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Save Gas By Taking Public Transportation

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light rail tickets

The light rail is a very comfortable way to commute.

This is a post from December 2010. Now that gas prices are skyrocketing, it’s definitely worth your time to consider other forms of transportation.ย 

At my company, we can file an expense report to get $30/month reimbursement for public transportation. Now, 30 bucks is not a lot toward train tickets. A one way ticket costs $2.35 $2.40 and I need to get two tickets every day. $30 only buy 6 days of tickets, about 25% of the work month.

I try to split my commute to half driving and half public transit. The $30 does make a big difference for me because without this incentive, I probably would drive everyday. It takes 30 minutes to drive to work and about one hour on the public transit. One hour is a long time, but I usually have a finance book to read or just take a nap.

Why do I split driving and public transit? It’s because driving in a traffic jam makes me nuts. I hate it with a passion. If there is a traffic jam, it could take more than an hour to slog through the traffic to get home and I’d rather be snoozing on the train. If traffic is clear, I would be happy to drive to work everyday because half an hour goes by pretty quick (17 miles.) So why don’t I take public transport everyday? If you take public transport, you would already know the answer to this question. Noisy people on the cell phone talking about some crazy intimate subject, ripe homeless folks, punk kids being annoying, iPods that I can hear 5 rows away, and many more fine upstanding citizens share my ride. My noise canceling head phones went out a while back so now I’m using cheap earbuds which can not adequately block out the humanities. So yes, I just split driving and public transport so I don’t get too bored.

In any case, back to the subject at hand, it only takes about 5 minutes to fill out the form on the network and print it out. I think $30 for 5 minutes is a pretty darn good ROI! Also, I don’t have to pay tax on these $30 pops and I love anything that’s tax free. :)

I wish the company would give a bit more toward public transportation though. $50 would be just about right, 2 weeks of tickets. During the internet bubble, I got yearly passes for free. Ahh… the good old days.

Am I being cheap or is this a nice frugalicious move?

<2012 update> I’m taking public transportation a bit less these days. I drive baby RB40 to the daycare when the weather is bad and then just drive to work. I still take public transport once or twice a week, but plan to increase that in the summer. When the weather is a bit nicer, it will be easier to wait for the bus with a baby. If gas prices continue to rise, it will soon cost more to drive to work than taking the bus and light rail. Check if your company will reimburse for public transportation because it can save you some money every month.

 

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{ 46 comments… add one }

  • Money Infant March 5, 2012, 12:49 am

    We use public transportation exclusively here in Thailand, it’s great! The Skytrain and subway can get you most anywhere in the city for under $1. There are also motorcycle taxi’s that can get you somewhere even faster for $0.30-$0.50. And for long trips there are buses, vans and trains. A 3 hour trip from Bangkok to Hua Hin can be had for less than $10.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 6:51 am

      There are so many public transport options in Bangkok. It’s great and cheap. I couldn’t drive in Thailand anyway. The traffic is too crazy.

      • Invest It Wisely March 7, 2012, 9:14 am

        I was shitting bricks when the taxi was going 130km/h – 140km/h on a city street! Sure, the street had 4 lanes in each direction, but there are still red lights and cross traffic!

  • Michelle March 5, 2012, 6:19 am

    I wish we could take public transportation where I live, but it’s not safe or efficient. It would take nearly 2 hours for me to get to work, whereas it’s only 10 minutes by car.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 6:51 am

      Wow, that’s a big difference. How about biking? I guess if it’s not safe to take the bus, then it’s not safe to ride the bike either.

  • Dollar D @ The Dollar Disciple March 5, 2012, 8:36 am

    My commute is only 7 miles so I drive instead of taking the bus. It takes me 25 minutes by city streets without traffic and taking the bus would required 1.5 hours.

    I do want to start riding my bike when the weather gets nice!

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 11:47 am

      Biking is a great way to commute. It’s too bad that public transport doesn’t work for you.

