When you do something every day, it’s easy to lose track of how it factors into the big picture. That’s why so many people waste so much money on little habits. I wondered, what about commuting? How far did I commute this year, and by what mode?
Why, I commuted almost every day this year! By contrast, Marge didn’t commute at all. Unless you count walking the 60 seconds or whatever from our front door to her office as commuting. But she’s lucky like that. Most of us don’t live within shouting distance of where we work.
So how did I get to work this year? Through a combination of driving, riding a bus, and riding a bicycle. As I’ve said, during the winter, there is nothing more luxurious than getting driven to work by someone else in a pre-heated vehicle. In my case, that’s a bus. But once the weather warmed up, I was able to ride my bike, Tad, to work. I tried to keep my car driving to a minimum of days when I had to be somewhere quickly either right before or right after work.
So how far did I commute in total? After subtracting holidays and vacations, I worked a total of…
237 Work Days
My commute is 11 miles each way. Take the number of work days this year, multiply that by 22 miles roundtrip, and you get 5,214 miles total!
What does 5,214 miles look like?
Starting in Boston’s North End (Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, if you’re curious), you’d have to drive all the way to Seattle, then south to Los Angeles, and then track back east to Texas, stopping just past Marfa in tiny Alpine to do my 2015 commuting in one shot.
Commuting just 11 miles each equals a 3/4 round-the-nation road trip every year! That’s 76 hours of continuous driving! Now doesn’t that seem like a hell of a lot? And I know many workers’ commutes are longer. The U.S. DOT says that the average commute by car is 12.6 miles each way. The average train commute is 12.2 miles, and bus commuters average 9.6 miles. So there are many, many people I’m sure making a nation-circling road trips every year just driving to work and back each day.
And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of a nationwide road trip is more appealing than driving the same 11 mile stretch of road 474 times.
Which method ruled the year?
Just to quench our curiosity, let’s see how I actually commuted during those many miles. Since I marked down every day I rode my bike to work, I know…
Bike Days = 60
Then, by dividing the total I spent on bus tickets this year ($312) by $2.60 (the roundtrip cost) I can calculate that I rode the bus on 120 days. But there were a few days when the ticket machine on the bus wasn’t working and I didn’t get charged. So let’s add three days and say that…
Bus Days = 123
On all of the remaining days, we can assume that I drove the entire way, so…
Car Days = 54
I can drive door-to-door or take the bus door-to-door. But when I’m biking, I only bike 6 miles each way. I drive the first 5 miles to where I can park the car and then ride my bike on the nice, calm bike trail all the way to the office.
So if I do all of the multiplication out, I see that I used the following methods to get those 5,214 miles.
Bike: 720 miles
Bus: 2,706 miles
Car: 1,788 miles
That’s right, I rode my bike 720 miles this year, just commuting halfway to work. That’s the equivalent of biking from Boston to Toledo, Ohio!
Compare this to Marge’s commute. She walks to work. I measured her commute by stepping out the door a few minutes ago and walking to her office. I don’t want to say how far exactly it is, but let’s just say it’s much shorter than my commute.
Over the course of a year, she’s basically walked a grand total of 6 miles. That’s like walking from the north end of Boston to Brookline! You could walk her annual commute in 2 hours!
Well, that was a pretty clear demonstration of how even a short commute by car can really add up over time. The other question is cost. How much did my commute cost this year?
Car: $1,054 using AAA’s 59 cents per mile rule
Bicycle: $0. Since I replaced no parts on my bike, it was free. Clearly driving would be a distant third when it comes to per-mile cost.
So my total commuting cost $1,366, while Marge’s commute cost $0.