Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Difficulty in Justifying Transit Commutes

My day job requires me to drive daily to Ladner, a 20km trip. The best time I've ever gotten in my Prius is around 20-25 minutes. Average trip is typically 30-35 mins, but the longest commute I've ever had was over an hour.

Since I'm going counter traffic, the main bottleneck on my journey is the Massey Tunnel, which normally has two lanes going either way but switches to 3 lanes rush traffic and 1 lane counter flow. This means that up four lanes of traffic will need to merge into a single lane before we can squeeze through the tunnel and pop out on the other side and spread back out. It's this wait that causes the ridiculously inconsistent drive time.

If I had a car pool buddy it would make a huge difference, but unfortunately that's not an option. I can, however, take the bus. With the new Canada Line complete and the buses rerouted to take advantage of that, I can make the trip in style with one quick skytrain ride and one comfortable and stress free bus ride. One transfer and roughly 50 minutes later I'll be at work, with a few blocks of walking to add valuable steps to my day to day activities.

The only thing stopping me is the price. It costs $5 to travel three zones, which makes a round trip a daily toll of $10. A book of 10 tickets is $38 while a monthly pass is $136. A tank of gas for my Prius costs around $35 ($25-$40 depending on rates) and lasts me the whole week (and a bit) including trips to Burnaby for Kick Boxing and night-time/weekend entertainment.

I most certainly will not be using the bus on weekends or on Monday/Thursdays when I need to rush home to prepare for Kick Boxing. Other days may get scheduled down the line as well, making a monthly pass a poor purchase, especially when it is just $4 cheaper than driving the whole month. Additionally, the average commute time is worse and does not allow for me to exercise in the morning before I take off.

What I will gain, however, is freedom to do whatever I want during the commute. Assuming the average commute was 30-45 minutes, that's 5-7.5 hours a week, 20-30 hours a month. If I was working during those times and earning minimum wage, I am losing $160-$240. And I can use that time for writing, no problem. But I'll also be napping, playing games, and reading the daily paper.

So you can see, it is hard to gauge whether taking the bus to work makes sense. There is no clear winner when considering time, cost, stress, convenience. When it snows later on this year, I will definitely be taking the bus, so those 3-zone tickets I bought yesterday is not money down the drain. In the meantime, I simply don't know if I want to make this a regular habit.

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