Friends are still running laps around me in the transit savings department
By Jennifer Hadley 12/31/2008
One way I’ve tried to save money is by using Metro whenever possible, the most recent opportunity coming last week with a meeting to attend in Monrovia, more than 26 miles from home. At first, I considered taking the Gold Line. But, unfortunately, the train does not yet extend that far. I could have taken it to its terminus at Sierra Madre and probably found a bus to get me the rest of the way to my appointment, which seemed like a lot of work. But I’m trying to save money, so I needed to figure out a way to get there and back cheaply and quickly.
Just a few months ago, with gas prices nearing $5 a gallon in some places, I would have needed a small loan to commute just once. But now that gas prices are hitting five-year lows, with drivers in Alhambra paying $1.77, drivers in Glendale paying an average of $1.83, and my Xterra getting 21 freeway miles to the gallon, my choice was never easier: I would once again be able to drive, which is certainly more convenient and now actually cheaper in most cases than taking public transit.
With my Xterra, the total trip would use just under 2.5 gallons of gas, meaning that the total cost would run about $4.50. Taking the Metro, on the other hand would run me at least $5, plus additional bus fare.
I was feeling pretty good about this, mainly because my Metro-riding friends have been running gas-savings laps around me for months. Tricia, for instance, who lives in Westminster, started riding the Blue and Red lines to work in downtown LA back in September. At the time, she estimated saving $400 to $500 a month in gas and parking alone, to say nothing of the reduced wear and tear on her car. But now, with gas being so cheap, I wanted to know if she was considering going back to driving.
Tricia said that she’s only saving about $200 a month now, and taking the train actually takes an additional 40 minutes per day. But she’s sticking with it; she’s still only putting 7,000 miles a year on her sweet little Acura, not the 20,000 she otherwise would have logged. Plus, she gets reimbursed $50 of the $62 she spends a month for a Metro pass and has no parking fees to pay, adding up to $12 bucks a month to get to and from work. Suffice it to say, Tricia has saved hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars by taking Metro. And she is still saving, only not as much, as gas prices plummet.
Then I thought about my friend Joe, who had grown weary of $400 repairs to his car every few thousand miles and bought a scooter for local commuting. The most he has ever spent on gas at one time when it was expensive was $2. Joe’s also schooling me in the savings department.
But really, since I only drive a few times a week, there’s not many ways that I can capitalize on any possible savings. Of course, the irony isn’t lost on me that you have to spend money on gas to save it when prices are down. But I also want to save hundreds of dollars a month! What’s a girl to do?
I’ll tell you what: drive even less and walk. As meager as the savings may be, I’ve taken to walking more often. I walk to dinner, to the bank, to the post office; I even walk to the gas station each week to buy lottery tickets. I may not be saving that much money, since these walks total less than two miles. But I’m still saving a tiny bit each week by walking instead of driving.
Oh, I’m still envious of all the savings my friends are realizing. But if I’m going to be a jealous monster anyway, I might as well be one that’s slimmed down and well-toned while still saving at least a few dollars a month.
Contact Jennifer Hadley at email@example.com.