There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Adding up the savings from riding transit

I've written before about my own savings that accrue from leaving a car at home and taking the bus. And the penalty we pay for having the kid drive my old Dodge Caravan. Now we look at the wife's cash value from leaving another car at home.

The wife is something of a marvel on the phone, as I've explained before. Now she has worked her wonders on the California State Automobile Association, explaining to them that she is now riding transit. This allows the 1999 Dodge to be declared the car most often driven and places the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid in a much less costly insurance bracket. The cost of insuring the Dodge went up, but the drop in the cost of insuring the Honda was so great that the wife saved $898 a year overall.

Granted, adding the kid boosted our insurance costs $1,900 a year, but the wife's decision to ride transit drops that cost to $1,000 a year or a little more than $83 a month. And then there is the savings in gas.

When the wife commuted to work in the Honda, she would fill the tank once a week, generally around 11 gallons. At today's average price of $3.60 a gallon, that's just about $40 a week, or $173 and change a month. Now, instead of filling up once a week, the wife expects to fill up once a month, saving more than $133 a month.

Ah, but what about the cost of riding transit? you ask.

The wife buys a monthly pass for $85, but her employer reimburses her for 75 percent of that, making her ticket to ride for a month just $21.25, or something less than $5 a week. Now, since we're using RT's marginal suburban bus service, the wife pays the kid $20 a week in gas to take her to and from her bus stop, for an overall weekly cost of $25 to get to work, or less than $109 a month. So, even with the penalty the wife pays because of RT's inadequate service ($20 a week or around $87 a month to the kid), the wife still comes out ahead about $24 a month over what she paid in gas.

The wife expects to cover much of the rest of the kid's increased premium by making him complete a teen driver training program. Once he passes the program, CSAA will drop his insurance cost 30 percent.

According to American Automobile Association, the cost of driving a car increased $300 this year.

The 2008 edition of AAA's annual "Your Driving Costs" study estimates the overall cost of owning and operating a new vehicle at 54.1 cents per mile, up 1.9 cents from 2007.
For the wife and I, that means if we both returned to driving, we could expect the cost of commuting to work (a combined 38.6 miles round trip) to be about $20 a day. That's an amazing number.

I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that AAA doesn't see taking transit as an option.
"According to these results, consumers can save a lot of money by choosing smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles when it's time to buy a car," said Sean Comey, spokesperson for AAA of Northern California. "Another way to reduce costs is to shop aggressively for lower gas prices by using AAA's free Fuel Finder at"
It is really difficult to understand why Sacramento Regional Transit doesn't do more to advertise the value of leaving your car at home. Clearly, even RT's marginal service provides a significant savings over driving a car.

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