9.05.2008

People love their cars – a message from the Mr.

Does anyone remember the movie Singles? One of the characters in that movie had an idea for a super-train that would alleviate Seattle's commuter gridlock. One character after the other would tell him "Nah, it won't work. People love their cars."

Two years ago this month, Dana and I from one city to the next so I could take the Gold Line to work every day instead of driving. It's been a good move for us on many levels, and has made life a little more affordable for us here in California. As for the move to mass transit, here are the benefits:

• I probably save about 70% (probably $10 savings) on my daily commute by not having to pay for parking or fill my gas tank once a week.
• I think my truck racks up about half as many miles in a year now.
• Our car insurance costs have gone down.
• I usually have time to read or work on the train, which is what created an opening for me to go to school part-time.

On paper, it would seem that using the Gold Line every day is a no-brainer. And in truth, I will admit that we certainly haven't felt the gas price increases as much as we would have. But there are costs:

• On average, my train commute takes 20-25 minutes longer than driving. This means about 45 minutes a day less time spent at home with the family. Round it up to an hour or more if I have to walk to/from the station.
• There's a good chance I will spend 20 minutes of the ride home standing, which eliminates the chance of reading or working during the commute.
• Standing usually means the ride is pretty full, in which case I'm body to body with total strangers most of the way. Good times.
• Sometimes I miss the train, which means the next one doesn't come for 10-20 minutes.
Ten years from now, Dana and I will look back and agree that the best thing that came out of our Pasadena move, besides Owen being born, is that I got the degree. Other than that, I have to say that the experience of riding the train everyday really IS a big tradeoff. Can you put a pricetag on being home an extra hour each day? What would you be willing to pay for a little more personal space? Let's say I've worked 500 days in the past two years, and therefore have spent approx. 500 hours more (a full three weeks!) away from home due to the train commute. And on top of that, some of those 500 hours were spent standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other commuters. Then say I've saved $5000 that I would have spent in gas and parking.

I think I'd rather do it Governor Schwarzenegger's way and just take a helicopter to work every day. Anyone know what a helicopter commute would cost?

5 comments:

Lettie said...

Casey, I love your posts! I often think the same thing about women who want to marry a man for big bucks and live in a big house. This usually means that the husband is away more hours just for work, plus big houses are usually far away from work and that means even MORE time away from the family. I have never understood. I'd rather have my husband be around, be happy, and be poor. Truthfully, if we kept 1 and 2 AND got 3 too, I would take it! :)

Jean said...

Great post, and an interesting dilemma! I was very pro-train when I lived in DC, but we've only taken the train here ONCE. (It was part of our brilliant get-home-from-the-airport-using-public-transportation-on-New-Year's-Eve plan. It sucked.)

Anyway, I remember that scene in Singles, and it's the only scene I remember. The guy's like, "People love their cars," and he just keeps saying, "...but it'll have really great coffee..." (Why do I remember that, and nothing else?) Hahaha.

teresa and the boys said...

Dude, Casey -- now I want to go listen to Alice in Chains and Paul Westerburg and be all epic and stuff... thanks for that!

Kevin and Vicki said...

Casey- I have been reading a book by your mom's old high school friend Dean Hughes called "The Cost of Winning" (coming in first across the wrong finish line). Get it. Read it. Your insight is right on. I have elected to stay in a small town where I can spend the most time with those I love...it has kept me financially 'unsuccessfull'. But it has been so worth it. Being able to attend all the girls events in school...being able to coach Landon in every sport imaginable (today we play football at Boulder City). I'm thankful I can be in a position to do that. Most dads can't. The one good thing is that your getting an advanced degree should help you to get where you really want to be. Everything requires some sacrifice, just be careful when that sacrifice is your family.

La La Land said...

Steve used to take the Gold Line, but opted for the more expensive/more time at home choice. He couldn't handle the transfers and waiting for trains that are late. Too bad L.A.'s public transportation sucks!