A Tale of Two Transit Walks

headshot for katy lang program director active transportation arlington va
Katy Lang Tweet Us @walkarlington@walkarlington August 9, 2018

Katy Lang is the Program Director for Active Transportation. She started living car-free in Arlington in 2010 and is passionate about finding great running routes and safety for people walking and biking.

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Walking to transit has many physical, mental, and environmental benefits. And the amount of time spent walking matters more than you probably think!

For years, I lived in the North Highlands neighborhood of Arlington, about a twelve minute walk from the Court House Metro Station. I know the precise time, twelve minutes, because I walked every day to and from the Metro, which I took to work. And some days, I walked the route multiple times.

I had catching the Metro down to a science. Rain or shine, I walked through neighborhoods. It was my favorite part of the day—feeling the sun on my face, saying hello to neighbors, and seeing kids and dogs playing in front yards. While I grumbled when the weather was poor or I had a lot to carry, I relished the transition from home to work and work to home that those twelve minutes gave me.

Walking to the Bus

Until one day, when my neighbor introduced me to the 3Y bus. Living without a car, I was already a frequent bus rider in Arlington and in DC, typically catching the ART 55 to the Lee Heights Shops or hopping on the “S” lines in DC to visit friends. But I had never taken the 3Y, which runs down Lee Highway and over the bridge into DC.

Taking the 3Y was life-changing.Suddenly, instead of walking all the way to the Metro, I could take a few steps from my front door and be on my way into work! Despite traffic, the commute was slightly faster because it was more direct. I started taking the the 3Y into downtown instead of walking to the Metro. Life was good.

So What Happened?

A few months later, as the weather changed, I put on some clothes I hadn’t worn in a while. And they were tight! That couldn’t be right, I thought. I hadn’t changed anything about my running routine or my diet. And then it hit me.

I wasn’t walking to the Metro every day. Those twelve minutes of walking were missing from my routine. Seems like a short amount of time, right? I thought so, too, until I calculated it:

  • 12 minutes x 2 times per day = 24 minutes per day
  • 24 minutes x 5 days per week = 120 minutes per week
  • 120 minutes = 2 hours per week

I was cutting two hours of walking per week out of my routine by sitting on a bus!

Benefits of Walking to Transit

There is a lot of research linking transit use, biking, and walking to physical wellness. And the easier it is to walk to transit , the more people will do it. The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of physical activity for adults per week and walking to transit helps meet this recommendation.

While I was clearly getting more physical activity walking to Metro, I still loved having both the Metro station and the 3Y bus stop so close to my home. The options were critical for me as a transit rider. Although I eventually went back to riding the Metro, I occasionally rode the 3Y bus on bad-weather days. And the 3Y was a transit lifeline for people who lived close to the bus stop, but too far from the Metro to walk, or who were physically unable to walk that far.

The Lesson

The more transit options, the better. If you want to increase your daily physical activity, consider walking to the further transit stop or getting off of the train one stop earlier. Most Arlington residents report living within a 10-minute walk of a bus stop. If each resident took the bus, that’s a lot of walking!

How much time each day would you spend walking if you walked to the closest bus stop every day for your work, school, or personal trips? It’s worth finding out, and you could even eliminate a trip to the gym.

Photo Credit:

Sam Kittner/Kittner.com

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