Monday, November 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

I was running late this morning (what else is new? I'm so not a morning person) and debated whether to drive or to take the train. The train won out, but it got me to thinking about costs and what I'm saving or whether I am actually saving anything. So, I decided to do a Pro/Con list between driving and the train.

Commuting on the Train - Time
I leave my house at 6:45 AM to get to the train station by 7:00 to take the p508 which leaves Grafton at 7:09 AM. I get to South Station by 8:25 ... on a good day. Then, it takes me about 15-20 minutes to either walk or take the Silver Line to my office in the Seaport District and I'm at my desk between 8:40 and 8:45. So, we're talking a two hour commute door to door. Ugh.

At night, it's not much better. I cannot make the 5:00 train on a daily basis, so that leaves me with the 5:35, which is a local train making all stops from Boston to Grafton and gets me to Grafton at around 7:00 ; or the 6:15 train which is an express and gets me to Grafton at 7:19. So, I get home between 7:15-7:40.

Driving - Time
I live in central Massachusetts, approximately 40 miles one way into Boston. Without traffic, I can make it one way in about 65 minutes. With traffic, it takes about 90 minutes. The thing is, I can leave later in the morning and still make it to work at the same time and this includes a 10 minute coffee stop. The other benefit is being on my own schedule and not a slave to the train schedule, which is especially helpful at night. When I drive, I am usually home by 6:30 PM.

Advantage: DRIVING

Commuting on the Train - Cost
My monthly pass costs $250. I can use this on the commuter rail and any subway or bus, which works out well because I take the Silver Line a lot.

Parking used to be $10/week, but next week it will go up to $20/week. So, my monthly commuting costs on the train are $330/month.

Driving - Cost
When my office moved to the Seaport area earlier this year, we received a subsidy for parking. If I elect to park, my monthly parking costs would be $135.

Tolls are $5.80 round trip on the Pike. As for gas, I would envision needing at least two fill ups per week, at an estimated cost of $60. Thank goodness gas prices have come down over the last few months, or this wouldn't even be an option.

So, anticipated monthly costs of driving are about $490. I didn't factor in wear & tear on my car though, I'm sure there's a fancy formula way to do this.

Frankly, I think MBTA costs are only going to go up in the future.

Advantage: TRAIN

Commuting on the Train - Sanity
First and foremost, one of the main reasons I take the commuter rail is to reduce my carbon footprint. I don't want to drive if I can get away with taking the train. I also like taking the train when it's snowing out ... I avoid driving in snow as much as possible.

I will say that I am able to get things accomplished on the train that I couldn't do while driving, like take a nap or finish a book. When the train runs on time, the commute is a piece of cake. It's on the days when the train is late, breaks down, goes slowly for no reason or when my pass isn't collected that I question my own sanity.

One day I do not have to question my sanity is the day before Thanksgiving. The train is usually packed and I watch the Mass Pike from my seat to see all of the people sitting in traffic, feeling sorry for the drive ahead of them. I've been there, one time it took me almost three hours to get to Worcester from Boston ... not fun at all.

Driving - Sanity
It is convenient to have a car handy, especially when there are after work functions or I just want to get home at a halfway decent time. I'm not saying that traffic isn't frustrating, believe me, driving in Boston isn't a picnic and it's not always so convenient.

Advantage: TRAIN, only because of the beneficial environmental impact

So, what have we learned from this exercise? Public transportation should be a convenient, inexpensive and efficient means of transportation. On a daily basis, I would say convenient and efficient is covered, but as the cost of everything increases, so will the cost to take the train. I'm going to have to decide what trade-offs I'm willing to make and to decide whether to continue taking the train.

P.S. today's commute was three minutes behind schedule, the p508 arrived at South Station at 8:26 AM.

P.P.S. Don't even get me started on the cluster that was the Silver Line this AM.


Anonymous said...

I'm as big a fan of ditching the MBTA as anyone, but if I read this correctly, your monthly parking of $135 and tolls (even at only 20 days a month) of $116 total $251 - $31 more than the $220 total mentioned in the post. Add in $80 a week in gas and you're at a projected monthly driving cost of around $571, or $241 more expensive than the train. As you pointed out, this doesn't even account for the increased wear/tear and depreciation on the vehicle.

Anonymous said...

I just recently started driving in from Milford to Cambridge for this exact reason. With two kids in school, the convenience of my own car won since the cost and the time do not make it worth it to take the commuter rail.

I was disappointed since I figured when I took the job, the T would save me money, decrease my carbon footprint and allow me to catch up on reading.

Oh well, back on the road now!

Train Rider said...

anonymous #1,

I think you're right, I made a mistake in my calculation. If tolls are 5.80 a day, that would be $116 per month. I was thinking more abotu the gas though, and I think the fill ups would be less, say $60/week. So, that would be a little under $490/month to drive, which is less than the T.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not trying to be a nudge, but how is $490 less than $330?? No offense, but sounds like the kind of Grabauskas math that got the MBTA in this problem to begin with...

Anonymous said...

I estimate depreciation to be 20 cents per mile for my minivan(hmmm..there isn't a cent symbol on my keyboard..).

Vehicle cost = $30k, and I expect to get 150k miles out of it, so $30k/150k = 0.2 dollars per mile.

From Northboro to Cambridge is 75 miles round trip = $15.

With gas, tolls, and parking I calculate it costs twice as much to drive than to take the train. Add the stress of driving and it's a no-brainer for me.

Except tonight. Somebody puked his brains out upstairs on the second car from the rear on the P523. Ugh. What does the P stand for, anyway?

Train Rider said...

again, my math is all effed up! it's not cheaper to drive, it's cheaper to take the train. I did update the initial post with the right numbers. although once a comment is posted, you can't update or amend it.

thanks for the feedback!!

Anonymous said...

you are dead on - it's cheaper to take the train, but with the exception of snowy days - that's the only thing better than driving.

i hate the train but i can't afford to drive as much as i'd like.

however i have been driving this week - and the fast lane changes at 128 are making me nervous. i had mentioned before that there wasn't a lot of traffic so i couldn't gage the effects, but now the left two lanes back up past 128.

it hasn't been too bad as i've been paying cash in order to zip thru on the right lanes, but that's only b/c 128 hasn't been backed up lately.

i can not even imagine the traffic on the days when 128 backs up. Then none of the lanes will be moving. Before you could usually squeeze by on the far left, but no more!

my fondest dream is a train ride from Worc to Boston that takes an hour. None of this 2 hour door to door garbage.

Train Rider said...

The two hour door to door train trip is just that ... garbage.

The p508 used to run like clockwork. I'd leave my house at 7:00 and would be at work by 8:25. Well, those days are long gone.

The thing that makes me laugh the most, the "new" schedule whereby they just extended train times to account for their lateness never even helped ... the trains are still late!!!!