Registration is now open for the 2012 Good To Go Commuter Challenge, May 12-18. The Challenge is a friendly competition between individuals, teams and workplaces. During the week-long challenge, participants track and report their sustainable commutes online; anything counts except driving alone. Learn more about the Challenge. Thanks to Danny Hajek and photographer Karen Hanrahan for making this series of interviews with sustainable commuters possible.
Prior to the Commuter Challenge in May, GLT is bringing you a series of interviews with commuters who choose to get around sustainably all year long. With rising gas prices, we hope you’ll join them for at least the week of the challenge, May 12-18, to save some money on gas. And we think you’ll enjoy the ride, whether carpooling, out on the bike or on the bus. GLT’s Danny Hajek recently spoke with Isaac Gaff, the Director of Worship Arts at Calvary United Methodist Church in Normal. He takes the bus almost every day to get to work.
Isaac Gaff: I’ve been commuting on the bus now for probably about six or eight months.
Danny Hajek: And have you developed a passion over these past months for sustainable transportation?
IG: I have. I used to work in Lincoln, Illinois so I drove for 30 miles and now I work in town so I get the opportunity to use public transportation and bike. It’s a great experience for me. It’s new so I really love it. The bus goes right by my house, drops me off pretty close to the church, so it’s a pretty convenient form of transportation for me anyway.
DH: I’m sure it’s nice to finally leave the car at home after having to drive 30-miles one way to work every day. What do you enjoy doing on the bus that you can’t do while driving alone?
IG: I really like to read while I’m on the bus. Sometimes I just like sitting and conversing with some of the people that are on there or just sitting and listening and not driving. You know, the town moves at a speed that’s a little bit different when you’re riding on a bus so you notice things that you really don’t notice while you’re driving. Just kind of makes you thankful for the good community that we live in.
DH: You mention that you like conversing with other riders. So have you met a lot of people during your commutes?
IG: Yeah, there’s all kinds of people that ride the bus and one of the most startling things that I found when I began riding the bus was that people talk to each other and people are actually more friendly than they are even in parking lots or grocery stores or things like that. It’s similar to if you’re walking along the trail, people just seem to be a little bit more friendly on the trail as you pass them. It’s the same thing on the bus. People say goodbye when they leave, they greet each other when they come on, there really is a sense of hospitality that is certainly present there.
DH: So you’re a B-NPTS customer, you’re an avid bike rider…this seems like a great way for you to get out in the community.
IG: Yeah, we live in a culture that promotes cocooning and promotes getting away and doing your own thing, getting inside of your own bubble whenever you can and one of the great things that I love about riding the bus is that for at least 15 minutes a day, there and back, it puts me in a situation that I couldn’t construct myself. There’s no way that I would be able to get the people that ride with me together and so it’s something that I can’t create, but it’s something that I do get to experience. And it makes me feel like I’m a part of this community in a way that I couldn’t manufacture.
DH: As someone who is fairly new to commuting sustainably, what is your best piece of advice to get others on the bus or riding their bike?
IG: You just have to try it. There are a lot of things that you just have to get over. It really is an adventure sometimes, especially those first few weeks. You know, you’re not familiar with the rhythms and the practices of commuter kinds of transportation, to pick up on that, it does take a few weeks, and that’s okay. For the most part, people are very friendly, they’re very willing to help you out. The bus drivers on B-NPTS are incredibly helpful in getting you from Place A to Place B. The people that ride public transportation, I think they really do see themselves as a community of folks who are trying to do something really good, both for our environment but also for the community of Bloomington-Normal and so, if you go in with that kind of mindset, to even do it every once in awhile, I think you’ll find that it’s a really inviting place and you’re doing some good stuff while you’re doing that. You just have to try it.
Isaac Gaff is the Director of Worship Arts at Calvary United Methodist Church in Normal. Join him on the bus, on the Constitution Trail or choose the sustainable commute that works best for you and participate in the 2012 Good To Go Commuter Challenge, May 12-18. Everyone who logs at least one sustainable commute during the challenge is eligible for a drawing for a $200 Visa gift card. Learn more and register for the challenge today.
The Good To Go Blog is administered by Mike McCurdy, WGLT Program Director and co-coordinator of the sustainable transportation project Good To Go. The Commuter Challenge is May 12-18. Danny Hajek and photographer Karen Hanrahan helped make this series of sustainable commuter interviews possible. Hear an audio version and see a schedule of upcoming interviews at the WGLT website.