My Rural Life Without A Car: Shannon’s Alternative Commute Challenge


“My Rural Life Without A Car” is a five part blog series originally published on TMACC’s ChesCoCommuter blog. The series is about TMACC’s Manager of Member Services, Shannon Maria Jones, navigating 4 weeks car-free through and around Chester County. Shannon’s saga is republished on VISTA Today with TMACC’s generous permission.

By Shannon Maria Jones

Shannon Jones
Shannon Maria Jones also reviews Chester County’s craft brewery scene for VISTA Today.

No one likes a hypocrite, and yet I’m here to tell you that I am one.  I realize that this could apply to many things, but what I mean specifically (this is a TMACC Blog after all) is that I drive my single-occupancy vehicle every day.

For the past 14 months, I’ve used every opportunity I could to tell people that alternative transportation is easy to navigate. Not just for “everyone else.” But it WAS for everyone else for me.

Until now.

The Challenge:
For the next 30 days, I’m going to practice what I preach.  I’m going to live my life without my car.  Work, errands, doctor visits, meeting friends. Anything I need to do I will do using public transit or getting a ride with someone.

Why Now?
Truly, part of it is because I need to do it before I lose my nerve.  But I also know me… I don’t like the cold. I prefer when the mornings have light.  The summer is the right time for me to be navigating this. in case I’m waiting at bus stops forever or when I ride my bike in the rain to the train station.  I also know that commuter rates are lower during summer months, so I’m hoping more seats are available on trains and buses.

My pedal-assisted bicycle that I’ll be using to get to and from the train station.
My pedal-assisted bicycle that I’ll be using to get to and from the train station.

Acceptable Modes:
Bus, train, bicycle, walking, carpooling, share-a-ride, gondola, trolley, subway. ANYTHING that isn’t me sitting in my car getting frustrated by traffic and killing the planet with my emissions.

Also worth noting, TMACC advocates strongly for flexible work environments- allow your employees to commute at off-peak hours to avoid idling. Encourage them to work remotely.  As part of this, I will be implementing one work from home day per week.

I live in West Sadsbury 1 ½ miles from the Amtrak station and ~ ½ mile from the nearest bus stop- CHESCOBUS’s Coatesville LINK route.

Unfortunately, due to recent funding cuts, the LINK only runs Monday to Friday now, so this will require me to get creative with errands and weekend plans.

I’m also not in great shape and have bad knees- so though I feel that biking is a viable option for my day-to-day, I’m concerned that my body might not support that goal.

1. Reduce stress by not sitting in traffic.  My commute is approximately 26 miles one way and takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on traffic conditions.

2. Reduce emissions. I drive a LOT for work and pleasure. In 2011, the average car in the US was driven 11,300 miles. I average 30,000 miles per year. If there’s someone that should find ways to cut back- it’s me. Since 17.68 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gasoline is released into the ozone that means I have the ability to save over 1200 pounds of carbon dioxide if I skip just six tanks of gas in 30 days.

3. Understand public transit in Chester County and hopefully inspire other people to use it not because they have to, but because they WANT to!

I’m starting Wednesday, July 15.  Right now to prepare I bought a 10 trip ticket for the Amtrak Train from Parkesburg to Paoli.  Once in Paoli I’ll board the SEPTA 206 bus to get to my office so

I’ve also bought tokens.  I’m prepared with a 10-trip ticket on the LINK as well, and I’ve stocked up on the most current copies of schedules.

I’ve also started to plan my work meetings at times of day that work with the transit schedule (the 206 bus only operates during peak commute times) or scheduling meetings with a friend who can drive.

I’ve also downloaded the SEPTA and AMTRAK apps so I can check service delays and times.

What You Can Do:
Follow me here on ChesCoCommuter, on Twitter @ChesCoCommuter and on Facebook (ChesCoTMA) to hear my story.  I’ll blog once a week, but the social media updates can come at all times.  And of course… consider trying it yourself!

Shannon Maria Jones riding her more traditionally powered lawn tractor.

Shannon Maria Jones is TMACC’s Manager of Member Services. She’s a resident of West Sadsbury Township, Chester County where she lives with her husband Jasen and their rescued dog, Sadie. An avid traveler, Shannon navigates public transit when overseas or in urban areas, but has rarely used public transportation as part of her daily commute. Slightly obsessed with “Super Size Me” and Morgan Spurlock’s series “30 Days” she is perhaps too excited about what this challenge will bring in terms of personal growth.

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