This has been by far the most difficult entry. Condensing a month long experiment into a couple of blog posts is very challenging. And there are so many things to discuss that it was hard to keep my train of thought! But it was a lot of fun. I hope you all enjoy my following observations and conclusions and I would greatly appreciate it if you posted a quick comment or discussion. This is not at all scientific so any other insights would be great to see! There are two aspects I would like to cover. Cost and experience and I will begin with cost.
My one transportation cost for the month was my 31 Day Bus Pass. I thought this would be pretty smart and it turned out to be great because I didn’t have to worry about having enough or exact change every time I rode the bus. A 31 Day Pass cost $36. I have learned now this is waaaay more beneficial for commuters who would need to ride the bus every weekday, back and forth to work. Over the month I only rode the bus 13 times. This actually was to my disadvantage as you will see below.
I have posted the Excel file below where I documented all my miles traveled so you can follow along or make your own calculations. I actually rounded up my gas mileage some and rounded down for the average gas price but they are pretty close.
Total Miles in Little Rock (excluding carpooling, and train and light rail travel in St. Louis) = 211.45 mi
Total Month Cost (a 1 Month Bus Pass)= $36.00
My car is a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid. Average Gas Mileage = 30 mpg
Total Cost to Drive = 211.45 mi / 30 mpg = 7.0483 gal
7.0483 gal x $3.20 = $22.55. Which means I saved a whopping negative –$13.45
That’s right, I actually lost money by using public transportation.
If you include the miles I carpooled as well, the numbers look a little better. Total miles carpooling, biking, bussing and walking was 456.75 mi which meant it cost $48.72 and I actually saved $12.72
Valuable lesson #1. If you don’t ride the bus daily, purchase a 10 Ride Pass($11.50) instead of a Month long pass. If I had purchased a 10 Ride Pass and paid for the 3 additional times I rode the bus, my cost would have only been $15.55 (10 Ride Pass 11.50 + 3 tickets @ 1.35 ea.) This would have meant a savings of (drum roll please…)
33 bucks may not appear to be worth the hassle of giving up the car but remember, I didn’t really give up the car. I just gave up driving it. The whole month while I was not driving my car, I still owned it and it was still costing me money. I may not have had to spend $22.55 on gas but I still had to spend $322.00 on my car payment as well as $114.00 on Insurance for that month because I still had a car. So let’s compare these numbers.
Car – $48.72 (Gas) + $322.00 (Payment) + $114.00 (Insurance)
No Car ($36.00 Bus Pass)
$484.72 vs. $36.00 a savings of $448.72 a month
Now we’re getting somewhere. Furthermore, what’s the total cost of owning a car for a month? If you check out www.Edmunds.com, you can calculate the true value to own a car. Some of these numbers seemed a little excessive to me but they are base on national averages.
For this, we will look at a year instead of a month. I’m not going to include the depreciation amount and I’m going to group maintenance and repairs together and just estimate $600.00 a year total.
Car – $48.72 (Gas) + $322.00 (Payment) + $114.00 (Insurance) = $458.55 x (12 Months) = $5816.64 + Fees ($22.00) + Maintenance and Repairs ($600.00) = $6438.64
No Car ($36.00 Bus Pass) x 12 = $432.00
$6438.64 vs. $432.00, a savings of $6,006.64 a year
I could save $6,006.64 a year if I sold my car and only rode the bus, biked, walked or carpooled, theoretically. So is owning a car really worth half my yearly mortgage payments? Even as I type this I’m starting to realize that’s a big chunk of change! But I don’t want to get rid of my car. I like being able to quickly and easily drive anywhere I need to in Little Rock or in Arkansas. Now that I’m married I could see myself getting rid of my car and sharing Nicole’s but it would still be pretty difficult for me to pry myself away from that luxury. But the main reason I will probably not be giving up my car anytime soon is because I can afford not to. I could think of a lot of things I would like to spend an extra $6,000.00 a year on, but if I didn’t own a car, a car would be on the top of that list. This is the problem. Better public transportation in cities could end the need for individuals to own and maintain cars and could save thousands of dollars a year for people and millions on road infrastructure. But we have become so accustomed to cars that now it’s impossible for us to live without them even though we did so for centuries before. There are a lot of books out there that preach giving up the car completely and how much better life would be and how much money you could save and so on and a lot of people in America do live perfectly well without a car and I even know quite a few in Little Rock. But a majority of people want to keep their cars even if they do want to promote better bike paths, walkable neighborhoods and public transportation. So is there a middle ground between owning a car but still being able to get around town without it?
It’s became obvious to me a big problem in my experiment to travel around Little Rock without a car is that I didn’t travel a lot around Little Rock. The majority of miles traveled by the average person is usually during commuting, but my commute was only 4 blocks. So I will attempt one more calculation to take a look at what an average Little Rocker might expect by compromising to own a car but commute to work on the bus.
John Doe lives near Breckenridge Village and works downtown at the Metropolitan Tower, 7.5 miles away. He owns a car and drives it a lot, but everyday he commutes to and from work on the no. 8 bus. His small SUV gets about 20 mpg and the average gas price is $3.00 (Remember word problems from 7th grade?)
So over a Month John travels 300 miles commuting (7.5 miles x 2 trips x 5 days in a week x 4 weeks) and it would cost him $45 in gas which would mean he could save $9 dollars a month if he bought a $36 bus pass. Not a lot. But John also doesn’t have to pay for parking, he doesn’t have to fight traffic every day and he saves 300 miles that he doesn’t put on his car every month. And because commuting is an everyday routine for John, he is pretty familiar with the bus route and times and it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
It’s a fact, there are many cheaper ways to get around town without driving or owning a car. Depending on certain variables, it can be a big difference or a insignificant amount. But price is not the only reason to leave the car home.
My next entry will be about my experience for the month and my assessment and observations. Money may be the biggest incentive to get people to leave their cars at home but it isn’t the biggest benefit. The biggest improvements from fewer cars is a better city environment and I will talk more about what I found in Little Rock and the problems and solutions that I came across.