Northern Michigan Winter, Transit and a Professional Mom

My eyes were opened to a new way of living last year during my first trip to Europe when our family stayed with friends, a busy family of 6 in Munich, Germany for two weeks. What I saw there inspired me. So, last month I set out to see what it would be like to use public transportation and my walking boots to get to work. I live just south of Suttons Bay and work on 8th Street. I committed to doing this for the three days per week that I work in Traverse City for one month. I purchased a 31-day BATA pass for $35 allowing me to ride any village or city loop routes and off I went!

I expected to feel a loss of freedom; but it was quite the contrary. All of the days I rode the bus in December, the roads were snowy or icy making it a luxury to step on a warm bus and settle in with headphones to enjoy a podcast, read the news, or simply relax with my own thoughts far away from the stress of driving on icy roads. When I stepped off the bus at Hall street, I loved stopping to grab a cup of coffee across the street and set out on my walk through downtown Traverse City. Although it was cold and snowy, I was dressed for the weather and comfortable. It is amazing how different the city looks and feels outside of a car. I noticed places that I had never realized were there. I enjoyed saying good morning to the occasional fellow walker or “sidewalk shoveler”. Most of all, I appreciated getting 40 minutes of exercise in a purposeful manner (note: if needed I could choose city loop route 2 to deliver me closer). I admit to feeling a bit smug when I walked past people struggling to scrape ice off of their windshields at the end of the day.

There were also challenges. Planning ahead to arrange for rides to and from the bus stop and figuring out how to run errands without the carrying capacity of a car required forethought. Another challenge turned benefit was the extra space that graced my days. Depending on my schedule, there were times I had 30-45 minutes to kill before my bus departed. What I thought would be an inconvenience turned out to be a great way to combat the busyness that can become overwhelming. My pace slowed down, yet my productivity and creativity were enhanced simply by having the structure of a bus schedule to follow.

After this 30-day trial, I have decided to continue, and extend a warm invitation for other professionals to join me. This is where true change happens; when everyday people step outside of their own comfort zone to try something new. Let’s start changing our culture of convenient parking and automobile centric thinking that has been a factor leading to sedentary yet too busy lives and overcrowded streets. Become a part of developing a vibrant and bustling public transportation system in the Grand Traverse area by using it. Then, let’s watch as this one effort creates a domino effect that transforms the lives of people on both a personal and collective scale.

Christa Kiessel is a nurse practitioner, co-founder of Table. Live Better., and organizer of TC Health, a meet-up with the purpose of igniting grass-root efforts that improve the health of people, communities and the environment in and around Traverse City.

Because a walkable town is a bikeable town is a transit town. Passionate about a more liveable Grand Traverse region? Get involved with our grassroots advocacy initiative.

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