Active Commuting Adventures

Since my recent relocation to Portland, my commute has changed. A lot. Instead of a mile to campus for teaching, or driving to different neighborhoods in Tucson for the mobile clinic, now I’m heading from NE Portland to Marquam hill most days. It’s no fun to drive, and parking is a non-starter. And I hate spending a lot of time driving in the city anyway. The trip takes a while, either way, so I have to make my commuting time count for more than just transportation. Those two-ish hours every day count against the 24 I’m allotted, no matter how you slice it. Is it coming out of my exercise time? My professional reading time? My sleep?!? So I’ve been testing out my commute options! So far, I’ve been. . .

  • Taking the bus. This is definitely the easiest— I can take a single bus from a few blocks from home to the door of my building. Works no matter what the weather is or my energy level is. I like the bus– it’s nice to travel through the city, and I enjoy being around people without necessarily talking to them (maybe that’s an introvert thing?) Downside, of course, is sitting on my butt for close to an hour. I can definitely catch up on professional twitter, as well as listen to podcasts (I like the Daily, recently, as well as old standbys like Rich Roll, and the always-informative Curbsiders. But I could always use a new one, if you have a rec!).


  • Hybrid bus/hiking. This is good for a day the weather’s OK but I’m too wimpy to bike in the cold/rain, or I’m not super high-energy. I can take the bus most of the way and then wind my way on foot up the paths of the campus to high on the hill, where my office is. Then I can take the stairs to the 5th floor. This 10 or 15 minute climb feels great and I invariably have more energy when I arrive. On the flip side, I can walk down the hill, and the Duniway track is right there if I want to put in a little workout before I hop on the bus back home.


  • Biking/Tram. This is kind of amazing. Getting there on my own power is definitely the best solution when I can do it! I can ride about six miles to the lower tram station and then take the aerial tram up the hill to campus. It’s gorgeous. And the bike route is really well marked and protected. And there’s a secure bike valet at the tram stop. It’s very well set up to make commuting work. I’m not enough of a badass (yet?) to tackle this when it’s truly cold or seriously raining, which is often in Portland in winter. I am still feeling out the best gear for this, too. Do you have suggestions for a killer commuter bike suited for wet weather? What about a bag, jacket, gloves, or other waterproof item that would make me happy and keep me warm and dry?
don’t scratch it, buddy

Options I have yet to test out, but am intruiged by, are:

  • Running to work. Also a possibility, maybe, for getting there under my own power. This is about 10k. The bike route would work for running, too— or I could run all the way to the top (who doesn’t love a good hill at the end of a run?). There are showers in the building and I have a private office where I can keep gear, clothes, etc. So this isn’t impossible! But it will be more appealing when it’s light earlier in the morning.  Do you run to work? How do you make it work?


  • Taking the MAX (light rail). The station isn’t as close to my house as the bus stop (about a mile), and it would get me as far as the tram, not all the way to the door. If the weather’s good, I might walk the mile to the station and do it, but overall this probably doesn’t save me any time over the bus— it’s just different. 


  • Am I missing something?

So there it is. My first month of commutes, and related commuting ideas. I’d love to hear what other folks do, so LMK!

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