only, not interest/taxes/insurance) in an investment account to use toward paying off my house in another 16 years or so (barring any emergency use of those funds!). I'm going to have to replace my car eventually, but I'm holding off as long as I can, as I want neither a car payment nor to pillage my savings. There's definitely room for improvement in my various spending categories, so we'll see how I do. I haven't reviewed my spending, but I already know that my travel was off the charts, even though I only paid for one plane ticket this year! I regret nothing, even though it WAS a bit too much by the end of the year!

Community: I could stand to give back by volunteering in a meaningful way this year. I'm mulling it over.

So those are my plans for the coming year. Not bad! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Adventures in transit

Modern apps make transit SO much easier than I remember it being back in the old days of paper schedules and memorized bus routes. 

It's amazing to me that I've ridden buses and trains in lots of cities in the US and Europe, but I've rarely ridden a bus in my home city since I got my first car in late 1997. When I lived in Boston, I was all transit all the time. In the Bay Area, I'd often ride BART and would occasionally ride a bus in San Francisco, since driving there is SO not fun, and parking is the worst! If I was staying in the East Bay I'd either drive, walk, or opt to stay home and avoid traffic completely. In Portland the city traffic is usually reasonable, and parking can always be found if you're patient, so my default (lazy) choice is to drive. Honestly, I remain proud of the fact that the city is driveable - but let's face it, using transit or biking is a big factor in keeping it liveable here!

Thanks to iPhone apps, I've started expanding my horizons beyond borrowing cars and using Car2Go. The most useful is PDX Bus:
As in any good mapping app, I can put in start and end places and times, and it'll tell me what my trip options are. It also checks on the status of the bus and updates the actual vs anticipated arrival time, AND will let me set an alert to make sure I get to the stop on time, or get off at the right place. Finally, it integrates with our transit agency's app, so I can buy tickets and store them there, then access them right from this planner. Genius!

Another terrific app is called RideScout. I tell it where I am and where I want to go, and it calculates how long it will take and what it will cost, depending on how I choose to get there.

So if I want to go from Point A to Point B, it will cost me $2.92 and 12 minutes in my own car, vs $7.61 and 13 minutes if I walk to and use the closest Car2Go, OR I can ride a bike and burn 144 calories in just under a half-hour. (The second Car2Go entry assumes I walk farther, so drive a shorter amount, making it a bit cheaper but requires a longer travel time.) The app also calculates bus routes and costs, and provides great directions for transfers. I can tell it not to include my own car in the calculations, but I think it's instructive to see what it would have cost to do a given route.

For example, looking at the above options, at first it seems like a no-brainer to just drive. BUT when you factor in that it's a round trip, so I'd  have to find and pay for parking, suddenly the car really costs more like 40-50 minutes and almost $6 in gas, and $2-3 in parking. The bus remains about an hour, 1:10, and $5. If it were lighter and warmer out, I would totally hop on my bike to burn some calories before (and after!) I hit happy hour.

I've been without a car for three months now, but I'm clearly still getting in the groove of using alternate transportation options. I'm really glad I didn't rush out and get a new-to-me vehicle, though I'm still certain that will come with the new year!