The economics of mass transit

I think I’m going to take the train to work tomorrow.

It won’t save me any time, although with some creativity I could save five minutes some days (but lose five on others). I do figure it can save me some money.I drive 76 miles to and from work every day. My car gets about 35 miles to the gallon, but I just put more than $30 worth of gas in my car and I’ll have to do it again in a week at the rate I’m going. I’ll spend about $6.50 driving to and from work tomorrow.

I also had a bunch of maintenance done this week. I figure the consumables in my car–oil, timing belt, shocks, tires, compliance bushings–cost me about a nickel a mile, so potentially it costs me more like $10 to drive to and from work every day.

I’m not factoring in depreciation since I intend to keep the car 10 years, and I’ve only had it five. But going by the IRS’ standard mileage deduction, my commute costs a whopping $38.38 a day. And I don’t get to deduct that. Ouch.

The closest Metrolink station is 8 miles away, but the route from it to work is impractical–it’ll add almost an hour to my commute both ways. I need to go to a station closer to work and catch the train there. I figure I can drive about halfway, take the train the other half, and not end up spending three hours on the train every day.

A monthly Metrolink pass costs $60. Assume 21 working days, and that’s $2.86 a day. Even if all I was saving was gas, it’s worth doing. But I stand to spend $2.86 to save $5.50. That’s a good deal. Or if you ask the IRS, I stand to spend $2.86 to save $19.19. Even better.

If gas goes to $4/gallon like some are predicting, it becomes an even better deal. And there’s nothing I can do to control the price of gas.

Nothing, that is, except burn less of it.

2 thoughts on “The economics of mass transit

  • March 31, 2008 at 7:12 am
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    Dunno how it is in St. Louis, but here in Dallas the local transit authority (DART) makes it hard for a lot of folks to commute. Their whole system is a hub and spoke arrangement, with the hub being downtown Dallas.

    If you work downtown, that’s fine. But many sorts of cross-town commutes simply aren’t practical with that system. We’re actually lucky that I live about 10-15 min from work, and my wife telecommutes about 95% of the time.

  • March 31, 2008 at 7:41 am
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    I was spending $10/day in gas alone on my trip (6-cyl engine, 47.5 miles one-way to work). I was pretty surprised when I did the numbers. I still don’t regret switching to mass transit.

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