The Arithmetic behind why I drive to work instead of taking the bus is elementary to calculate. Yet, I ignore the obvious savings that I would make taking the bus. Why (you may well ask)?
Take The Bus
If I got a monthly pass in Ottawa, it could cost
$91.50 $122.50, or I could splurge and get an Express Pass for $114.00. There is also a $5 yearly charge for a new picture pass that we can ignore. That’s the entire cost (monetarily) of taking the bus for me, but wait, remember that this is also a tax-deductible expense, so the actual after tax cost of this pass is lower than the above two prices (and I can get a yearly bus pass for even less).
That’s the bottom line in terms of cost. I won’t get esoteric and throw in newspapers to read on the bus or attractive Podcast subscription costs. That doesn’t count either.
Take My Car
The costs here add up rather quickly, but let’s go at them one at a time:
- My car is actually paid off, but given what it cost me, I could assume about a $250 a month charge to buy the car, but in this little experiment, let’s just leave out that cost (but keep it in mind, remember it’s total cost).
- My weekly gas charges are about $25 a week, and that is going to go up with gas currently at $1.10 a liter in Ottawa, so that translates to about $112.50 a month in gas costs (being liberal).
- To insure my car it costs about $700 a year, so that makes for about $60 a month in insurance charges
- Here is the real tipping point, I have to pay for parking at work, currently $6 a day (I can’t get a monthly pass yet, I am on a waiting list), given there is about 22 working days in a month, I am paying $132.00 in parking a month.
- Maintenance? It’s a pretty well behaved beast for now, but I am paying about $80 a month in maintenance charges for the year (I had a brake job done, and it is a 7 year old car).
- If I ignore (1) then I should take into account the dropping value of my car? I never understand that so we’ll leave that out of the calculations too.
So, that means I am spending $384 a month to run my car to work, which is After-Tax money, and it is not (in any way, shape or form) tax-deductible (and I have not even included the cost of buying the car). Note, the tax-deductible comment was back when bus pass costs were tax credits.
It’s Obvious Right?
Nope, because I end up weighing the fact that my drive to work takes 30 minutes usually, and I can go to work and return from work whenever I want. I don’t have to stand next to snarfing or coughing folk, picking up the latest flu, and having my environment around me (i.e., listening to whatever music I want).
If I take the bus, the trip might take anywhere from 60 minutes to 90 minutes depending on whether I make my connections, and I must go when the bus runs, and if I miss a link, it could take even longer.
I know I should take the bus, and I may eventually relent and do that, but I continue to take my car to work for now. Still, convenience and how I value my time must be factored into this (anyone wishing to Kibitz on these numbers, feel free). I don’t have that many vices left in my life: I don’t smoke, I don’t drink lattes, and I don’t drink in bars, but is this me rationalizing a wrong financial decision? I am mature enough to say, Maybe.
My musings prove that the catchphrase to remember on this blog is Do as I SAY, not as I DO!
I completely understand your arguments, but I’m of the opposite opinion. Having lived most of my life in places without public transit, a bus pass feels like freedom to me.
I love having the option to hop on, hop off without worrying about parking. I also don’t mind the ride since I can have a snack, listen to my ipod, read a newspaper, get some work done all while I commute! I also LOVE the transitway and passing the slow moving or stopped cars during rush hour. I love being able to have a drink when out with friends downtown and not have to arrange a drive. I also love the extra exercise it gives me on a regular basis.
I miss the bus. If I still lived in Ottawa, I’d keep my car for groceries, emergencies, weekend outings, etc., but I’d definitely take the bus to work, as long as my workplace was on a decent route. I realize that some places just aren’t practical for taking the bus.
Mostly this post makes me miss Ottawa. 😛
I have done these calculations for many of my clients and in event if the numbers show the bus is cheaper most make a decision to spend the extra 200 – 300 dollars a month.
In fact for many that lease a new car the total costs are upwards of 10,000 a year for nice new car and the convenience to drive to corner store.
What most will do to have “the freedom” to drive is great for car dealers, gas stations, oil companies and the service stations.
If I did not do meetings at my client’s homes I would sell my car and take bus!
You can do away with your car completely so some basic costs will remain whether you take it to work or not.
Also, it protects you from the elements like rain and snow. It beats stand in raining or -15C weather for a bus.
There is always a small price to pay of convenience but that this why we are working hard to earn money. Not only to make our life a bit convenient and easy but all that of our family.
This of course is going to be different for everybody. For me I bike for half the year (may-oct) and it takes me about 25 min. The bus takes about the same so the time difference is negligible. If I drove I would probably have to leave earlier so I could find parking (at $8/day) until such time as I could find a monthly spot. Assuming I could find a monthly spot. And if I could I am almost guaranteed to have a 10 minute walk between office & car, so driving would actually take marginally longer.
Bussing also means I can spend 25 minutes reading instead of fighting stupid drivers.
$71 (before tax credit) bus pass is a lot cheaper than the cost of parking, fuel and aggravation.
The latte drinkers don’t take the bus, we drive our new cars 🙂
Sounds like you are paying $270 extra a month for the following:
1. up to 44 extra hours a month, where you can attend to your family and leisure
2. more flexible and freedom to come and leave work
3. your preference of privacy and hygienic practice
I’d say you’re getting more than fair value for your $270 per months. $270 over 44 hours is like $6. Your time is worth way more than $6/hr Even if you spend that extra 44 hours working at McDonald’s for minimum wage, you’ll still come up ahead.
Don’t sweat it.
Interesting, I guess the Granola Crunching Latte Drinkin’ Mass Transit Using crowd isn’t reading my posts any more?
I need to do the math soon as my insurance is up for renewal (had it payed for a full year in a lump sum). One thing to remember is that if you switch to taking the bus to work you are likely still keeping the car insured, so while it will decrease slightly by being registered as only for personal use, that cost will not drop to zero.
Time for the Big Cajun wife to wade in…….Based on some of your logic, I wouldn’t put car payments and maintenance in your arguments. You still have to make car payments and have regular maintenance even if the car is home sitting in the driveway. It still has to be done.
The decision is further clouded by our children’s schedules. You have been able to drop off at school for early morning sports practices, pick up after practices/meetings and be able to go to watch games. Good luck trying to do that on the bus!
I think $6 a day is a price I’m willing to pay for you to be an equal partner in the management of our family. When the kids are gone, then it will be time to think about this issue again.
It’s hard to put a price on the freedom to leave and return when you please instead of having to factor in the bus schedule. You also have the freedom to rush out during lunch for some important errand. Public transit would have to get a lot better before I would give up these things.
I just went through the same calculation as you. Similar situation – car is paid, maintenance is minimal (it’s so old I just remove what ever breaks and hope it wasn’t critical, works so far, as long as it doesn’t rain).
I don’t have to pay for parking though; and I’m not doing any fancy calculations/depreciations/etc.
In the end, public transit is barely cheaper than driving my car but I give up a lot of freedom (especially where I work). Not to mention evenings, weekends, and kid’s activities.
It’s really hard to be fiscally prudent (or environmentally conscientious) at that price difference!
Yup, the tipping point for me is paying for parking. Maybe I’ll bike instead (next spring).