This is the last thing most people want to see when they have to get to work in the morning.*
My northerners know what I’m talking about.
The car is covered in a foot of snow, or worse, a half inch of ice. It’s 20 below freezing, and if you’re lucky, the engine will turn over and you at least can start heating up the car. Then you start shoveling the snow off and slowly chipping away at the ice. That might take forever. You start making a pile for the snow. Then you’ve got to dig out the tires. Did a snow plow shove a bunch of snow under your car? You’ll probably have to move that. Is there traction? Or did some snow melt and refreeze beneath your tires? You’re going to have to get some sand or salt to put under the tires to take care of that. You’re getting snow in your boots, pants are getting wet. Pretty soon your nose is running like a faucet, your face is red, and you’re starting your day angry and tired.
Not me, man. As of this year, I decided I didn’t need to put up with this anymore. I just wasn’t going to deal with digging a small car out of a plowed-in snowbank after every storm.
Did I buy a truck? No, of course not.
Did I buy an all-wheel drive scaredy-cat mobile? No way.
Did I move down south to get away from the snow? Never!
I decided to take advantage of a luxurious vehicle, driven by my own chauffeur, so I can sit in the back, drink hot coffee, read a book, or just watch television while someone else drives me to work through all the snow and ice.
I know. Not everyone has the means to have someone else drive them to work. After all, not everyone lives in a city.
That’s right, it’s a bus!
Ha ha ha! I had you fooled! It was a bus all along! Ha ha ha! Did you see what I did there? I tried to make it sound like it was a limousine! Ha ha ha! I got you! You’re so stupid! Ha ha ha.
It’s a bus. It’s the most maligned form of public transportation, I would say even more maligned than taxi cabs. People who gladly take a subway or get on an airplane wouldn’t step foot on your average city bus. To them, only weirdos ride the bus, and then it makes a thousand stops and takes two hours to get you anywhere. Well, I’m here to tell you, the bus is awesome.
For a long time after we moved here, there was no direct link between Cohoes, where we live, and Albany where I work. Despite being located on the same straight stretch of highway, there was no bus route to get from here to there. The only way to get to our major city was a dumb, roundabout method which took over an hour. I can drive to the same destination in 15 minutes.
In the last year, the bus system rolled out a commuter line that connects the our fair city to Albany six times a day: Three times in the morning, three times in the evening. So after doing a calculation that showed that taking the bus cost half as much as driving the same 11 miles each way in a car, I decided to try it out. Yes, taking the bus is not only more luxurious, it’s also cheaper!
Here’s the cost comparison. Our car maintenance cost per mile:
|Average annual maintenance||$539|
|Annual miles driven||12,000|
|Maintenance cost per mile||4.5 cents|
And the cost of gas per mile, at two wildly different gas prices we’ve seen in the past year:
|Price per gallon of gas||$2.50||$4.00|
|2005 Honda Civic MPG||30||30|
|Gas cost per mile||8.33 cents||13.33 cents|
Combining the two costs, we get a total cost per mile driven, which I multiply by my one-way commute miles:
|Total Cents per mile driven||$0.1283||$0.1783|
|Commute Miles (one way)||11||11|
|Cost of commute||$1.41||$1.91|
The cost of riding the bus each way is $1.30. To say nothing of insurance, registration, depreciation, parking, or the psychic load of driving, even with the cheaper price of gas, Bus wins! 60 cents saved each way is $1.20 a day, or $6.00 a week, or $312 a year. Again, that’s not including all of the fixed expenses of owning a car.
Not convinced you should take the bus? Picture this: You get on the bus website and check the real-time status update for your big blue limousine. Once it counts down to 3 minutes, you grab your coffee, leave the house, and walk one minute to the bus stop. Since you checked the website, you don’t even have to wait outside that long. You see the bus rounding the corner to your street. You walk on and get blasted with warm air. (Oh yeah, did I mention the bus is warm on arrival? You’d be lucky if your car gets completely warm by the end of your 20 minute commute!) You say good morning to the driver, scan your card, take a seat in the back and curl up next to the window.
At this point, you have a choice of what you want to do during your commute. Sleep? Catch up on your reading? Listen to a podcast? WATCH TELEVISION? It’s truly an insane world we live in if I pay $1.30 to have someone drive me to work while I watch tv. I have the Danish political drama Borgen loaded on my used iPod Touch and have been watching that. Sometimes I mix it up with Walk On The Wild Side, a really stupid, but funny, show where British comedians dub animal documentary footage with their own voices. I could actually bring Screeny the used tablet on the bus, but that has a huge 10 inch screen, and I think people would start watching tv over my shoulder. Heck, if your bus has wi-fi, you could even read this blog!
Before you know it, you look up from your television or book and you’re at work! Warm, relaxed, happy, and only $1.30 lighter in the pocket. Repeat at the end of the day, and before you know it, you’re saving money hand over fist and becoming the most cultured person in the office, what with all your book-reading and sophisticated television-viewing.
To sum up, here’s the benefits of taking a bus, especially in the winter:
- No scraping ice off a windshield.
- No warming up your car
- No shoveling, for you driveway people
- It’s probably cheaper
- It’s safer
Yes, you are five times more likely to die in the car accident than a bus accident. There are about 50 people killed in bus accidents every year. But guess how many people die in car accidents every year. Yeah, it’s much higher: 33,000. The difference is mostly down to how many more miles are ridden by people in cars than on buses, since the accident rate per mile driven is about the same between. Cars are much safer than they used to be, but the fact remains that you’re much more likely to come out of a bus accident unscathed than you would a car accident.
(Excuse my sidetrack, but as far as unfounded fears go, you should probably take a look at the Wikipedia entry of preventable causes of death. People are so very scared of terrorist attacks, shark attacks, lightning, weird stuff like that. Take a look at the list of preventable deaths, and if you’re doing everything you can to prevent those [not smoking, drinking or using guns, not driving, learning how to swim… getting your colon checked] you’re in a pretty safe place and don’t have much to worry about.)
So here’s my advice. If you live on a bus line that can get you to work, take your car, park it by the water, shift it into neutral, get out and let it roll into the lake, never to be seen again. Then start taking the bus.
Do you take public transportation to work? Do you think your ice scraper is effective? Well, I have one that I like so much that I’m going to profile it in a future series.
* Yeah, I park on the street. I suppose some of you park your car in a garage. Don’t talk to me about garages. Building a house for a car is insane. That’s something crazy people do. There are people who don’t have buildings to live in, but your car gets to live inside a building? Give me a break. We’ll show you what we did to our garage one day.
PS Speaking of winter commutes..
If you’re think you’re cool, riding your bicycle to work or walking in the cold, or if you’re driving a car a couple miles every day, this guy will make you feel ashamed. James Robertson walks 21 miles to his factory job. Every day. In Detroit. He can take a bus for a few miles, but most of his commute is spent walking. Somebody give this guy a lift! http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/oakland/2015/01/31/detroit-commuting-troy-rochester-hills-smart-ddot-ubs-banker-woodward-buses-transit/22660785/