Author Topic: Commuting problems: input valued  (Read 4537 times)

maryofdoom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 221
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Southwestern PA
  • Jeopardy! loser since 2010
Commuting problems: input valued
« on: July 30, 2013, 04:18:34 PM »
Hello, friends,

I hope you have a tasty beverage and a comfortable chair, because this is going to be a doozy.

Background: I work at a university located 20 miles, one way, away from my home. I do have a good boss who gives me the flexibility to work from home when I don't have meetings scheduled, which is about two to three times per week. The other days, I need to be in the office for meeting and other face-to-face reasons. I've been driving my car into town and parking a block away from the office. My parking space costs $60/month, which is half the price of what a university-owned space or a space in the garage below my building would cost me. My car also gets about 30mpg. Driving to the office takes 45 minutes. I do get a free bus pass from the university that allows me to take any county buses for free; I live just over the county line and the closest county bus stop is five miles away. The bus that stops there drops me off four blocks away from my office.

The guy from whom I lease the parking space told me today that the neighbors re-surveyed their property and are putting up a fence that will cut a foot off of my parking space, rendering it unusable. He says I may be able to get another space from him in the same location for the same price, but it's got me wondering if there are other options.

As we know, there are ALWAYS other options, and these are them:

Option 1: Get a university parking space or a space in the garage below the building.
Pros: Close parking to office; flexible scheduling (I could leave whenever I wanted)
Cons: FUCKING EXPENSIVE; have to deal with traffic
Costs: $120+ per month; 45-minute commute one way

Option 2: Continue renting a space from the guy.
Pros: I like the guy (he's been quick to respond when someone's parked in my space, for example, and he's a good landlord); close to office; flexible scheduling
Cons: New space might not even be available; have to deal with traffic
Costs: $60 per month; 45-minute commute one way

Option 3: Drive to the park-n-ride, then get a bus there.
Pros: Park-n-ride is 20 minutes away; free parking is nice; bus ride allows for hobbies
Cons: Bus is occasionally unreliable; bus takes longer to get to town than car does; stuck with bus schedule to some degree
Costs: $0 per month for parking, $0 per month for bus; 1-hour commute one way

Option 4: Have husband drive me to bus stop in the morning before he goes to work and pick me up in the evening.
Pros: Car stays parked all day, so I don't have to drive; bus ride allows for hobbies; bus pass is free
Cons: Bus is occasionally unreliable; construction along the route makes it 10 minutes longer; have to get up with husband and leave house at 6 AM, which is less fun in winter; stuck with bus schedule and husband's schedule
Costs: $0 per month for parking, $0 per month for bus; 1.5-hour commute one way

If it were just a financial consideration, then obviously Option 4 is the way to go, since it's cheapest overall, but like many things that are cheap, it takes the most time. It would really be ideal if I could park close to the nearby bus stop, but there's no park-n-ride there and it seems unlikely that there will be one any time soon. Plus a bridge close to there is under construction, which means a ten-minute detour for the bus.

However, like many things in life, the considerations are not purely financial. There's a time and annoyance factor, too. The bus takes longer. Everything involving the bus takes longer. Sometimes it's not too much longer (about half an hour, in Option 3), but an extra 45 minutes one way is kind of a pain. I don't know if it's prudent to assume that my time has no value, or even that it has a minimal value, if I would just be spending that time enjoying hobbies that I could also enjoy on the bus.

I have a bike and I could theoretically bike to the five-mile bus stop, but I am a giant bike weenie and am not at that point yet. I may be optimizing my life as much as possible, but...no. Not yet.

What do you think is my best option at this point?

NinetyFour

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6420
  • Location: Southwestern US
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2013, 05:45:50 PM »
I like the bus option (either one) because it's free and it allows you to read, knit, whatever, but all that sitting would not work for me.

Sorry, but I would STRONGLY encourage you to reconsider the 5-mile bike ride.  You only have to go to your office 2 - 3 times per week, right?  Are there hills on the 5-mile ride?  There are just SOOOO many advantages to biking!!  Would there be a safe place for you to lock up your bike?

(Side note:  I teach at a college, and I have several colleagues who live within 8 miles of school but drive to work--one even drives home for lunch and then back to work--they say they would consider walking or biking to work, but our parking permits are CHEAP!!  I wish my school would double the cost of the parking permits!  I think that if they did, our faculty and staff would be fitter, richer, more productive and less grumpy!!)

maryofdoom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 221
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Southwestern PA
  • Jeopardy! loser since 2010
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2013, 05:55:52 PM »
I could transport my bike on the bus and lock it up safely when I got to work, then do the reverse on the way home. But honestly, I am scared. The roads between here and there are two-lane highways with little to no shoulder. And I know people say that "Oh, you ride in the road and cars have to pay attention to you," but the truth is, people here DON'T. And I am not good enough at biking to make them notice me, yet.

Maybe next year.

Another perk of working at home: I get to use my treadmill desk. So I think I'm getting a not inconsiderable amount of exercise, as well.

mlipps

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1085
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2013, 05:56:48 PM »
If I were you, I'd be inclined to keep paying for the parking space, but take the bus on days when your schedule aligns with the bus. You save some gas & wear & tear on your car. But I'm a wimp...

