Monday, July 16, 2007

PEI Public Transit: Hard on your wallet and the evironment

I've occasionally been commuting to work via a mixture of public transit and driving our car. To ease on wear and tear of our vehicle, I've have been toying with the idea of getting a monthly bus pass. The cost for a single bus trip is $2 (see UPDATE below)

You can see the route here and it works out to be just over 6 kilometers. Conveniently enough, I've also been tracking our mileage on the car for the past 3 months and have built up a good data set. The pink line is the average #L/100km while the straight blue line is the trendline.Our average mileage for this time period was 9.7L/100km.

With this information I can see roughly how much it would cost in gasoline to drive to work for every 5-day work week. Six kilometers there and back = 12 km round trip gives 60km per week and 240 km/month. This distance equates to 23.3L. If I take the average gas price for this time period to be $1.17/L (I kept track of prices as well) then this amount of gas would run me $27.24.

This is significantly cheaper than the $50 per month student bus pass. A regular pass costs $60. Thus in order to break even on the student pass I would have to drive an extra 200 kilometers per month which would cost $22.76 in fuel. These extra kilometers would have to be in areas where the bus services of course. As well, gas prices are always fluctuating so those extra kilometers are just an estimate. For an extreme, gas prices would have to be $2.15/L for me to break even with no extra kilometers.

In addition to the high cost of the pass, there is also a time investment. It takes roughly 10 minutes to drive to my job. However, the adventure that is public transit begins at 6:54 am followed by a transfer at 7:21 am and finally arriving at work at 7:37am for a total of 42 minutes of transit. Coming home, the bus doesn't arrive until 20 minutes after my shift is over at 4:00pm, then there is a transfer at 4:40 and arriving at home at approximately 4:48. For those following a long, you'll note that the grand total for transit and wait time for the day is 90 minutes.

That is a lot of time to spend doing essentially nothing although it does give me a chance to read.

Finally, the environmental side. I find that many people do not take advantage of public transfer and the buses are usually quite empty. I am often the only passenger. It would be interesting to see what the break even point for a diesel engine versus several cars would be in terms of emissions. I think more people need to be using this service for it to help the environment in any significant way.

One can argue that the bus will be running anyways regardless of the number of passengers, so that by driving, you are only saving money at the expense of the environment. This is a valid point. However, using a portion of that $22.76 difference between fuel and bus pass, one can offset those C02 emissions by purchasing a re-usable shopping bag, purchase some CFLs, or some other green venture. Thus for now, I think the majority of my commuting will be done by car unless I can be convinced otherwise.

UPDATE: As mentioned, I have been using a mix of bus trips with public transit. Curious to see where the break even point was between a combination of both and just getting the pass, I fired up Excel and did a few calculations.

To drive to work assuming $1.17/L (we get midgrade), costs 11.4 cents per kilometer. If I buy a pass and just use it for work related commuting, the cost per kilometer is 20.8 cents. If you just pay $2 every trip, the cost is 33.3 cents per kilometer. Thus driving is actually cheaper per kilometer than public transit. This of course ignores maintenance related issues for my vehicle, but for 240 km, I'm assuming the cost is negligible. Our oil change is about $40 every 3 months so you could tack on an extra $13.33/month or 5.55 cents per kilometer to the driving cost and still end up saving money.

Assuming that I choose to continue what I am presently doing, if I take the bus 18 times and drive the remaining 22 trips, the cost is $51, at which point it would be cheaper to have just gotten the pass (ignoring the value of time concern described above).


schaef said...

It should be noted that you may be able to increase the mileage of your car by changing some of your driving habits or modifying your car. There are probably some websites touching on this issue, but I'll find them later. The easiest thing to do is to NOT floor it from every full stop. Keep a slow but steady acceleration, and you may be pleasantly surprised by how long a single tank lasts.

/one highway, zero city

Scholarly Warrior said...

Public transit is expensive. Dalhousie introduced the "Universal Pass" in Jan. 2006 which costs $110 for 8 months. Now that was a good deal.

/bigger than all outdoors

MoneyMusing said...

I posted about gas too

Dumbguy said...

I think you would/should also factor into the interest/extra you might be paying for a lease, and if you own said car you need to factor in a cost associated with yearly maintenance as your asset is depreciating

As well you also should factor in such fees as insurance, license, registration, inspections etc