A few weeks ago I went to a StreetTalk hosted by the local non-profit Livable Streets. LivableStreets, based out of Cambridge, advocates for safe and affordable transportation and a system that balances biking, walking, public transit, and cars throughout the Boston area. They host regular StreetTalks at their office on Pacific Street near MIT, and I highly recommend attending next month’s 10-in-1 event (10 talks by planners, students, consultants, and engineers in 90 minutes).
In October, the talk was given by Martine Powers, transportation writer for the Globe, and college friend of my roommate. She talked about not being a Boston native and learning about the Big Dig, her distinction between “bike rider” and “cyclist” (most of the people she writes about are bike riders, not cyclists, but when word count matters, cyclist it is), and industry terms she’s become accustomed to that she tries to avoid in articles to make sure she stays accessible to the public (infrastructure, funding, livable streets, etc.).
The event led to many reflections on what it means to live in a city and to really be part of a place. I commuted from Somerville to Downtown Crossing for work for two years, and now I commute from Somerville to MIT. My commute downtown crossed the Longfellow bridge and I earnestly looked forward every day to the views across the Charles. I now have a more complex relationship with my commute, one that involves close to an hour and a half each day riding buses, trains, and/or walking, with no glimpses of the river.
There are things that are terrible about it: travel cutting into valuable sleep time, the closing of the MBTA at 1am (frequently before I’m done with work for the night), transit delays, and not being able to quickly run home for dinner and then come back to school (resulting in a lot of desk-dinners). But there are times when I am able to value that time: getting readings done for my theory class, decompressing with podcasts or music, and eavesdropping on out-of-context conversations. Ultimately, there’s something invigorating about feeling like a part of the urban network of this city, and I love the communal experience of public transportation. The energy around the topic of transit at October’s StreetTalk was contagious, and it served as a helpful reminder to appreciate my daily travel time.