Thursday, June 20, 2013

"Bill" plays working commuter for a day. It's time consuming, and it's not free

From the 1960’s on, corporate employers often tended to move into the suburbs, and eventually exurbs, to where the homes of “families with children” were.  Remember all the talk in the 1970’s about the deaths of employment in the inner cities?

Well, they didn’t die that quickly.  I remember when working in New York City in the 70s, it really was a problem for programmers who didn’t live in the city to keep up – if they had to commute by bus or commuter rail and subway.  The lynchpins of the company tended to live in the City and be able to come in at any time, especially for production abends.

It got better slowly for suburbanites in the 1990s and “work from home” started, first with dumb dial up terminals to take home from work for a conventional phone line.  In a salaried environment , where there is a lot of unpaid overtime – yes, telecommuting helps – unless you work for Yahoo! now – but a long commute is still a big problem for a lot of techies with bigger families who move farther away to find houses they can afford.

Today, I played “commuter”.  I drove to the final station, Broad Run, on the Manassas Line of the Virginia Railway Express (link), parked (finding one legal space), rode the train to Union Station (70 minutes) and back,  I even tripped up by validating one ticket twice, but the conductor gave me a voucher, and then coming back the conductor didn’t even come upstairs in the “quiet” observation car to take it.

The actual 30-mile rail run (each way) is bucolic, with little scenes that look like they were contrived for a model railroad exhibit.  There are some nice little wildlife areas, and some interesting rail yards, even a little coal and quarrying. There was training site for bus and truck drivers (these are "real jobs").

I had never ridden on a commercial (non-Metro) train south of Union Station. The tunnel actually starts just south of the Library of Congress and Capitol South Metro, and runs underneath and slightly around the Capitol to get to Union Station.  Congress has it's own little railroad and subway, which we can talk about later.

There is only one afternoon train inbound on Manassas (none on Fredericksburg).  Amtrak itself has very limited service on these lines. Oddly, outbound, the train stayed on the Left, British style.
  
When I returned, to leave the commuter parking lot, I had to wait in line a long time on “Piper Lane” (the station is near a small airport) just to get out onto Route 28.   Call it "Traffic Jam". It's never "free.  (At least "28" in Manassas VA is no match for the 405 in LA.., especially where it meets the 101 -- yes - I've driven through both..)

(There was a video here.  Amazon link for purchase of music is here.  Hope the entire video is available there soon there, as on a DVD perhaps, with other material;  I'll advise if this happens..)

And before the exercise, I tried lunch at the Red Robin across the street, when a slip-up in customer service almost made me too late.

It was quite a crazy day, requiring decompression without the Bends.  I could not stand this every day. 

I’ve always lived close to work.  The closest ever was on the Skyway in downtown Minneapolis when I was with ING-ReliaStar.

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