Commuting Economics

10 Townsend Took the BART to the East Bay yesterday, a route I usually drive, and talked with a neighbor, and fellow commuter. He gets commuter checks – 60$/month- but that doesn’t cover the entire SF/Oakland commute. SF Muni Monthly pass costs $45. BART costs 7$/day roundtrip. So he’d need roughly $120 for BART, plus the MUNI pass- $165 to pay for the entire lot. So commuter checks helps him about 30% of the way there. He drives once in a while to offset cost. Bridge toll is $3 one way, and gas, and insurance/car fixes, registration, random tickets. The cost of owning a car- is it $165 month? My bad math follows:

Well, if you have a garage in the city you may be paying 100$+ within your rent or mortgage cost for the car. Gas seems to be from 25-40$ a visit, and if you only drive to work and back that woudl be 2 visits a month (80$). So 100 + 80- that’s $180. Commuting wins by a slim margin.

Then there’s the pros and cons of BARTing from a lifestyle perspective. You can chat with neighbors, read, catch up on the news. In a car you can listen to NPR, but you’re pretty isolated. Driving, if you drive the right times, can take about 20-30 minutes from where we live to work. The BART journey yesterday, and we met all connections with an eerie luck, was 1 hour door to door. We discussed carpooling- that is probably the best route. The carpool lane going over the Bay Bridge is a dream. Problem is coordinating our schedules- mine is far different than his.

A nod to other solutions: FlexCar & RideShare.

5 Comments so far

  1. Moorlock (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 6:19 pm

    Ever hear of Bart Plus? Gets you on BART and gets you unlimited Muni rides to boot.

  2. Nancy (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 6:29 pm

    Yeah, each person has to do the math to see if going carless will work for them. For some, it just won’t.

    In addition to the regular vehicle ownership costs, there are other potential costs – parking garage space in my neighborhood runs more like $250/mo (I periodically priced it for years, hoping to find a deal) and whether or not you pay for parking at your end destination. For me, days I drove my car to work cost me $8 – $24 for parking. If I tried to swing it with metered parking, I’d have to factor in the inevitable parking ticket – $50. Ouch.

    I am SO thankful that my situation is supported by public transit and the occasional shared-car use. I’ve lived in Germany and various locations in the US without owning a car, and I attibute a lot of my affinity for locales with being truly ‘in’ them – aware of and in contact with the local color.

    And living life without experiencing Road Rage?

  3. Victoria E (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 6:31 pm

    If you must use a car, go with ZipCar (; they are righteous!

  4. Chester (unregistered) on November 29th, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

    Keep in mind that true cost of auto ownership should include not just parking/storage and gas, but also…
    – The actual cost of the car. I.e. car loan payments.
    – Driver’s insurance.
    – All maintenance/repair expenses (mechanic’s fees, replacement headlight bulbs, aromatic pine tree effigies, etc.).

    In the end, the tally makes public transportation fares far more appealing.

  5. Henry Ford (unregistered) on November 30th, 2006 @ 1:34 am

    The cost of owning a car and asking “is it better to drive/rent/public transport for a given trip” are two different problems.

    The first is fairly objective: how much does something cost … althought certainly to some extent it is affected by personal factors [parking costs can be affected by where you live … from $0 to +$200]. The other is a question of what is better, which is highly subjective and depend on an individual’s “preference curves” [do you really really hate taking the bus?] as well as somebody’s circumstances [do you live near public transportation, is flextime an option at your job]. The second is also more of a marginal cost analysis. This is illustrated by say deciding whether it is better to drive or fly to LA.

    One way to do some analysis might be to use the IRS number for driving tax credit … isnt that $.3x now?

    I hope you car-less people buy a drink for your car-ful friends everytime they have to drop you off or pick you up.

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