My blogging output has been miserable as of late and it’s been bugging me because I really like sitting down to write and there are lots of big blogarific thoughts rolling around in my head these days. That being said, getting down to Yahoo! a few times a week (when I’m not working in the Berkeley lab near my house) means a my 43.7 mile commute that has me in the car for several hours every week. Driving is an antidote to writing — not to mention that this calculator told me that my commute costs me $13,731 a year (!!), and this environmental calculator estimates that my car is dumping just under 900 pounds (!!) of pollution into the world every year. Not good. All of this has made me seriously re-evaluate my commute situation and how to make it better.
First, a little more background on the specifics of my commute situation: a lot of people don’t realize this, but the best way to get from Berkeley to Silicon Valley on mass transit is via the Amtrak Capitol Corridor. I’ve taken the train a few times now and it’s a nice ride — but while this particular route that winds down through Silicon Valley seems to be a natural for solid wi-fi service, the wi-fi offering sucks. Check out the message above the byzantine wi-fi “schedule” on the Amtrak site to see why:
Currently, our Wi-Fi enabled cars rotate among different trains, giving all passengers a chance to test the service. Please be aware that trains are rotated out of service for regular maintenance and that there may be times when Wi-Fi service is unavailable. Check the schedule below to find out when Wi-Fi will be on your train!
Yeah, like I really want to add “figure out which trains have wi-fi today” to my morning to-do list.
I don’t know why it took me so long to think of this, but I finally thought: EVDO is the answer to my problems. Within minutes of this realization, I had signed up for the Broadband Access service from Verizon Wireless which promises “typical download speeds of 400 – 700 kbps, capable of reaching speeds up to 2.0 Mbps”. I ordered the Kyocera KPC650 card and it’s on its way. Now, not only will I be able to get high-speed access on the train instead of worrying with their wonky wi-fi, I will be able to get online while I’m waiting for the train. The service is expensive, but easily paid for many times over by eliminating (or at least greatly limiting) the car commute. This is looking like a win-win.
Of course, I had this same level of excitement in late 2001 when I was taking Caltrain to San Mateo and had just ordered the Ricochet modem that never really worked well enough to use on the train. I hope this time is different (the reviews of the service I’ve seen are stellar). Fingers crossed!