Sunday, 26 September 2010

Optimising the commuting

I do not remember if I made any resolutions at the beginning of the year. I somehow recall I felt it would be a good year for me and my sixth sense proved right! So this week, at the onset of autumn I made a resolution not to write about politics and I am intent on keeping away from political current affairs by the end of October. I think this will be a tough test for me, given that Mr Sane-As-Never is likely to step up his end-justifies-the-means insult campaign, paving the way to his party’s wipe-out in parliamentary elections in 2011!

In the summer commuting would have been a sheer pleasure, if it had not been for the high temperature, so frequent in the past two months. Now it is cooler, but time spent on journeys to and from work has gone up by 20% or even 50%. Right: 15 September (when I went by car for the last time), morning, queue before intersection of ul. Łabędzia and ul. Puławska. In July or August I just to had wait for the traffic light to turn green, now it queueing takes up to ten minutes. Walking and overtaking the frustrated commuters is much healthier.

The veritable hell on ul. Puławska will probably begin in mid-October, when the artery will be narrowed to only two lanes in each direction. Now, when all three lanes are occupied the traffic is almost stationary, no wonder commuters dread to think what happens when the one-kilometre-long section around the junction Puławska will become a bottleneck. I wonder how many of them will leave their cars in garages and on car parks and find an alternative way of commuting and what it would be.

Warsaw this summer was also dug up like almost never before. Ul. Emilii Plater (right), earlier paved with cobblestone has been modernised. Now drivers are able to use two lanes in each direction, bus lanes and cycling paths have been marked out, not yet opened. Construction works are still under way, new pavements for pedestrians should be laid soon, but we will have to wait a while for the DNA-shaped green belt with flowerbeds and benches designed for the space between the roads.

At the beginning of the second decade of September the most famous place in Warsaw became ul. Prosta, where the construction of second line of Warsaw underground kicked off. I took the photo to the right on 15 September around a quarter to nine in the morning. From what I have heard and seen, traffic is less dense than before ul. Prosta was closed, which sounds like a miraculous piece of news. Even streets parallel and perpendicular to ul. Prosta are less jammed than before. Everyone noticed, nobody can explain it. By the way, I stared at the green fence and wondered what it resembled. I did a double-take at the photo at home and I think I know – it brought to my mind the Berlin Wall. Am I the only one? The second photo to the right was taken after 11:00 as I walked to my office in Złote Tarasy. Ul. Prosta on its section east to Rondo Daszyńskiego was almost empty and looks like in off-peak hours this until today.

When using a car is ruled out and riding a bike is totally impractical there are two ways of getting into town left. One is a ZTM bus – they do not run as often as before the summer holidays, but still I do not have to wait for more than five minutes on a bus stop in Mysiadło for any ZTM bus to pull up. Then the journey to Metro Wilanowska terminus which starts at around 7:00 lasts around 35 minutes. It is that short just because bus drivers use the roadside as a bus lane. This means buses move much faster than cars, but journeys are more dangerous as vehicles pass lampposts and ditches by centimetres.

Actually what more can I say when I look at the traffic jam like the one right? I see a tractor with two trailers and the only thing that occurs to me is “everything except the kitchen sink”. I am of course wrong since I have not seen any horse-drawn cart on ul. Puławska yet. I can be grateful to my employer that it offers my flexible working hours. If I were to knock on at 9:00 as everybody does, my morning journeys would be around 20 minutes longer. And I still do not know which of available means of transport I should use from February 2011 when I return to work. Much will depend on the location of my office, but I am leaning towards something that does not involve using roads.

Even on the European Day without cars ul. Puławska was jammed, it was even more packed than normally, even in spite of the fact drivers were able to use public transport for free if they only had their vehicle’s registration certificates. The event was not publicised properly and, let’s face it – most people even if they knew about it would not have given up on using their cars for one day, it is a matter of habit, they cannot imagine having to travel inside a big vehicle with tens of other people. And another question that has just come up to me – how to persuade people who have company cars (company pays for the petrol and provides a car park) not to use cars? My colleagues who almost all have company cars cannot imagine commuting to the centre from Ursynów by the underground! One sales director who lives near the underground told me openly this June he had taken the metro for the first (and last) time in his life and had been really excited about the trip!!!

If not roads, then maybe rails. Unfortunately I do not have a suburban-zone ticket so I cannot board a Warsaw-bound train in Nowa Iwiczna without risking being caught by a ticket inspector. The only solution I have worked out is then to walk to Mysiadło, take any bus, ride two stops, get off and catch another bus that will take me to PKP Jeziorki and wait there for fifteen minutes for the train which according to the timetable arrives at 07:27. The journey from PKP Jeziorki to Śródmieście takes 35 minutes, so shorter than getting into the station, what actually makes the whole idea a tad absurd.

I treat it as a temporary solution because rare rail services to Warsaw are not an alternative for commuting into school where I start and finish classes at different hours and do not have flexible working hours. The thing which took my fancy on sunny mornings (if such arrangement of air pressure systems was in the winter, we would probably have –20C) spent partly on the platform of W-wa Jeziorki was the beautiful sight of all tracks coinciding in one point on the horizon, hidden in an early-autumn mist.

Commuting by train has one more advantage – given PKP Jeziorki station lies just next to the coal line, one can spot a coal train while waiting for a suburban train to town. Once I thought I would be given the pleasure of seeing and snapping one, however, the horn turned out to have been blown by a Radomiak - fast train running every morning from Radom to Warszawa, stopping only at some of the stations on its route.

Speaking about passing trains – I was tipped off that a train from Prague to Moscow runs through Nowa Iwiczna every morning around 9:20, so yesterday around 9:00 I cycled towards the level crossing in NI to snap a train. I was actually lucky to leave home earlier as the train also came earlier. I did not expect it to arrive so quickly so I stayed at the wrong, west side of the tracks which meant I could take photos against the sun only. I should have stuck around on the new P&R facility built next to the station from where I could snap the train lit by morning, late-September sun.

A pity this weekend were probably the last days of clement weather. I made the most of it by tidying up the garden on Friday, making a barbecue yesterday and washing the car today. Errr, is it a political topic that Polish parliament passed an amendment to the labour law on Friday, which declares the Epiphany (6 January) a bank holiday and takes away a paid day off which employers have to give employees to compensate for a bank holiday falling on Saturday? I should hold back from refraining on harping on about religion-related aspects of the resolution, although hitherto most people worked normally and if they wished, attended an evening mass. Now we will have a day off in the dead of winter, most people will not give a damn about going to the church or celebrating. From the comments I have read in the Internet I infer most people think the same as I do – we should have an additional bank holiday in spring (not on 10 April, I beg you) or summer when people can take a trip to the countryside, forest, cycle, have a barbecue, spend the day on their allotments. Most people have a rest on bank holidays, not celebrate them.

Meanwhile Polish president has a hard nut to crack – around a dozen Poles died tragically in a bus accident on the bypass of Berlin, Germany. Is it a reason to call national mourning as the late president would surely do?

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