Monday, May 14, 2007

The Commute from Lawrence: 7:00 am to 8:30

Thursday May 10, 2007 7:30am.

We don't all work in Lawrence.
My wife and I both commute, she to Topeka and I to Overland Park from our townhouse near 1600 County Road. She leaves first at a few minutes before 7 since she has to get gas and stop for a bite to eat. No one can miss her pumpkin color Ford Probe.

I still have 30 minutes to kill so go back inside to get the news on the computer and start checking my e-mail from work. At 7:15 the phone rings. It's my wife complaining that I didn't tell her gas at the Quick Trip is $3.09 a gallon. Last night gas was $2.89 a gallon.

The price of gas is a bigger issue for her for two reasons. First, she drives all the way to her job at a Topeka hospital, about 35 miles from our house. I have it easier since my job, as a professor at Johnson County Community College 30 miles away, is a straight drive down K-10. I bought my townhouse on the far East side of Lawrence before we knew where my wife was going to end up working. Next, I have a secret weapon for commuting: the K-10 Connector.

Seven thirty comes and it's time to leave. The morning started foggy but by 7:30 the fog has burnt off and the day looks to be bright and sunny. This picture looks east toward 1600 County Road, which leads to K-10.

Our street is at the far east side of Prairie Park neighborhood. Right now our street is the only significant development on the east side of 1600 County Road, also called O'Connell road, but more is slated. Plus the City is proposing to connect 31st Street to O'Connell. We wonder what that will do to traffic on the County Road. Now traffic is light, but the City has already installed a traffic circle south of our intersection. I call it "le gateau" or "the cake."

I drive north on O'Connell to East 25th Terrace. The north side of 25th Street Terrace has a new development of mixed single family and townhouses. Traffic on 25th Street leading to Haskell has been increasing but I prefer to go North on Harper to K-10, known in Lawrence as 23rd Street.

Traffic is already heavy in both directions on 23rd Street and I turn west toward the Haskell Campus and my secret commuter weapon. My house is about 2 miles from Haskell. So I probably ought to walk to the bus but I haven't found a good path. Traffic on Haskell is very heavy in the morning. Walking or biking along 23rd Street is not my idea of a fun thing to do either.

I arrive at Haskell and wait in the parking lot on the North side of the Haskell Stadium with the other commuters. This is a few minutes of quiet time to listen to the news on KANU, Lawrence's public radio station. The report is about the Sudan and how some in the Sudan have this notion that if every one has a gun reason will prevail To me that sounds a bit like the rationale for concealed carry. Soon the K-10 Connector arrives and we board.

The K-10 Connector costs $2.50 each way between Lawrence and Overland Park. But I buy a pass of 10 only rides for $15.00. That's a pretty good rate at current gas prices, since my Subaru gets about 25 miles to the gallon. That means it costs me about $6.00 a day to drive myself. Actually the difference is not that much since I had been car pooling with another professor. Both of us now ride the Connector.

Normally there are four to six staff members from JCCC along with students going to both KU's Edwards Campus and JCCC. Today the bus has about 30 riders. So it is pretty full.

Heading east to Overland Park we encounter the fog again. But we are lucky-no accidents to slow us up. The bus proceeds to I-434 and takes the Quivera exit to JCCC where about 10 of us get off.

The students have their classes and I will be meeting my 11:00 Genetics class for the last time this semester. But it is now 8:30. Time for coffee and then attack the stacks of grading awaiting me in my office.

Tips and Information:

A report on commuters from the Lawrence Journal World.

The K-10 Connector is sponsored by a group of cooperating agencies. including the City of Lawrence and Johnson County Transit, which provides the service. More information and a schedule can be found here.

For those unfamiliar with my part of Lawrence, here is a map.

Update 5/22/2007...I've added the following piece written as part of an assignment for the Citizen Journalism Academy for "24 Hours":

Of course the 24 hour event happened on what had to be the least interesting day of the week. Nothing planned except for grading and meeting my last class. The assignment presented another problem. Since I am a professor at Johnson County Community College it was hard to pick a slice of the day where I would be in Lawrence which is a) family rated; b) doesn't involve me eating or gardening or c) doesn't involve me grading papers, the big task for the day. The day in other words shaped up about as exciting as watching slugs feed on my tomato plants. OK maybe not that exciting.Hence my documenting my commute. Maybe there would be an accident to report...a minor one.

Sometimes commuters are looked down upon in Lawrence. People seem to have this idea that we spend our money in the cities we work in such as Overland Park or Kansas City. OK... I am going to spend my one hour lunch break or fight with rush hour traffic to buy stuff at Johnson County malls? Get Real!

Besides, commuting takes about two hours out of my day. That means when my wife and I get home from our commutes we often are too pooped to cook. That means eating out. So we pump more money into the Lawrence economy. I mean, how many other people can walk into the local Mongolian barbecue and find their table already set up with the correct drinks because the waiter spied you pulling into the parking lot? Now that's engagement in the local community!

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