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The cost of getting around

October 15, 2008

“Dad, you’ll be so proud of me, I saved a pound by running behind the bus all the way home!”
“Oy! You could have run behind a taxi and saved £10.”

Like most people, I don’t live in the middle of the CBD, but I work in town. So I have to put some thought into how I get around.

Walking

Walking is free, but staying dry in the rain is a pain. Umbrellas are NOT an option in Wellington!

Walking also quite slow; about 40 minutes into town and close to an hour uphill back. That’s nice on a leisurely weekend, but a bit slow on a working morning. A full load of groceries is also problematic unless we do it together and don’t carry anything squishy.

Cycling

Cycling is kinda sorta free, but there are some minimal overheads in riding a bike: tyres, batteries for lights, wear and tear. You also need somewhere to keep the bike safe and a change of clothes once the weather heats up. And again, the groceries are a problem, although I’m keeping an eye out for cheap panniers.

I have expensive kevlar tires that rarely if ever get punctures. My lights are LEDs that use very little battery power. I think I spend less than $100 a year on maintenance, probably a lot less, but I don’t actually have records going back far enough to be sure.

Public transport

The bus is the only option for me. It’s $2.25 for two stages with a Snapper card, so $4.50 on a typical day. I have numerous objections to Snapper, as many people do, but if you want to ride at a discount it’s the only game in town.

I must have had a rush of blood to the head or something, but I worked out that since it costs 25 cents to put money on a Snapper card, and given I can get almost 8% pa in a high interest savings account, and that in winter I bus most days of the week, I should put $81 on the card at a time. That is the optimal point where reducing the transaction fee crosses over with forgone interest.

Possibly that’s taking it too far…

Private Car

Yeah, I own one. I have a 1993 Legacy which has proved to be extremely reliable. I think I’ll be able to drive it until it rusts away, so it might have another five or even ten years in it. Given that the depreciation curve is pretty flat now, it makes sense to do that.

I’m beginning to wonder if I would buy another car once this one dies. Petrol is going to be more expensive in the future, I think, and reliable cars lose their value quite fast. If I was accounting for depreciation properly for the current vehicle, I’d have to have charged quite a lot to losses for the first few years.

Anyway, it turns out that a weekly supermarket trip, plus one or two weekly outings around town, and a long drive every few months, costs $1100 per year. That includes petrol, parking (although I haven’t counted all the coins I put in the meter), insurance, maintenance, WOF and registration. I guess you could add on a couple of hundred for depreciation, but the curve is pretty much flattened out now.

That really surprises me. I kind of thought having a car was a luxury we could look at doing away with, but at that rate, it’s competitive with if not cheaper than using cabs all the time. Unless and until we move closer to a supermarket or the CBD, it actually seems worth it. I’m glad I did the maths on this, because my intuition is quite different — and wrong.

But anyway, I never drive to work: parking’s too expensive. And if I’m out drinking, I prefer to walk or bus into town and cab back. So driving really doesn’t cost much more than the petrol.

In summary, finding the sweet spot between convenience and expense requires a continuous assessment of the balance between the weather, the destination and my energy levels. But at least I know what everything costs.

What is your transport strategy?

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12 comments

  1. I’ve always been both a walker and a public transport person. I didn’t even learn to drive until I was 27 and that was only because I had to in NZ.

    As it turns out, I now live in town and I also now own a pedal bike. I’m seriously thinking of getting rid of the car but then I think a bit more and wonder if I should keep it. I suspect that one day I’ll wake up and will have made a decision.

    Until then, it stays parked up for 7 days at a time and I may use it at the weekend. Currently, all my other travel is powered by my legs.


  2. Being suburban dwellers we use the car more than perhaps is best. My partner however is 30 and doesn’t have a license – never has. He bikes everywhere.

    If one of us goes “into town” its bus and train” but as a family the car is cheaper.

    The biggest car use is the daily school/kindy run as both are a 30-40 min walk from our home. However looks like we are about to move to Dunedin and we are plannign to rent very close to work/schools etc to cut down on car travel more


  3. we forgoe all this consideration and live close to work. no warrants of fitness, no registration, no petrol, no buses.

    everything is within walking distance.

    problem is, we have no yard, and no veranda. but hey… this is what making choices is all about.


  4. I live about 18k from work, across the other side of the CBD (live in Newlands, work in Miramar). Taking a bus costs about $15 a day, and takes about 60-80 minutes each way depending on luck. Driving costs about $10/day, and takes between 30-50 minutes each way depending on traffic. Cycling costs about $1 a day (guesstimate based on wear and tear on tyres), and takes 40 minutes one way, 55 the other, varying by about 5 minutes depending on wind. From my perspective, cycling is the best way to go. The only days that I don’t cycle are gale force winds or when it’s my turn to take the kids to creche.

    Learned to drive when I was 28, btw. Didn’t see the point earlier.


  5. I live about 18k from work, across the other side of the CBD (live in Newlands, work in Miramar). Taking a bus costs about $15 a day, and takes about 60-80 minutes each way depending on luck. Driving costs about $10/day, and takes between 30-50 minutes each way depending on traffic. Cycling costs about $1 a day (guesstimate based on wear and tear on tyres), and takes 40 minutes one way, 55 the other, varying by about 5 minutes depending on wind. From my perspective, cycling is the best way to go. The only days that I don’t cycle are gale force winds or when it’s my turn to take the kids to creche.

    For me – and my commute – cycling is the cheapest, usually the fastest, and certainly the most reliable commuting method. Plus, I have fun and save money on gym membership. Do tend to eat big lunches, though, so that might be considered a negative.


  6. The 7km run to work from Island Bay (14k round trip) saves me $6 a day bus fare, and is regularly quicker than actually catching the bus.

    Obviously need a work with a shower for this option to be viable.


  7. i think a highlight of last year was seeing noizy routinely get loaded on scotch and/or beer to prepare himself for the run.

    along with some bllsht theory about the alcohol metabolising into sugar in the last km….


  8. Whoops. And obviously, typing everything twice helps me be frugal in some as yet unspecified way.


  9. We walk to work at my house and could get by without a car but its sheer convenience will have us keeping one.

    With a cheap reliable car like SJ’s the costs can be kept pretty low and the options it opens up for other savings (on holidays, avoiding delivery fees, picking up free stuff) aren’t inconsequential. I hate the bus btw.


  10. Sorry – OT for this thread but I am surprised no one has written about fugality and clothing yet. You can get mega cheap made in china warehosue crap. But I’ve been readin about lots of other options lately (and partaking in recycling, remaking etc). I patch my kids jeans for example and darn ther tights.

    That’s a really good idea. Coming up.


  11. “…along with some bllsht theory about the alcohol metabolising into sugar in the last km…”

    Those were the fastest, easiest runs I’ve ever done.

    Or so it seemed…


  12. tell them about the harry potter scar!!



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