Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Reading, Riding and (do the) Arithmetic

With the outrageous price of gasoline people should consider giving up their cars. The status and independence that come with owning an automobile might seem indispensable. But these amenities have luxury price tags.

Gas is just one expense to be tallied. Car payments, insurance premiums, maintenance, license tags, parking and even fines and tickets if assessed, must also be included. All told, the cost of owning a car can easily run $500 monthly, or more. Do the arithmetic.

Without an automobile folks must find other ways to get around. Public transportation is one option that has both advantages and disadvantages. Low cost is the biggest advantage. A monthly pass offering unlimited rides within a major metropolitan area typically costs around $50.

Comfort is another advantage. Riding a bus is relatively relaxing, compared to driving a car, where the driver must stay alert and often has to fight traffic. A bus ride offers free time for reading, sightseeing, or dozing off.

An advantage that frequently gets overlooked is the health benefit that comes from the extra walking that’s required of the bus rider. The walking is often brisk, for example when the rider has to hurry to catch a departing bus.

On the downside, bus riding can substantially increase the time invested in commuting. Even so, if the bus time is used to catch up on reading, as noted above, or studying, it’s an investment that will pay off.

The fact that buses don’t go everywhere is another drawback. The rider who does not live on a bus line will have to walk or hitch a ride to and from the bus stop. Bus schedules may not accommodate early morning or late night transportation needs. Riding the bus raises concerns about personal safety, especially for the gals, who will have to venture onto streets and mingle with many different types of people, some of whom are undesirable.

Buses aren’t entirely reliable either. They can break down, get off schedule, and are subject to driver error, bad weather, road construction, and so forth. Some of these same problems afflict automobile travel as well.

What’s most likely to discourage folks from getting rid of their cars is no longer having the freedom to come and go as they wish. Again, there are alternatives. For younger riders using a parent’s car for a date or for weekend travel may be possible, especially for those who live at home.

Simply considering what an extra $500 a month could buy may tip the scales in favor of folks ditching their cars. The list includes major purchases to upgrade a wardrobe, computer, or sound system, all of which are tempting. If saved, a college student will amass $6,000 in a year’s time, which would provide many with welcomed help toward paying tuition.

Another benefit comes from doing one’s part to reduce carbon output that causes global warming.

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