While many at VIA Metropolitan Transit still commute to work by car, Kammy Horne decided to try leaving behind the single-vehicle lifestyle.
Horne, senior vice president of development at VIA, used to drive a small white smart car. She chose the vehicle for its gas mileage and efficiency, as she has always been mindful of her impact on the environment, she said.
Earlier this year, she ditched it completely.
One rainy day in June, Horne’s car stopped working as she was driving to a meeting. She called for a tow truck and waited for it to arrive, but eventually realized she had to move quickly to make her appointment. So she walked to the nearest bus stop through the pouring rain and got on the bus.
“That was just a big moment of change,” she said. “I got on the bus and got where I needed to go. And as I was sitting there, I was thinking, ‘You are a senior vice president at VIA and what you do, what your life is about, is the customers that you serve.’ And I just said, ‘When the car gets fixed, I’m not driving it.’”
Horne gave her car to one of her sons who lives in Austin and has since been commuting by bus. She wakes up at 6:15 a.m., boards the bus before 8 a.m. and is at work in 20 minutes with no transfers. Her trip to and from work is pretty simple, as she lives in the Monte Vista neighborhood and VIA’s main office is just west of downtown. Two of the agency’s bus lines, the 20 and the 3, directly connect from bus stops near her home and the office.
She appreciates her time on the bus and meeting the people who also commute regularly that way, she said.
“I’ve been able to learn so much just by taking the bus,” she said. “It’s been really helpful for me and my work. It has literally, profoundly changed the way I think about what we do at VIA. I can’t imagine not taking the bus anymore because it’s so much a part of the fabric of what I think about every single day.”
Horne found herself even more tuned into the smaller aspects of the city’s public transit system, calling in tips to various VIA departments about things she notices on her route. Sometimes, if the estimated bus time is inaccurate, she texts someone on the technology team about it. If a bus stop needs repair, she sends a note asking for maintenance to stop by. She has even been able to call for help when someone at a bus stop looks unwell.
“I’ll check in with our safety [workers] and someone will come over,” she said.
She doesn’t talk about her experiment much with colleagues, she said, but word has gotten around the office about it. Some people will see her after hours and offer to drive her to the grocery store to make that errand easier. (She makes multiple small shopping trips throughout the week to accommodate her lack of a car trunk.)
“People have told me I’ve inspired them to take the bus or ride their bike,” she said.
A former triathlete, Horne also feels comfortable using her bike to move around town. She has always been active, she said, and recently completed her first ultramarathon — 31 miles of running in Tucson, Arizona.
Horne acknowledged relying on public transportation is relatively easy, given her lifestyle. She lives relatively close to the VIA office so her weekday commute is short and direct, while many of her coworkers who live further might have to deal with transfers or less frequent service if they chose to ride the bus to work. She also doesn’t have familial obligations such as taking young kids to school or daycare. Both of Horne’s children are older, eliminating the need to accommodate for childcare emergencies and other related issues, she said.
“I know I have options,” she said. “I could drive a car if I wanted to. But I realize that there is no reason for me to have a car with the situation I have, and it’s been great.”