Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Exploring the Death Valley of Commute Options

Recently I argued that there was a "Death Valley of Commute Options" between transit and driving, If you're sick of the crowding on transit it costs a lot to upgrade to driving, and if you can then no longer afford to drive it's a big drop back to transit.

I was a little sloppy with the math behind the car options, and commenters like Christopher Parker and Joel Davis sorted me out. So here's the new version of my chart:

As you can see on the spreadsheet, I've included gas, parking, a car loan and insurance for a total cost of $24.48 each way. Parker claims that "the public uses its perception of the cost which is gasoline only," so I've provided a figure for that too, "Perceived car," which is $15.82.

Alon got ahead of me and pointed out that many civil (and uncivil, PDF) servants get free parking. In addition, most car owners park for free on the street, which would bring the cost down to $12.81.

If we do that, Death Valley almost disappears! But what if you don't live and work in the relatively small areas of the city where an express bus or commuter rail commute makes sense?

There's Death Valley again, especially if you don't have free parking. And what if you can't drive because of disability, prior conviction, or just wanting to be extra careful not to kill innocent people?

Humungous Death Valley, and the taxi option just seems like a silly luxury. That's why so many people drive in the city. The easiest way to get those people out of their cars is to offer a premium commute option, or at least let someone else try.


Alen said...

when i worked in queens i used to drive to work once a month or so just to do it. that was enough not to make me want to drive to work.

subway may be annoying, but at least you can relax and read a book or play a game. in a car you sit in traffic and can't do anything else

Jonathan said...

Please upgrade from using google spreadsheet or google docs to host your charts so that I and other network users whose access to shared-file sites is blocked by our employers can read your work.

Joseph E said...

It's great that "Subway" is a fast and cheap transit option. But 95% of trips in the US don't have a rapid transit option, which leaves an even wider chasm between Local Bus, and Taxi for short trips. Here in Portland I can ride light rail directly to work (because I specifically choose to live next to a station), but a bike is faster for almost every trip in the city, unless I am going miles away over the West Hills (where the train is again faster).

Express buses on the freeways would be great, if there were any HOV/Transit lanes, and BRT on some of the major routes would also help to provide a faster option between Local Bus and Car.

This is why Car2Go has been surprisingly popular - it's a nice, private transportation option that's cheaper than a taxi, faster and nicer than the bus, and lazier than riding your bike in the rain/dark.

Bike share would also improve options, by making it possible to make one-way bike trips. That way, if it gets dark or starts raining you can take the bus or a car-share on the way home, or vis-a-versa if the afternoon is nice and sunny after you took the bus in the morning.

Cap'n Transit said...

Jonathan, I don't know what "upgrade" you have in mind, but people like you with crazy bosses are a relatively small minority.

The Google Docs features allow me to dynamically update the charts, which has been a big help. If I hadn't had it, this post would probably have been finished a day earlier.

I'll try to accommodate your crazy boss. Just remind me if I forget. But don't give me a hard time for it.

Cap'n Transit said...

Okay, Jonathan, now the charts are linked to static images hosted on Picasaweb. Let me know if you have any problem with them.

Adirondacker12800 said...

I've included gas, parking, a car loan and insurance for a total cost of $24.48 each way.

Maintenance and the trials and tribulations of parking it in the Bronx count for something too. It doesn't make sense to own a car in Tremont. And you have to get far out into the suburbs to places where owning two cars makes sense. Unless your town builds almost free parking at the train station instead of running a shuttle bus through your neighborhood. Then a second car looks much better.