Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Riding the bus

As of IPhone v2.2, the maps app has public transit info included. I was screwing with this feature and learned that I could ride the bus to work in a little over an hour. At first glance that seemed like a long time, considering it takes me about 30 minutes to drive to work, then it occurred to me that it would be a great time to read.

Background: I go through periods where I buy large quantities of books - I just bought 15 or so books that I got as recommendations from Albert Wong (mostly business stuff), and then from reading Omnivore's Dilemma. I have been scratching my head as to how I will actually get around to reading any of these books.

So I would be chewing up an additional hour a day to get 2 new hours of reading time. This seemed like a reasonable tradeoff - it's not like I can't pack the same amount of screwing around into an hour less a day. I wanted to make sure I wasn't making some incredibly stupid financial move, though I was pretty sure I wasn't.

Simple approach: Gas costs 2 dollars a gallon, I get 32 mpg on my way to and from work, a total of 19 miles round trip (determined using a Scan Gauge) - so it costs me .59 gallons * $2/gallon = $1.18 to drive per day or 5.90/week. A bus pass costs 7 dollars a week. Is it worth 1.10 for me to have 10 hours of reading time? Resoundingly yes - I could've stopped there.

I then started thinking about total costs for driving, and I found this tool to help me (Google Transit online also provides a cost-to-drive figure for each trip)). Edmunds claims that my car costs 40 cents a mile to drive, but that seemed high - it turns out a lot of this is costs you don't incur by driving, but simply by owning the car, so I subtracted those. The final tally was 24 cents a mile for gas, maintenance and repair, which brings the number to 19.6 dollars a week to drive, versus 7 for a bus pass. Any other costs I'm missing?

Well I stop to get a breakfast taco pretty much every day, which works out to 9 dollars. Then I go out to lunch which costs me between 10 and 20. If I don't have a car, I would do none of this since I hate the cafeteria and I don't want to walk anywhere for mediocre food, so I'd eat stuff from home. This math was getting to be pretty crazy - I would be saving between 108 and 158 dollars for every week I rode the bus (note: though it would incur some additional grocery costs I consider these marginal because I waste a ton of food most weeks).

There are a few other things worth mentioning: I'd be seeing some health benefits, as I am now doing some amount of walking to and from the bus stop, as well as eating healthier since I cook good food at home. I will get to talk to a few new people every day, which I love. It's taking a car off the road which is good for the environment. All of this at the cost of 1 hour a day of time that I wasn't doing anything with anyway.

If anyone can think of a way to reward myself for riding the bus please do tell. The only thing I can think of is to save for an Amazon Kindle, but that would only take 4 weeks of bus riding!

I have been riding the bus for 30 days now. So far I have nothing but good things to say. I can't really come up with a reason to start driving to work again, except on days that I have appointments.