Texans drive. We love our cars and the open road. Given the choice, a Texan will most likely opt to take their own mode of transportation rather than rely on public transport. This holds true in little towns where traffic jams are caused by a herd of passing cows who stubbornly stay on the highway, and for huge, sprawling cities like Houston and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex (where I live) where traffic jams occur multiple times a day.
Bigger cities have public transportation: busses, trains and trams, but most people still drive.
Evidently, I’m an exception to this rule.
My company moved locations and I moved to a new home this spring. Prior to January, my commute was 7 minutes, 15 if the city decided to make one (or more) of the stop lights on my route blink red. But now having moved to a small suburb outside of Dallas, and having to travel even further into the city center, my commute is now 45 minutes … on a good day, and if I leave early enough. It has taken me more than an hour to get home during a particularly gnarly traffic day.
One of the things that excited me most about both moves was that both my new office location and my new home were in close proximity to DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) rail stations. One is right out side my office door, and the other is just an 8 minute drive from my house – with only two stop lights.
I was pumped to get my annual DART pass and use the train. Having printed out and laminated my own Blue Rail schedule card, I know that taking the DART doesn’t save me that much time compared to driving. But it does mean that A) I can use time on the train to read and relax, B) my life is in considerably less danger as it’s only in the conductor’s hands instead of being in the hands of all the crazy Dallas drivers (of which, of course, I must include myself) and C) I learn valuable lessons about train commenting that I can pass along to my readers.
Tips for successful DART commuting:
- Bring headphones. Even if you don’t listen to anything, you can put your headphones in/over your ears and chatty commuters will be less likely to pester you because it will look like you can’t hear them. And as lots of fellow commuters have yet to figure out that mobile devises that make noise are for personal use, you can use your own headphones to block out their noise. I also recommend getting a White Noise app for your phone to take that noise cancelation one step further.
- Use the handicap train car. The handicap train car has a lot more space and it will have chairs that face both directions. I hate the feeling of moving backwards, so I prefer to find a seat that face the direction the train is headed.
- Don’t sit next to an middle-age or older man. #flatulence Without fail, every time I have sat next to an older gentleman on the train, as nice as he might be, there is always a discernible stench of fart. And it’s not the funny fartattack situation, it’s the silent-but-deadly variety that pushes every ounce of your ingrained civility out the window to the point where you want to scream “SERIOUSLY?” and “WHAT DID YOU EAT?!” at a total stranger. Just avoid them.
- Wear sunglasses. The DART is actually pretty well shaded and the sun isn’t too intense, but if you wear sunnies – particularly large sunglasses, it hides your eyes when you have to give side eye. Here are the frequent occasions you’ll want to give side eye on the DART.
- Dude putting his feet up on the seat in front of him. (Someone might want to sit there and no one wants the residue of your feet on their butt.)
- Lady holding a very loud phone call next to you. (Even adults need to be told to use their “inside voice.”)
- Youth listening to a song or a video on their phone with out the use of headphones. (Not everyone want to listen to Kanye.)
- Couple making out in the last row of seats. (YES, we can see you!!)
- Dude leaning on the pole instead of holding on to it, making it so that no one else can hold on to it.
- Lady in the front row slouching and extending her legs into the standing-room-only section tripping you every time the train jolts.The list goes on. Seriously, wear sunglasses.
- Consolidate your belongings. I’ve seen people, typically women, carrying 4 or 5 bags of stuff. Gym bag, brief case, handbag, lunch pail, and a shopping bag of some sort. You don’t want this to be you:
Well, who wouldn’t want to be Blair Waldorf for a day, but you get what I mean. I’ve managed to consolidate my belongings into two bags at most: a large-ish handbag and a lunch bag. That way, I take up as little room as possible. Good rule of thumb – if it won’t fit on your lap or at your feet, don’t take it. I’m event thinking of getting a backpack. A tad “Granola Spice,” I know, but useful.
- Bring outerwear. You never know if it will be too chilly on the train or if someone spills something on one of the cushions. Outerwear can protect you from goosebumps and stains – just make sure your outerwear is machine washable.
- Time your walk. There’s a fair amount of walking involved with DART commuting – and some stairs too. Time how long it will take to get from your typical spot in the park-n-ride lot to the train car. Time how long it will take to get from the rail up the stairs to the ground-level station and into the office door. Consider that timing in your calculations in getting from point to point. Also remember to adjust those times depending on your footwear that day. Longer heels often means shorter strides.
Though the above might seem like I’m whining about the train commute, that’s not what I intend. It’s a great way to get around and it’s just like everything else, you have to learn the ropes. And since I’ve learned some of them for you, perhaps you can enjoy it like I do.