Given the discussion in a different thread on America’s reliance on cars versus mass transit sparked by Neil’s comments about the same in England I thought I’d take a moment to map out my route to work every day to give you folks in Europe an idea of the distance involved. Click the image below for a bigger version.
According to Google Maps the distance is 48.2 miles and should take around 51 minutes to traverse at the speed limit and without any other traffic to speak of. A couple of interesting things to note at this scale of the map is that it’s very easy to distinguish where the primary suburbs are and where things start to become more rural just by the density of the major streets. If you follow the I-96/I-275 highway down from the I-96/I-696 exchange you’ll come to Canton where I used to live and where I hope to be returning come this August. As you can see Canton is right on the bleeding edge between suburb and rural which makes it a nice place to live. Still suburban enough for close access to stores and resources, but rural enough to not feel quite so damned crowded. The street I used to live off of still has a cow pasture on it with actual cows.
If you follow I-75 north from my work address you’ll come to Pontiac which is the city I grew up in. Pontiac is probably the next biggest urban area outside of Detroit that isn’t in Canada and it suffers from a lot of the same problems Detroit does. If you go anywhere in the U.S. and say you’re from Detroit you’ll get this look that is often a mixture of awe and fear as though you have to be one helluva badass to live in that town. In South Eastern Michigan you can get the same look by saying you’re from Pontiac. I spent my first 17 years there on the north west side in a neighborhood that had more than it’s fair share of hillbillies and Mexicans in it. For being admittedly a pretty crappy city I have some fond memories of my time there.
More relevant to the discussion we were having earlier, if you look closely you can see a handful of rail lines running through the area. Most of that is for freight traffic as opposed to passenger service so before light rail could become a bigger factor here there’d have to be a major investment in new lines and considering that Amtrak is pretty much propped up by the government that ain’t gonna be happening anytime soon. The situation with bus service is quite a bit better as you can see from the service map (PDF file) with not only regular bus routes, but also park and ride services and some specialty routes. The service doesn’t even extend into Canton let alone Brighton, though it does reach into Westland which is right next door to Canton. None of the Park and Rides come close to where I work in Troy. So if I were to even consider trying to ride the bus in to work I’d first have to drive to someplace that has bus service and then change buses several times in making the trip. It’s probably doable, but not in a reasonable amount of time.
Yes, I could move closer to work, but I’d prefer living in Canton as I’ve grown to love the community. Alas that means I’m going to be spending more in gas, but that’s the price you pay for living where you want to live. Part of the reason I’m considering a gas/electric hybrid car in the future is not just because it supposedly gets more mileage, but also because it puts out fewer emissions. If a viable hydrogen fuel cell car were available today I’d be giving it serious thought as well.