Peanut Butter

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 109
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 06:43:03 PM »
Wow! Just think of all the knitting you'll be able to do on your awesome bus rides! I ride a bicycle, and the one leg of the journey to get to my school that I take by bus is way too short to even think about whipping out my needles. You're so lucky!

bogart

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1047
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2013, 07:33:10 PM »
What if any are your parking options if you have no permit at all -- if you are simply driving in and paying by the day?

girly mustache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 81
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2013, 08:25:40 PM »
I think #3 sounds reasonable - but I would also explore finding a way to bike to the stop - or partially drive and partially ride bike to the bus stop. I love my bus time - mine is longer than the drive too -- but it's a time I devote to me - rather than work or home (with a 6 year old) where my time is not my own. I also don't have to worry about watching the road, paying attention to other cars or anything else -- just sit back and enjoy. Also, be willing to try other combinations - I had to try different combinations of biking and bus (different bus routes, different bike route combinations) for a good year before I found the one that fit -- but in the end I did find it. And I still drive on days that I need to - the answer for me was that there was no one perfect fit - it was a combination of several methods and even that depends on the day. I agree, your time is valuable -- but a little fresh air and letting someone else do the driving is a great thing to treat yourself to when it's doable :)

maryofdoom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 221
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Southwestern PA
  • Jeopardy! loser since 2010
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2013, 08:45:22 PM »
What if any are your parking options if you have no permit at all -- if you are simply driving in and paying by the day?

I can drive in and park in the building. It's $7 per day for this option. One that's unsustainable for a long period of time, but still an option.

oldtoyota

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3141
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2013, 09:19:30 PM »
What would daily parking cost you?

I ask because I wonder if you could take the bus some days and then drive on other days. My commuting involves a variety, which I like for different reasons.

If you chose the "variety" option, then you would not have to deal with the bus ride 3 days per week. Maybe it would be 1-2 with some driving. Doing this would still save you some money.


Rural

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4835
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2013, 05:47:27 AM »
In good weather, a five-mile walk isn't bad at all. Have you considered walking to the bus? I'd say this is one of those "part of the time" options.

jpo

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 518
  • Age: 32
  • Location: North Carolina
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2013, 06:06:24 AM »
Why does option 4 take a half hour more than option 3? Does your husband drive twice as slow as you to park and ride?

maryofdoom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 221
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Southwestern PA
  • Jeopardy! loser since 2010
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2013, 07:39:42 AM »
Why does option 4 take a half hour more than option 3? Does your husband drive twice as slow as you to park and ride?

The husband doesn't drive me to the park-n-ride, but to a bus stop five miles from the house. His work is in the opposite direction of my work and he has less flexible work hours than I do, so he needs to get there in the morning as soon as he can. The bus takes about 30 minutes to get from the bus stop to the park-n-ride, but there's a substantial bridge reconstruction project directly in the path of the bus route, which causes a journey that normally takes one minute to take ten.

It's looking more and more like some combination of things will be the best option. The real question at the heart of my dilemma is, What is my time worth?

Any option that involves the bus will take way more time than any option where I drive all the way to the office. Yes, I can engage in hobbies along the way (embroidery, mostly), but there's also the annoyance factor of the bus. Sometimes the bus doesn't show up. Sometimes it's packed so full in the afternoons that I can't even get on, and then I have to wait half an hour for the next bus. Sometimes people on the bus are annoying or creepy. Although sometimes they are hilarious, like the time I ended up sitting in front of a guy who was loudly and angrily breaking up with his boyfriend.

Is it worth it to spend an extra hour and a half per day to save $15 (wear on the car, parking, gas)?

bogart

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1047
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2013, 08:08:13 AM »
Quote
...flexibility to work from home when I don't have meetings scheduled, which is about two to three times per week...

OK.  So you generally have to go into the office 2 or 3 days per week, and can park at the office for $7 per day even with no prior planning/commitment, versus your current circumstance where you've been paying $60/month to be able to park whenever you want.  Or in other words, if you park at work 8 or fewer days per month (roughly 2 days per week), you come out ahead (over your current circumstance).

Personally I think I'd abandon having a parking permit, see if I could bus to work one or two days per week (leaving one or two to drive) and keep track of how well that works for you (i.e. how many days you actually drive/pay to park versus use another alternative).

If you want to, you could explain your plans to your current landlord and ask him whether he'd be willing to give you a reduced-cost few-days-a-week permit, though depending how his lot works, that may not be an option.  But particularly if you know that you always have a meeting on e.g. Tuesdays, it might help with further reducing costs.

maryofdoom

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 221
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Southwestern PA
  • Jeopardy! loser since 2010
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2013, 09:11:51 AM »
Bogart, that's a good point. The landlord doesn't own a lot - he owns a house with five garage spaces behind it, two spaces in the back (one of which is mine and is going to disappear when the fence goes up), and two spaces in the front. He asked me about a front space a while ago, and I turned it down, because I liked the one in the back better.

I have been keeping track of how many times I go to the office, and if it's nine or more days per month, having the space from the guy is cheaper.

It's sounding more and more like some combination of riding the bus and parking either at the park-n-ride or having the husband take me to the bus stop is the way to go. Being able to park at my office is a good option, but I don't think it's something that I need to rely on. And if I'm only bus-ing it a few times a week, I can probably put up with the annoyances I listed upthread.

crowstache

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2013, 09:40:22 AM »
IMHO I would recommend option #3.  It sounds like it wouldn't add that much time overall to your commute AND it gives you time to read, do embroidery, or whatever you want.  Of course, I would also say you need to consider how well the bus schedule works with your own schedule.  The few days you are less flexible, then paying $7 to park (it it's only a few days a month) seems like a good backup plan.  As for biking, I would suggest you try out the five mile ride on the weekend.  In my experience I've found that what looks like a scary bike ride is not that bad once you try it.  It does take some getting used to though, and you will find your confidence will build over time.  Good luck with your decision!

Eric

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4061
  • Location: On my bike
Re: Commuting problems: input valued
« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2013, 10:41:28 AM »
Why are you paying for parking at all?  I don't understand why that's a given.  Is there really no place to park for free?  There has to be some side street within a mile or two of where you need to be.  Park there and then either walk or bike into work.