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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: March 2024

Why I Ride

Stanley Peter Jaskiewicz


  • Public transportation is often seen negatively, but there are some benefits.
  • Using your city’s public transportation system can save money and offer a moment of peace before the work day.
Why I Ride

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My off-hand comment at a recent VOE board meeting caught the rest of the room by surprise.

I did not expect that admitting that I still traveled to work every day on our local regional rail system would so easily shock the editors of this publication, but it did.

One editor pointed out that many seniors have shifted away from cars, due to driving limitations.  Me too!

In hindsight, perhaps I should not have been surprised.  I had poor vision and driving inattention long before I was a senior by age.

In fact, in many areas today there are dedicated transit services for persons with disabilities or who are senior citizens, for example, TransNet where I live.

Pennsylvania even has a map and dedicated website to help people like me locate such services.

I have also used public transit for a very long time.  I commuted to school and work on a bus, elevated train and trolley beginning in 1974, and by train since 1985.

I cannot conceive of getting behind the wheel of a car every day for any reason.

Being on the road at rush hour, at high speeds, is far more dangerous to me, as well as to other drivers and the public in general, than anything else I do.

I do not see well, especially in the early morning gloom or on a rainy day.

I am also easily distracted. 

(I was well ahead of the current trend of older adults finding alternatives to driving.)

But none of those conditions played any role in my recent accident.  I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light, on a dry sunny day. 

Four months later, I still hold my breath whenever I see a car accelerating in my rear or side view mirrors.

So I instead enjoy entertaining reading while on my train.  News or music are poor substitutes.

Of course, I do have to get to the train station.  But I have been fortunate avoiding accidents during my two-mile, ten-minute back road daily commute to my station’s parking lot. 

My driving ability (or lack thereof) aside, I have also thought quite a bit about my commute since that fateful day in March 2020, when I (and everyone else) was ordered to stay home.

Although I worked from home for over a year, my wife and I did occasionally venture into Philadelphia for significant medical appointments.

In fact, we drove in – once, early in the Pandemic, when my dentist’s office reopened.

But the $40 daily parking fee led us to embrace the benefits of the train.

For example, our transit agency has promoted the safety of its system, particularly its constant high air filtration. 

I am also now older than many other commuters, another risk factor.

As an adult leader when my son was a Boy Scout, I learned in training that driving home from a camping trip was far more dangerous than any other camp activity.

 I have plenty of reasons for why I have been comfortable on my commuter train every day since our office reopened in June 2021.

Most importantly, I developed personal safety strategies, in consultation with the Wellness Coach from our health plan who visits each month.

I now prefer to ride less popular trains to avoid close seating. 

(Unfortunately for our local public transit agency, SEPTA almost all of its trains are now “less popular.”) 

Seats that were once at a premium are now readily available, even for those boarding near the end of the line closer to the city.

SEPTA faces such dire fiscal challenges as federal disaster relief aid runs out, that I hope I don’t lose it as a commuting option.

I also wear two masks, including an N-95.

I try to stick to the “three across” seats, rather than more cramped two-seaters. 

If all three seats are filled during the ride, I move to another seat or stand in the aisle.

I do the same if anyone near me is sniffling or sneezing.

On a recent trip, one rider’s loud, frequent hacking caused an exodus to another car.

Yet even these precautions are much, much easier than they would have been, if ridership were even remotely close to pre-COVID levels.

Recently, a conductor announced a request that riders fill all empty seats, to accommodate the return-to-work volume. 

But I have not yet seen those riders, not even during the first post-COVID major Philadelphia shows (the Flower Show and the Auto Show).  Pre-pandemic they each generated a week of standing room only ridership.

But this is not intended to be yet another COVID-19 article.

My reasons for preferring a commute existed long before the Pandemic.

(I had prepared for this many years ago.  Translating Virgil’s Aeneid on a bus and subway in high school taught me to tune out distractions.

As I have explained in a prior VOE article, I enjoy leisure reading during my commute – something I missed while working from home.

The “quiet car” is my sanctuary and the bookmobile supplies my sacraments.

The ride to work in the morning allows mental preparation for each day, including meditation and, especially, prayer (as well as reading).

My trip home lets me wind down before taking off my lawyer suit (both literally and metaphorically) before returning to my family. 

But I have to stop– if I don’t leave now, I will miss my train home.


If I have convinced you, you can investigate public transit options in your area, in addition to ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft.  The links from my state below may suggest search terms to use where you live: