I mentioned this in my last post, but didn't realize that I haven't actually put this up on my blog yet: I am going car-free for the month of November! In my Introduction to Sustainability course, we are required to do a Personal Social Responsibility Plan. Something that became abundantly obvious to me in completing this assignment is that I drive too much. Although I drive a lot less now that I have in previous years (for a couple years Tim and I were living in different cities, so there was a lot of driving between where I lived and where he lived, then, when we moved to the Lower Mainland, I first was working in Downtown Vancouver and later in Pitt Meadows, both of which are a bit of a drive from where we live in North Vancouver), it is still too much.
I also notice that for all of my eco-sensitivity, I just take driving for granted. I jump in my car and drive to wherever I need to be and let it be someone else's problem. Well, now it's my problem. I'm going to get used to biking wherever I can, and using public transit as well. For the rest of this month I'm just going to dabble in both, but next month, it's really on!
So my first order of business was obtaining a lock for my bike. I've been looking for a lock on Craigslist for a month or so, but have so far been unable to find one that doesn't require me driving a long distance to pick it up. I guess now I could bike to pick it up and make an adventure out of it! So I sent out an email at my office and asked if anyone had an extra lock, and immediately three or four people offered to check and see if they had one at home, and one of the partners brought one in after lunch that same day! As I already had my trusty repurposed seatbelt courier bag, I didn't have to worry about that either, although I am thinking after this weekend that I might need paniers. I am either going to get some second hand or get them from U.S.E.D., the same company I got my courier bag from. I probably won't absolutely need to get paniers, though, because I'm going to try to plan out the food and clothing that I need to bring to work so that they will already be there for the days that I bike in - I'll just bring them the day before.
So the real question that must be asked is whether all of this effort is "worth it" in the economical sense. Biking is great exercise and both biking and using public transit are a better choice than driving for the environment, but is it cheaper and if so, does the inconvenience outweigh any savings?
First of all, I will have to buy a bus pass for the month of November. Since I have to go downtown frequently for school in November (but only about three times per week during peak hours), it makes sense to buy a one zone pass, which costs about $81, but then purchase an Add Fare ($1.25 each time) when necessary, which should be about 12 times during November. So using public transit will cost me about $96 for the month. I will also have to purchase parking insurance for my car, which I have not priced yet, but I will assume it will be $20. I will come back and correct this post if it is wildly more expensive.
However, the insurance for my car costs about $170/month. I also end up buying two tanks of premium gasoline, which costs about $70/tank, so another $140. I can't accurately factor in or account for the maintenance costs of my car for the month, but generally during the year I pay about $800 for maintenance, oil changes, etc., plus the extended warranty, which ended up costing about $1,000 per year for the three and a half years that it covered my car. When you think about it, cars are just unreasonably expensive. For the purposes of calculating the savings that will accrue from not driving for the month, I'm only going to use the absolute bottom line costs of insurance and gas.
So to use public transit for the month of November, I will end up paying a total of $116. This would have been even less if I had just sold my car, but I'm not ready for that yet. The costs I would have paid to operate my car for the month of November, assuming no mechanical or maintenance work was required, would have been $310. So by using public transit for a month, I will end up saving $196. Money well saved!