Posts Tagged ‘public transportation’

Comparing the Cost of Driving to Using Mass Transit

July 19, 2008

 Hey! The price of gasoline has dropped below $4 a gallon. Who can resist such a bargain?

 

 

But diesel is still way up there. What if you had to fill up this baby?

 

There is one good answer to this, public transit. Let’s take a look at the difference in cost.

 

Right after I took the shot of the pickup, the driver and his young son came out of the gas station’s convenience store. After mutual greetings, the conversation with the young daddy, a friendly man, went something like this.

 

  “Do you use this truck for work?”

 

  “Oh, no. It’s my play thing, but I do drive it to work.”

 

  “Any idea what gas mileage it gets?”

 

  “Not enough,” he answered with a smile.

 

  “How much?”

 

  “Oh, on the highway, about 18 miles to the gallon.”

 

 “That’s pretty good for a truck that size.”

 

  “Yeah, not bad. In town it’s about 13.”

 

  “What does it cost you to fill it up?”

 

   “About a hundred dollars.”

 

   “How often?”

 

   “Once a week.”

 

   “That means you are paying $400 a month for gas.”

 

   “Well, actually, 500.”

 

   “Do you plan to switch to a smaller vehicle?”

 

   “No. This one is paid for.”

 

   “What you are paying a month for gas amounts to a good car payment.”

 

    “That’s true, but this one is paid for, and even if I wanted to switch, I couldn’t get much of a trade-in for it now. The capital expense would mean I wouldn’t save by switching.”

 

  Just think, if he were still making payments on it, and paying for maintenance and repairs, it would be close to a thousand dollars a month.  

 

    Well, what if he used public transportation? In Columbus, at $2.50 a day for round trips to work, it would run him something like $55 dollars a month. That’s $55 compared to $500. In Atlanta, it would run him about $77. In New York, $88.

 

  Even if he considered taking a bus, he probably couldn’t because he probably lives in a suburb which has no public transportation.  I didn’t think to ask him, but the chances are high he does live in a suburb because so many people do. And that’s another big problem. It’s called sprawl and it’s all over America.

 

 

  

 

    

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

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Metra Ridership Up by 7 Percent

July 16, 2008

 

  When Saundra Hunter went for her regular workout at a spa, she noticed that a fellow exerciser’s husband was waiting for her in his car. Her friend, who has to pay $100 to fill up her SUV, explained that she leaves it at home a lot now.  She said that it just costs too much to fill it up, adding, “We have stopped going everywhere in separate cars very much. He even takes me to work and picks me up when I get off.”

 

Saundra Hunter, Metra Director

Saundra Hunter, Metra Director

 

   There is another even cheaper way to get around town: Metra busses. Some folks have figured that out, and ridership is up. Saundra, who is director of Metra, said it has already increased 7 percent over last year. Metra customers average about 82,000 rides a month.

 

“I expect that trend to continue and we’ve been getting ready for it.”

 

  Who rides the bus?

 

   “The low income, or ‘dedicated,’ group is the majority. However, we are getting more ‘riders of choice’ now.”

 

  “Dedicated” is a nice way of saying they can’t afford cars or taxis. “Riders of choice” means they can, but opt not to, because too much of their income is going to pay for gas.

 

  Not only is this group going to grow, it is a positive thing if it does, we agreed. Mass transit is not just cheaper, it’s much more fuel efficient if enough people use it, and it leaves a smaller carbon footprint.

 

  However, to encourage more riders of choice, some improvements will need to be made. For one thing there is too much time between busses. You miss one and the next one won’t be along for an hour. Metra has plans to start running busses every half hour. That’s not going to be cheap.

 

  “We’ll have to buy 15 new busses, and hire more drivers and support personnel,” Saundra told me.  Metra now owns about 40 busses, with more than 20 in operation at any given time.  

 

       

  

 

Metra Bus

Metra Bus

 

   I told her that when I was a boy, back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, busses were ubiquitous, arriving at bus stops every fifteen minutes and bus stops were within easy walking distance of most places.  My family had a car, but my dad used it in his business so I ended up riding the bus a lot.  I had a lot of company. A lot of families didn’t even have one car back then.

 

 

 

Columbus Buses at Transfer Station, 12th and Broadway, 1944

Columbus Buses at Transfer Station, 12th and Broadway, 1944

 

 

 

  Also, I walked and rode my bike a lot. People tried to live close to relatives, schools and shopping areas then. Instead of supermarkets that were two miles or more away, you had the neighborhood grocery store. Also, you could order groceries on the phone and they would be delivered to your door! Really! I think there was a minimum amount that you could order to get the service, though.

 

 I was a short city block away from 11th Street Elementary School; a block and a half from an aunt, uncle and four cousins; and about four blocks away from three movie theaters and retails stores. But, if I wanted to go all the way out to the Royal Theater, which was about two miles away,  or over to Idle Hour Park in Phenix City to go swimming, play arcade games, bowl or play on the playground (I broke my leg on that playground) , I took the bus.

  

 When I started to go to high school, I took the bus. The stop was across the street from 11th Street Elementary, which was even a little closer to our house than the school.

 

   Also, a big difference then was that the busses were operated by a private company. They could make a profit. That, like Scarlett’s Old South, went with the wind.  Transit systems are municipally owned and they don’t make a profit. “There are no public transit systems that are not subsidized by the government any more,” Saundra told me.

  

So public transit is on the way to making a comeback. It is going to require a different mindset, not only on the part of potential riders, but governmental leaders. Everyone is still thinking in terms of cars and roads.