# Is it cheaper for me to take the bus?

Math Idiot here. *::raises hand::: *

I’m trying to figure out which would be less expensive for me—drive my car to work, or ride the bus.

Driving to work is an estimated 7.34 miles (round trip)—we’ll even this off to 8 miles to account for circling the parking garage to find a parking space. My car gets approximately 26 miles per gallon, and gas is approximately \$4.00 per gallon. (I’m not figuring in parking—which work pays for, or maintenance or insurance, as I’d pay them anyway because getting rid of the car is not an option, so the only thing to figure is gas.)

Riding the bus will cost an average of \$3.30 per day, or \$45 per month for an unlimited bus pass. Depending on how many days I could ride, I would have to ride approximately 14 days before it would make financial sense to purchase the bus pass. It would depend on my schedule at work (and if I needed the car) as to how many days I could ride the bus to work.

Before anyone jumps on the “walk or ride a bike” band wagon, my area is NOT walker or bike friendly. The medical bills that I’d incur being hit on a bike by another car would far outweigh any cost savings by riding a bike.

For some reason, I cannot wrap my mind around the way to figure out how much it costs me to drive to work and back! (Preliminary figures come to \$1.23 round trip, but that seems like an awfully low figure…)

Can someone who has math abilities help me out here???

It sounds like driving is cheaper in your case. Though you could always bike to work. (Couldn’t help myself! )

You’re using about a gallon of gas every 3 round trips, so roughly \$1.33 a day.

Just for future reference, can you tell me how you figured this out??? I swear, I put numbers in my head and they just fall out my ears. :smack:

8 mile round trip times 3 comes to 24 miles for 3 round trips. You said about 26 MPG so I just went with basically a gallon for 3 round trips. At 4 dollars a gallon that comes to 1.33 per trip.

You say that you don’t want to include maintenance, but driving to work will cause additional wear and tear on your car that would otherwise not occur.

Work compensates me at 49 cents/mile if I use my car for a business trip (other than driving back and forth to work).
This figure compensates for not only fuel consumed but an additional amount to cover wear and tear.
For an 8 mile round trip that would come to \$3.92.

I’m not how to determine if that compensation is overly generous or not.

You really can’t discount the cost of maintenance for the trip. Every mile you have the car on the road, it’s putting wear and tear on the brakes, engine, tires, whatever. If you weren’t driving that 8 miles to work, you wouldn’t be causing that wear and tear. edmunds.com tells me that my car costs somewhere around \$0.65/mile to drive (I’m not sure what their gas cost estimates are for that calculation). That would mean \$5.20/day for your drive in my car.

The IRS allows 0.505/mile when deducting vehicle use for business deductions.

Depending how many miles you drive, if you gave up taking the car to work you could be eligible for a discount on your insurance. I used to save about \$300 a year when I lived within walking distance of my job.

Just some quick math shows that you’d reduce your annual mileage by about 2,000 if you took the bus, which might also give you a break on your insurance.

Call your insurance company, as YMMV.

Use dimensional analysis, in which you multiply by a series of units that equal 1, making sure that units in numerator and denominator cancel:

``````

\$4           gallon      7.34 miles
--------- x ------------ x --------------- = \$1.13 per trip
gallon       26 miles         trip

``````

Cancel out gallons and miles in the fractions (so you end up with \$/trip), do the math, and hey presto.

I’ve been curious about this kind of thing as well, ever since I tried to nail down my friend’s per-kilometre cost of driving to work.

Lessee. Eight miles, at 26 miles per gallon means you use 8 miles / 26 miles per gallon = 0.3 gallons. At \$4/gallon, that’s a marginal cost of \$1.23 per trip. Making 10 trips per work week, that’s \$12.33 per week, or \$49 per month. Add in the extra couple of days to round the month out, and you’re at \$50 more or less.

Now, that’s a bare minimum. It doesn’t include any side trips you may take in your car. And it doesn’t include fixed costs like insurance, maintenance, and financing,

And if the bus pass is \$45 per month, taking the bus is already slightly cheaper.

The bus is more inflexible, though, so it’s a bit of a wash, and you may well conclude that the extra flexibility of the car is worth the extra cost. A lot would depend on how many amenities are within convenient walking distance (however you define that) at either end of the trip.

Just for fun, though, do the same calculation at double the gas price. Your marginal cost for driving to work each month would be \$100.

The price of the bus pas would also go up, but I’m willing to bet not as quickly, because the riders of the bus are splitting the cost among more people.