  • Photon0312 March 5, 2012, 8:46 am

    I wish public transportation – and its money saving benefits – were an option where I live. I’m a good two miles from the nearest bus stop, and those two miles take me along highways – not ideal for walking, let alone walking safely!

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 11:47 am

      Two miles is a long way to walk. It doesn’t work for everyone.

  • frugalportland March 5, 2012, 9:43 am

    I think this is one area where our fair city FAILS big time. Public transportation is very expensive. Even now, when I live less than one mile from work, it would cost me $4.20 a day, or $81 a month to ride the bus. When I bought my car two years ago, I realized that my car payment would only be double the bus rate, and that’s what cemented my decision. Sure, your company could offer better incentives, but let’s be real — it’s Trimet who is at fault here, and they’re the reason there are mostly people who ride free or people who work for companies that offer GREAT incentives on public transportation! Oops. End rant.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 11:49 am

      I think most cities in the US have comparable fares. If you factor in gas, car payment, insurance, parking, repair, and all the other incidentals, then driving cost much more than $81 a month right?
      In Asia, public transportation is much much more affordable.

      • frugalportland March 6, 2012, 9:24 am

        I don’t know, it’s only like $200/month, and the car payment eventually goes away!

        • retirebyforty March 6, 2012, 3:24 pm

          How much do you pay for insurance, gas, oil change, repair, etc…
          I agree that a car is A LOT more convenient than public transit, but the overall cost is more expensive.

  • Aloysa March 5, 2012, 12:09 pm

    I am taking a bus now. Every morning. Then Beaker comes and gets me on his way home. I love it because I definitely can see some good savings!

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 12:23 pm

      Did you sell the extra car? That will really save a lot of money. :)

  • Another Reader March 5, 2012, 1:48 pm

    I did public transportation many years ago in high school and college. There is no way I would use it on a regular basis today, even if it were convenient and cheap, which it is not. Public transportation is dirty, slow, crime-ridden, encouraging of rude and offensive behavior, and a great way to spread germs. No thanks. My health and safety and that of my family are worth the extra expense.

    Everyone favors “more public transportation.” Most people want it for the other guy, so they can drive in better conditions.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 9:01 pm

      Oh, I can’t believe all public transportation are like that. I’m sure the statistic will tell you the light rail is much safer than driving. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • krantcents March 5, 2012, 3:58 pm

    Do you have monthly passes? Both my children receive a subsidy to take public transportation, although it covers more of the cost. I wish it was more convenient for me.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 9:02 pm

      It’s not worth it for me to buy the monthly pass. The price is more than 20 days of tickets so it doesn’t make sense unless I use it on the weekend as well.

  • Julie @ Freedom 48 March 5, 2012, 5:01 pm

    That’s awesome that your company provides a partial reimbursement! What a great incentive. My husband and I carpool together to my work, and then he hops on the bus to go to his work (he works downtown where parking is $200/month…whereas parking at my work is free). Nevertheless, he has to buy a monthly bus pass… which runs us $94 each month. Ouch!

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 9:02 pm

      $94 is still much cheaper than another car right? :)

  • Chuck March 5, 2012, 6:50 pm

    After the first spike in fuel costs a while back my wife and I both began car pooling more, riding public transportation and riding a bike. Fuel cost are a joke lets slow down and walk of some fat America…

  • Tie the Money Knot March 5, 2012, 8:00 pm

    With gas prices what they are now, public transportation is an even more appealing option. I try to do so when I can, even with the parking fee I have to pay when getting to a train :)

    Also, noting your update, it’s definitely harder to take public transportation with young children. When with a young child, I say forget public transport and go with the car.

    • retirebyforty March 5, 2012, 9:04 pm

      I don’t like waiting with the baby when it’s cold and rainy outside. When the weather is nice, we don’t mind much. Baby RB40 is used to public transportation now and he behaves very well in public. He likes the streetcar much more than riding in the van.

