Coffee heat rising

Cost-effective ride?

lightrailexteriorlgOur brand-new light rail system is already raising its price per ride. Hasn’t been running two months, and the price is going up a buck, from $1.25 (one way!) to $2.25. I’m sure that won’t be the first increase.

The other evening one of my RAs, who doesn’t own a car, rode the train up to M’hijito’s house to meet me so I could chauffeur him to an Arizona Book Publishing Association shindig. He said it took an hour to get from lovely downtown Tempe to the corner of Seventh Avenue and Camelback. That’s a 20-minute drive in your car.

At the current rate, would it be cost-effective for me to ride the train, once the city has torn down an entire row of homes and trashed the property values in my neighborhood so they can run the train tracks up the road that demarcates this neighborhood from the bland slums just to the west? Assuming the rate stays the same, at $5 per round trip?

Let us calculate:

My house is 18 miles from the campus. Coincidentally, my car gets about 18 miles a gallon if I’m not hypermiling. (If I drive very carefully, I can push it up to around 25 mpg, but let’s assume I’m keeping up with traffic and not driving my fellow homicidal drivers crazier than they already are.)

Assume gas prices stay at $1.70 a gallon. Assume the train ride stays at $2.25 one-way, $5.00 round trip. Because I have a disabled parking sticker, I can park in any metered space in Tempe for free, so I do not pay GDU’s $780/year parking fee. Let’s also assume I go out to campus 5 days a week and I take 3 weeks of vacation time.

Thus: The cost of gas for a round trip is $3.40 a day. I commute 5 days a week for 49 weeks, or 245 days a year.

$3.40 x 245 = $833 a year: Cost of driving for a person with a disabled sticker.
$833 + $780 = $1,613 a year: Cost of driving for a person who has not discovered you can park for free with a disabled sticker, or who buys a parking space within a mile of the office

Okay. If the train costs $5.00 per round trip:

$5 x 245 = $1,225 a year: Cost of riding the train

Not too bad: only $392 a year more than I’m presently paying. That doesn’t take into account the wear and tear on my car. However, my car, being a Toyota, does not cost anywhere near $392 a year for upkeep and repairs.

It also doesn’t take into account the two hours you would spend in transit: 80 minutes more time wasted in transit than you would kill sitting in an automobile each day. That’s 19,600 minutes a year, 326.67 more hours of your life wasted in a train than in a car!

Does anyone seriously think people are going to ride this train for real commutes from the outer reaches of the Valley? If I bought a house in one of the now-bankrupt new suburbs out by the White Tanks or halfway to Prescott, the number of miles I would have to commute would triple. So would the time spent in transit.

In the unlikely event that the train fare stays constant, clearly the longer your commute the more you would save on gas. However, the end of the line will be about six blocks from my house. If you lived out at the White Tanks or up in Anthem, you’d have to drive all the way into the middle of town, anyway. By the time you get this far, you only have another 20 minutes to drive. Your air-conditioning has made the car nice and cool, and the Park-&-Ride will sit smack in the middle of a high-crime area where your car is likely to be broken into or stolen.

What would you do: park your car in a dangerous lot in 115-degree heat and add another hour to your commute, or keep on truckin’?