Miss Lemon Volvo has been taking the train to work off and on all summer due to her consistently broken vehicle. Good thing public transit will still get her to work even though it’s a bit convoluted. Not everyone has that luxury. It turns out that her route to work on public transit it’s significantly more expensive than paying for gas if you don’t buy the monthly pass.
After talking to her I did some math. Due to all the different connections she has to make (subway + commuter rail + bus, all are separately owned by dif companies) it comes out to almost $18/day for her to get to work. Not to mention an hour and 20 minutes each way. That’s around $90/week (13 hours of commuting) or $360/month (52 hours of commuting) if you paid as you went. It’s much easier to buy a monthly pass which is equivalent to about 2 weeks of paying as you go. Better yet, see if your employer will cover some or all of the cost. Myself and several of my friends have the latter benefit from our employers, making it extremely attractive to ride public transit every day (FO FREE!).
I had a good chat with Miss Lemon Volvo and we came to the conclusion that having a car does have it’s perks. Freedom to travel outside of the city whenever you want plus having the comfort (and sanitation) of being in your own space instead of on a bus or train. However, a few headaches (traffic and damages) and wallet-draining experiences (damages and tickets) are unavoidable.
First there’s the monthly payments ($200-$400/month), then the excise tax ($25 per $1000 valuation on your car), the gas ($100-200/month just for commuting), the insurance ($100-150/month for a typical yuppie), the parking in the city ($150-200/month), and then various parking tickets, speeding tickets, tolls, and damages. You could easily spend $600-$1000/month having a car in the city assuming you don’t get into an accident or get any parking/speeding ticket(s).
Transit passes range from $60 (subway and bus) to $260 (everything including the ferry) per month. So even at its most expensive you’re still saving money compared to having a car in the city. I realize that many people don’t have the option to take public transit to work but it seems like most of those people live in the suburbs and don’t pay $200/month just to park their car.
Now I’m going to go onto a schpeal about car sharing. If you’re already savvy with Zipcar and Relay Rides then you can stop reading now. Or if I’ve lost your interest b/c I’m not telling stories about wacky commuters anymore, then feel free to get back to your facebook browsing.
I frequently use Zipcars (a few times/month when I really need them; groceries, IKEA, Home Depot, etc) and they range from $7-12/hour. They are great for city-slickers as they are parked all over Boston but if you live in the suburbs good luck finding one. You just login online, reserve the car for the timeslot you want, and then boom you’re done. While in college I used it about once/week for an hour or so to get groceries. Over 52 weeks that’s $364/year, roughly about what I was paying for my old car car for ONE MONTH. It’s great for hour-per-hour use, but over a weekend ($89/day) you’re better off renting a car from Hertz (~$60/day).
If you’re in either the city or the suburbs you can look into Relay Rides which is like Zipcar but for peer-peer car sharing. For the car-less it’s the same deal, you register with the website, login, select the timeslot you want, and you pay $5-10/hour (slightly less than Zipcar). If you own a car you can register it with Relay Rides and they give you a $1million insurance policy and some other CYA (read: cover your ass) perks. Check out the website for details but it’s another option on the table to help make living without the financial burden of owning a vehicle. The average person who rents out their car makes $250/month, sweet deal, that’s pretty much a car payment right there.
This post turned out to be a longer post than I anticipated, but the point is, many of us sink $1000’s of dollars into owning a vehicle (especially city slickers) when you really only NEED a car a few times/week. Look into public transit reimbursements at your job/school many places offer it, it helps bring the cost burden of public transit down to a manageable (or free) level. I got rid of my car, moved downtown, and I’m actually saving money by living in the city, it’s not too difficult it just takes some lifestyle changes to make it happen. Either way I’d rather be sitting on a train sleeping, reading, eating, chatting with strangers, than sitting in an hour of Boston traffic. N.F.W.