How your mode of travel affects your experience


I recently attended Dan Savage’s Valentine’s Day live event. I’ve actually spent the past three V-Days with Dan, but this is the first year he came to my town instead of me going to his.

Same time next year, Dan?
Same time next year, Dan?

The event was in a brand new event space called Revolution Hall, a converted auditorium in a historic high school in the inner Eastside.

(Please let me pause for a moment to kvel over how my adopted city took a gorgeous 100-year old disused building and repurposed it beautifully, as opposed to razing it and putting up a strip mall, as what is likely in most of our fair land.)

Revolution Hall was a bit of a walk away from my place, and even though it was a chilly night, I decided to walk it.

Mode choice

When I walk out of my door, I am in the happy place of being able to have a choice of transportation modes. I can:

  • Walk: While a drag for long distances, if the weather isn’t too terrible I can usually use this mode for distances up to about 2 miles.
  • Bike: Requires a bit more setup (and possibly clothes to change into), but this is often an option for distances for 5-10 miles (again, if the weather isn’t too terrible).
  • Transit: Distance on this one varies according to the convenience of where I need to go, but this is my go-to for heading downtown, as who wants to drive downtown?
  • Drive: Miscellaneous catch-all option. Best for long distances, and during really terrible weather.

So I spent a leisurely time wandering the gridded streets of SE Portland. When I arrived, I walked right up to the door, met my friends, and went in. Easy. The whole thing took 45 minutes.

On the way home from the show, I retraced my steps. It was much colder (Northwest nights are always chilly, even in summer) but still the walk was pleasant.

Two different experiences

To be honest, it’s not much of a story, and I didn’t think about it much.

Until, the following day, I got into a random chance conversation about the show at the coffeeshop from where I usually write. I mentioned how much I loved the venue and how good a job they had done on it. My interlocutor disagreed. “I didn’t like the venue at all.” Why? I couldn’t imagine. Bad sightlines from the balcony perhaps?

The parking was terrible. The signage was bad, and by the time I finally got where I needed to go I was <frustrated noise>.

Now this is just two people’s experiences put next to each other for comparison. But it’s interesting nonetheless. Clearly, the mode we used to get to the venue affected our experience. In her case, her experience parking at the venue colored her experience at the venue itself!

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Now, granted, in this country, most of the time the situation is reversed. As I often travel to non-people friendly places without renting a car (ahem), I am often fuming mad or morbidly depressed by the time I’ve walked just to get some dinner. Whereas the people driving got there without any bother or concern.

But if there is any lesson to be learned, it’s that you must pick the best mode for the destination. A small venue in a crowded area may not be the best place to drive to, if you have an option.

Oh, and the other lesson: live where you have mode options. Being totally car-dependent (or foot-dependent even) to get around is a handicap to your life, and you will be more stressed and less happy because of it.

And yes, there are places where you have options. Don’t underestimate how important placemaking is.

But enough about me: Do you have mode options where you live? How do you decide?

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