  • Darwin's Money March 5, 2012, 8:03 pm

    Makes sense; governments entice this type of behavior with cost-efficient modes of transport, infrastructure and higher tolls/taxes on individual commuter use. Remember those HOV lanes by the way? What ever happened to them?

    • Invest It Wisely March 7, 2012, 7:39 am

      They still exist here, sort of. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:01 am

        We have a few HOV lanes left on the most busy stretch of the freeway. There is also an HOV lane for freeway entrances. I’ve seen a lot of cops camping out at the freeway entrances lately because so many single occupancy cars are taking that entry lane.

  • MoneyCone March 6, 2012, 8:38 am

    If I lived in a city like Chicago or Boston, I would totally forgo my car! I wish American cites were more like European cities – well connected with a good public transportation system.

    • retirebyforty March 6, 2012, 3:23 pm

      I agree. European and Asian cities have a lot better public transportation options and they are more affordable.

  • Bethy @ Credit Karma March 6, 2012, 10:07 am

    This is a great frugal tip, for those who live is cities suited to public transportation. I save by taking public transportation / walking or driving my scooter ($4 to fill up the take every couple of weeks). It’s a shame that more American cities aren’t connected via proper public transportation.

    • retirebyforty March 6, 2012, 3:26 pm

      A scooter would be great. They are becoming more and more popular.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc March 6, 2012, 10:57 am

    I have the same sentiment as Bethy. I think this is location specific. If you live someplace with a great transportation system, it can be totally advantageous to take travel via public buses and trains; however, some cities just don’t seen to have the right infrastructure and make traveling in this manner difficult.

    • retirebyforty March 6, 2012, 3:26 pm

      That’s true. I can’t argue with that.

  • Well Heeled Blog March 6, 2012, 2:02 pm

    If I remember correctly, you are in Southern California, right? I just don’t see how public transportation is a reasonable choice for anyone unless they work or live near a metro stop. And even then it’s expensive depending on which “zones” you are in.

    • retirebyforty March 6, 2012, 3:27 pm

      No, I’m in Portland. I lived in Southern CA before and I don’t think public transport works there. Everything is too spread out.

  • YFS March 6, 2012, 2:03 pm

    I currently take the train to work (when I have to go in) saves, gas and time. I freakin’ hate driving!

    • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:02 am

      Heh heh, I hear you. Driving isn’t that bad, it’s the rush hour traffic that riles me up.

  • CultOfMoney March 6, 2012, 8:07 pm

    I’m a big fan of the bus, but I do drive to the park and ride / transit center to make things quicker. My bus ride averages about 45 minutes a day, but if I didn’t drive the couple miles to the P&R, it would be almost double that as the bus winds it way through the burbs. Besides hating sitting in traffic myself, paying for parking gets to me too.

    • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:03 am

      I hate paying for parking as well. I’m a lot like George Costanza. :)

  • BE @ BusyExecutiveMoneyBlog March 6, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Not many practical public transportation options in the south where I live, but back in northern california, I loved taking the BART everywhere I went.

    • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:03 am

      I took the BART once, 20 years ago. It was pretty cool back then. :)

  • Invest It Wisely March 7, 2012, 7:36 am

    I take the subway downtown and only drive on the weekends. The fares keep going up though, so it’s nearly more cost effective to drive. The subway is faster, though, and no parking hassles.

    • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:04 am

      I’ll probably do that once I leave my job.

  • Invest It Wisely March 7, 2012, 7:37 am

    P.S. Light rail wasn’t that a huge taxpayer boondoggle? Seems like a big waste of money to me. The subway here on the other hand is actually profitable AFAIK.

    • retirebyforty March 7, 2012, 9:05 am

      Yeah, our light rail is losing money. I’m not sure what is the big difference with subways? The initial investment cost is much higher with subways and our city is too small for that.

      • Invest It Wisely March 7, 2012, 9:11 am

        Yeah, if the city is too small you guys should stick to buses and bike lanes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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