Let’s say the bus seats thirty people. You’re therefore paying 1/30th of the cost of riding a vehicle that gets, say, 5 miles per gallon on diesel. (I’ll assume the bus uses diesel.)

On your one-way trip, the bus therefore uses 8/5 gallons of diesel, or 1.6 gallons. If diesel is \$5/gallon now (as was mentioned in the gas prices thread), that’s \$8. And you pay \$8/30 = \$0.27 as your share of that fuel cost.

But you’re also paying 1/30th the cost of the driver. But just to pull some numbers out of the air, let’s say that the driver makes \$30/hour, and your eight-mile trip takes half an hour. So you play 1/30th of \$15 = \$0.50 as your share of the driver’s wage.

So in total, that’s \$0.77 for the raw cost of one bus ride. Forty rides are \$30.80.

Obviously it’s more complicated than that; transit systems average out their costs across all vehicles to arrive at their prices, plus they are subsidised by taxes, and I think I underestimated the wages of the bus driver, plus there are the bus’s insurance, maintenance, financing costs, and what happens if you’re the only one on the bus?

But I have read that the cost of monthly transit passes are typically calculated to be the same as the cash costs of 40 single rides; every trip taken after that is ‘free’.

Edit: and I have no idea how to calculate wear and tear per mile (or kilometre).

The biggest consideration is not financial because the difference is pretty small in your case. It is about flexibility and convenience. I have never had a job that enjoyed people taking the bus (professional jobs). They have to tolerate it on some level of course but it doesn’t look good if everyone else needs to stay until 7 pm and you always have to catch a bus at a certain time. There is also the value of your time. The bus will likely take longer than driving. I don’t know about you but my time is worth a hell of a lot more than a couple of bucks each way even if it is just a 10 minute difference. Then, there is the matter of personal comfort. Some people hate driving so a bus is preferable. I wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus and money is immaterial at almost all realistic price comparisons so it works both ways.

Another point I didn’t think of, your work might cover part or all of the cost of a bus pass. A lot of places that pay for parking will sub a pass either by policy or if you ask them to.

Personally, I look at that as a positive!

A bus gives you a way to reclaim your life from the ever-expanding “Miracle of Salary”, in which the 40 hour work week you’re paid for somehow manages to become a 60 to 80 week without any additional compensation. If it’s really all that necessary for you to be there late, they can pay for a fricken cab!

The time on the bus is time I spend reading, something that is far more difficult to do while driving (and no, audio-books are not the same).

I don’t understand the snobbery about “being caught dead on a bus”. I live in Chicago and people of all types ride the bus/train. New York is even more so…which is why Manhattan is, contrary to expectations, the “Greenest” city in America.

And it is tax deductable

You mean tax deductible for the company, right?

It isn’t snobbery that is directed outwards to other people. People have different levels of tolerance for public transportation. Some people love it because they have someone else to drive them, others tolerate it because of factors like those in the OP, and some of us don’t like public transportation in general especially buses. I have only taken a few buses in my life and almost all of them have been charter buses so my mind doesn’t contain the bus mentality. My main points are that it might not be worth it unless someone likes them to some degree and can deal with the schedule.

Personally, I love being able to read on the bus. Even though it might take slightly longer, nearly all of that time is productive time vs spacing out and concentrating on driving when you use the car.

Does your car really get 26 mpg on 3.7 mile trips? Most cars get much worse mileage on short trips (especially in the cold). So, if you get 26 mpg on average, you’re probably getting substantially worse mileage to and from work.

Are you sure you’re getting 26 mpg? If you’re driving four miles each way, and then leaving your car to sit for 8 hours, then you’re only using the engine when it’s cold, the least fuel-efficient part of the cycle.

I’d guess you’re probably filling up once every other week, and your mileage includes your weekend driving. If you used your car only for commuting back and forth to work and checked your mileage after a couple of weeks, would it still be 26 mpg?

And while we’re figuring marginal costs, 40 miles a week for, say, 48 work weeks a year eqauls 1,920 miles, so figure you’d be saving 1/2 an oil change per year and maybe 10% of a set of tires.

Still another thing…who says the price of gas will stay where it is?

Nobody thought it would be this high now. Industry analysts now think the barrel price of oil may reach \$200 by the end of next year.

Maybe, but the cost savings of being healthier probably outweigh both of them. Just looking at health, most studies show that the risk of a serious accident is far outweighed by the life-extending health benefits of regular exercise. And it’s probably not as dangerous as you think, if you take the time to learn to ride correctly – members of bicycle clubs (which is a easy way of picking riders who have taken time to learn) have an accident rate per mile pretty close to motor vehicle drivers.

Just sayin’