The rising price of energy has caused me to rethink many of the assumptions I have about how I should live my life. Like many Utahns, I love to drive my car. I get to listen to the music I want to listen to, or the radio show I want. I can multi-task down the street with and egg mcmuffin in one hand, and a diet coke in my cupholder. However, that freedom has become rather costly.
So, I have decided to make a concerted effort to use mass transit. Through my employment, I already get a free bus pass, and that makes the opportunity cost of commuting in my vehicle doubly high. So what is the cost of a daily commute? My commute is 60 mile a day roundtrip. My car gets about 25 mpg on these commutes. So it takes 2.4 gallons of gasoline every day to go to work and back. 2.4 times $4 per gallon equates to $9.60 a day. For five days, that equates to $48/week or nearly $200/month.
If you take into account all factors such as vehicle wear and tear, you could use a basic mileage rate to estimate the costs of commuting via personal vehicle. Let's say you use $.50 per mile as the reimbursement rate, and you multiply that by the 1,200 miles I use in that commute, that is $600/month that can be saved by using mass transit.
Where I have to reset my assumptions the most is whether to use mass transit on my days off. I must confess, that I have never, no not once, used mass transit in Utah for anything other than commuting. However, tomorrow, I'm taking a day off work to see my doctor. I visited UTA's website and they have a trip planner at http://www.utabus.com/ridingUTA/tripPlanner/default.aspx that allows you to put in your beginning and destination points and you are given options on how to get there. A trip that would've taken 45 minutes, now will take me two hours using mass transit. However, I would save $25.60 in gas and a total cost of $80 for all things considered. For a four hour roundtrip, I would save $80 or $20/hour. Though that isn't what I make in my day job, I haven't made that kind of money before in any of my part-time jobs.
I've tried to approach energy use rationally and implement a conservation approach on the basis fiscal responsibility and self-interest. I already miss the freedom to take off during my lunch break and go to the restaurant of my choice. However, packing a lunch is also saving me money as well. I also dislike the extra hour I take every day to commute using mass transit. But on top of saving money, I recognize that I am doing my part to reduce our dependence on oil that seems to flow most freely from one of our planet's most unstable regions. Oh, and there is that greenhouse gas thing as well.