Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On Riding the Bus

My car was damaged by a quickie oil change facility: they cracked the oil pan, and I noticed the leak last Saturday at the farmers market. I immediately took the car back to the shop, and because it was clearly their fault, the business has agreed to install a new oil pan free of charge. I was actually surprised not to have to fight harder; I guess customer service is not entirely dead. The whole process is dragging out, though, because they have to get the check to purchase the oil pan from a regional district manager, and then order the part, and then wait for it to come in. The latest update suggests the part will arrive Saturday, and will be installed for me on Sunday.

Despite the protestations of the automotive staff that my leak was no big deal, and it would be fine to drive as long as I keep adding a quart of oil every other day (they even gave me a few quarts), I haven't been driving the car. I don't want to be spewing oil all over the city -- that stuff is nasty. I am not too happy having the oil pool up in my driveway either. I talked my way into some absorbent pads that I have placed under the car, and that helps, but it is still icky. Does anyone have any tips for how to safely clean the film off the driveway once my car stops leaking? Because there is still a bit of a sheen under the pads.

But the bus... I have been riding the city bus to and from work the last few days, and I am loving it. The stop is right around the corner from my house, and I get off one block from the office. It takes 20-25 minutes each way, slightly longer than it would were I to drive myself, but it is so much more interesting. The overheard conversations, the sociological observations, the stimulating sights, sounds, and smells. It is truly fabulous! I am so glad for this opportunity to find out how accessible and convenient the bus routes are in this neighborhood.

Although I will definitely use the bus more often even after my car repairs are complete, especially in bad weather, I may not continue to use it every day. The sad truth is the bus is more expensive for me than driving. At 2.9 miles from my driveway to the fifth floor of the parking garage, my roundtrip commute is just under 6.0 miles per day, or 30 miles per week. Using round numbers again for simplicity, my car gets about 30 mpg. This means I use approximately 1 gallon of gas per week for my roundtrip commute, a cost of about $4. Riding the bus is $1 each way, so my total expenses for a week of commuting would be $10.

Of course there is the hidden cost of wear and tear on the vehicle, extra maintenance costs and such. However, I can't see those expenses equating to $6 for 30 miles. Part of the discrepancy comes because my employer covers my parking expenses, providing us each with an entry card to a covered parking garage, a value of $90-100 per month. If I had to pay that myself, the bus would certainly be more economical. The bus service offers weekly and monthly passes, but at $10/week or $40/month, it doesn't save riders any money unless we ride more often than just commuting.

Now of course I must solve the dilemma: be cheap and drive my car, or be green and take the public transport? So many choices.


Aliki2006 said...

It's tough to choose between being green and being cheap. Too bad the bus isn't cheaper--that would make the most sense!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I used to love to ride the bus and read or write, but I had a much longer ride. Much less stressful too than fighting traffic. I could turn my attention elsewhere. (I really hate driving--commute type, anyway). But your commute is so short, it wouldn't have the same benefits. I wrote several whole NOVELS on the bus--and lots of poems.

So sorry to hear about your car and about the oil spill. John P at the DEC might be able to advise you.

Sara said...

Does your employer subsidize the bus? Would they be open to subsidizing the bus if you suggested it as a choice between the parking and the bus?

My employer subsidizes the bus to cut down on the need to provide parking. Strike that - my employer completely underwrites the bus for short trips and for longer trips if you give up your parking pass.

There's nothing nicer than walking out your unshoveled walk on a snowy morning and climbing onto a nice, warm, bus -- knowing that if you have to, you can wait until the snow melts rather than shovelling it!

Stacy said...

Tough decision! I thouroughly enjoy riding the bus. Gives me time to read and wind down - or wake up. Glad you tried it though - know you at least know your options!

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Electronic Goose said...

I've heard kitty litter works to soak it up...

The bus is more interesting--and gives you time to read, look out the window, etc.

You should convince your boss to cover public transit as well as parking--in your case, it would be cheaper for them.

Electronic Goose said...

Of course, now I read that I wrote the same as Sara ... Oops. :)

BlackenedBoy said...

Go with cheap, trust me. While it may sound selfish, saving money is of the utmost importance, particularly now.

Speaking of which, I am extremely jealous of your "commute" and your commuting costs; four dollars a week? I spend about fifty dollars on gas each week to make the one-and-a-half-hour trip to Major University four days a week.

This week I'm lucky, though; thanks to the convenient convergence of the Columbus Day holiday and a lack of any new information being given out in class in advance of my midterms, I will have only a two-day load this week.

It's very nice.

Do you live in the suburbs very near to Snowstorm City, or do you live in the city itself?

If my commute were that light, the maintenance costs that irk me now would probably seem like nothing.