Ever since I started riding my bike (think Schwinn, not Harley) and taking the bus to work I’ve enjoyed a serious reduction in my commuting expenses and a nice uptick in my fitness. Recently, however, I took it to a new level. To recap for new readers, I work in Saratoga Springs, NY and live in Niskayuna. It’s a 22 mile commute each way. I started riding the bus to work a few times a week last year as an experiment to save money and reduce our environmental impact. Courtney would drive me 3 miles downtown to the closest stop, and I’d bus in. It added significant time to my work day, but the benefits to budget and planet were worth it. Last summer, I bought a used bike on Craigslist and began riding it to a different stop further along the route (8 miles from home). It saved Courtney having to drop me off, added no more time to my day, and gave me a nice workout. So far so good, right?
As of yesterday, I’m proud to announce my bike commute went 100% Green (and 100% Cheap)! I did my normal bike/bus routine in the morning, but as I was leaving work I considered my situation: I had my bike. I had to wait a half hour for the bus to arrive, then endure its slow meandering route with many stops to where it would drop me off and I’d pedal home. I was possessed by a John Henry-like spirit to take to the road and beat the bus with my own two wheels. I hopped on and took off, fully expecting to see the bus pass me somewhere midway. To my surprise, I covered the 14 miles to my usual stop a full 15 minutes ahead of the bus’ scheduled time! I finished the last leg home with a proud grin on my face. I had gone from a car commuter, to a bus commuter, to a bike/bus hybrid, to one seriously lean and green machine! And I felt fantastic. Even the next morning when I expected crippling soreness, I found only muscular and fiscal satisfaction. I won’t lie; it was tough almost tripling my ride. It was exhausting and I doubt I’ll do it every day until I get more practice, but it’s another great weapon in our savings arsenal and I was feeling great. But feeling great isn’t the same as doing the math. Let’s run some numbers, shall we?
The Breakdown (44 mile total commute. Calculations based on 248 work days in 2011):
Original Car Commute:
- 44 miles = approx 1.6 gallons of gas (in my reasonably efficient, all-gas sedan)
- 1.6 gal x $4.00/gal = $6.40 in gas
- But gas isn’t everything! To account for daily wear and maintenance, I’ll use the current government mileage reimbursement rate of $.51/mile, times 44 miles…
- Daily Cost: $22.44
- Annual Cost: $5,565.12
All Bus Commute:
- $1.30/trip (using a ten-ride pass) X 2 trips = $2.60
- Courtney has to get up early and drive me to the local stop.
6 mile roundtrip at $.51/mile = $3.06. Add them up and…
- Daily Cost: $5.66 (plus Wife Hassle Factor)
- Annual Cost: $1,403.68
Bike/Bus Hybrid Commute:
- Adding the 8 mile ride removed the car burden completely
(Wife Approval increase 100%). No other change.
- Daily Cost: $2.60
- Annual Cost: $644.80
All Bike Commute:
- No gas! No car wear and tear!
- No bus pass to buy!
- Courtney gets to sleep in!
- Zero environmental impact!
- More fresh air, sunshine, and scenery!
- Maximum fitness benefit (tighter buns = happy wife)
- Annual Cost: ZERO Dollars (and approximately 215,760 calories)
The Wheel Deal: The maximum benefit of $5, 565 will never be fully realized since I do occasionally take my car, and in the winter I don’t ride the bike at all. But it’s easy to see that the daily savings can add up quickly. Yes, there’s bike maintenance and eventual replacement, but it’s negligible by comparison. As far as time goes, with the way the bus schedule works I actually get to and from work faster each leg I bike the whole way. The extra workouts help keep me trim for the summer, and I thoroughly enjoy rolling along in tune with mother Earth. Truly, it is the only way to ride.
Better Health + Happy Planet + Savings = WIN