The Future Commute: Which Would You Choose?

Waco is fortunate in that its reality doesn’t look like the first scenario above. Most residents here might gloat about not having to wait at a red light more than twice and almost never dealing with stop-and-go traffic. I am one of those lucky ones now, though it was not always that way for me. I once worked in a Rockville, Maryland furniture store, commuting about two hours a day for a job that didn’t pay nearly enough to justify the “Beltway Blues.” Day after day, thousands spend mornings and afternoons on the D.C. Beltway, inching their way to their destinations, sacrificing precious time with their families, time for themselves, and quite possibly their health. And that grind looks sadly familiar in urban areas across the country.

Waco isn’t far behind, though. It may seem hard for residents to swallow, but the area is growing steadily, and its population is expected to surge in the next 40-50 years. Where will all those people go? My prediction is that up to half of that growth will occur downtown as demand for the urban lifestyle continues upward. And, I don’t know about you, but the second scenario above is much more appealing to me than simply following suit with Washington, Seattle, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

To leave my car and its costs behind is a dream I share with many out there. However, making that dream a reality seems far-fetched unless certain things change:

1. Housing must be convenient to transit options.
2. Work must be convenient to transit options.
3. Essential services must be convenient to transit options.
4. A backup plan must be available at any time.
5. The transit options must be affordable, comfortable, and safe.

What would a neighborhood look like if those conditions existed?

Imagine this: you leave your office and cross the street to the new downtown grocery store to pick up ingredients for tonight’s dinner. Because you scanned your groceries using your smart phone, checking out is a breeze, which means you can catch the 5:30 train that boards directly outside the doors of the grocery store. A 10-minute train ride takes you to a stop that is adjacent to a row of brownstones, one of which is your home. By 5:45, you’ve got dinner on the stove, and by 7:15 you’re back on the train to catch the 7:40 showing of that movie you’ve been dying to watch. By 10:00 you’re back in the front door of your home, comforted knowing that there’s no car payment to worry about, no car insurance to keep active, and no stopping at the gas pump necessary. Now, how does that sound?

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