Gas Prices and Public Transportation

Cincinnati Metro is claiming that they are getting more ridership as gas prices go up. Good for them. I'm not one of them.

Some of you may know that I rode the bus for a year when we moved back down to Cincy. I got on in Norwood, and rode the 51 straight to my building at UC. Total time was about 35-40 minutes (including walk). Otherwise, it would take me 20 minutes to drive, and another 5-10 to walk from where ever I could find a parking spot on the street. And when I first started, it was free to ride the bus. Really a no brainer on my part. When we first got here, I didn't even have a car. I did purchase my Land Rover about 9 months after we got here. And the deal UC had with Metro fell apart enough that it isn't even worth getting the rider card anymore. Basically the same price as a normal monthly pass.

When we moved to the Finneytown area I investigated riding the bus again as it is such a pain to park, and it is fun to be able to watch a TV show or read during the commute. But I found that it would now take about an hour each way for the ride. And 20 minutes of that would be standing at a stop waiting on my connecting bus to take me downtown and then back up to UC. Just looking at the time, it doesn't look like a very good idea. But what do the numbers say?

Lets look at costs, both time and money:

By bus:

Using the "Trip Planner" from Metro's website, the fastest trip to get me to work in the morning will take 51 minutes at a cost of $3.15 for a cash rider. I would need to be at the bus stop by 7:10 at the latest. 17 minutes for the first leg, then a 23 minute wait at a stop, and then a 12 minute ride from there. That doesn't count the 10 minutes it will take me to walk from my house to the stop, nor the 10 minutes to walk from the stop on the wrong side of MLK to my office. So that is 71 minutes at a cost of $3.15 to get to work.

Coming home its even worse. I work roughly 8-5 or 8:15 to 5:15. The bus leaves to go home at 4:48 or 4:51 depending on the route I take. This gets me to the bus stop near home at around 6. The next bus isn't till 5:30. And I wouldn't get home till 6:30 with this bus. This is also a cost of $3.15

So best case, I am looking at 2.4 hours, and $6.30 to ride the bus. Every day.

By vehicle:

I drive a 1995 Land Rover Discovery. It is a gas guzzeling hog of a vehicle that takes premium. I love it ;).

I leave for work around 7:30 in the morning, and depending if I swing through MCD's or not, I am parking on the steet at work around 7:50-8:00. I then walk 5-10 minutes from my truck to the office to get in between 8 and 8:15. On the way home, I leave the office around 5:15, walk 5-10 minutes, get to the Rover, and am home between 5:45 and 6 depending on traffic. So its 25-35 minutes each way. The Rover gets an average of 12.3 MPG, and my commute is roughly 8 miles each way, so 1.3 gallons a day. This morning gas was at 3.92 a gallon for premium (note, this was written on 04/07), so lets say $5.1 a day for fuel (my average according to my log is $4.93 for fuel). (If I count maintenance and the purchase price of the vehicle into the calculation, I am looking at an additional $6.79/ day.)

So if I drive, I am looking at 1.2 hours, and $5.10 every day.

Some other notes before we compare these two figures. The bus puts a rigid schedule on my trips. As an engineer, my schedule isn't rigid and sometimes I stay late to finish something, or get stuck in the field investigating and can't leave till later. So on those days, I could end up waiting at the office for a later bus. I sometimes run errands after work picking up groceries. In Norwood, it was simple to walk from the grocery store home, in Finneytown, not so much. The biggest thing to note, and why I don't count traffic times really, is that the bus and my car will travel on roughly the same streets, so any traffic jam that would disrupt my driving commute would also disrupt my bus commute.

So lets compare the numbers. Everything will be converted to $$ assuming I earn $10/hour (Time with my kids is worth considerably more, but it makes calcs easy).

Bus: 2.4 hours($24) and $6.30= $30.3
Car: 1.2 hours($12) and $5.1= $17.1

As you can see, at the current price of gas, with a lousy MPG car, it makes absolutely no sense for me to ride the bus.

Even if I include the maintenance and purchase price of my vehicle ($0.334/mile) it is

Bus: $30.3
Car: $22.44

Gas needs to climb to $14.08 a gallon (or $8.85 a gallon with everything included) to just break even… And that is only valuing my time at $10 an hour, as I mentioned before, my time with my sons is worth much more than that.

So, how does riding the bus for anyone who lives near me and works at UC make any sense at all???

If Metro changes routes in my area, I will look again, but most people I talk to who work at UC (largest employer in Cincy, plus 35k students) don't want to ride downtown to then ride a bus back to UC.