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opportunity cost, or, bus vs. car part two

November 4, 2011

I just wrote this in a comment response, but then it occurred to me that it’s a) supremely long, and b) somewhat useful.  Here’s some opportunity cost math about my commute.

One way, door-to-door in light traffic, driving takes 45 minutes, assuming I can find a parking spot that doesn’t require a permit across the street from my office (typically — but not always — a valid assumption). It also assumes that there’s no fiery accident on I-40, which is not a very good assumption really.

One way, door-to-door right now, the bus takes 1 hour, 20 minutes, assuming again I can find a parking spot without a permit at the park-and-ride (true if I arrive for the 7:40am bus) and that I walk the mile from the stop to my office. I am planning on parking a shitty bike (<$30) at the stop and using it to get back and forth, as soon as I have time to buy one. This should cut it to 1 hour, 5 minutes.

So, this week, taking the bus was 35 minutes longer one way. If I spent all of that time working for my miserably low-paid (but with benefits!) job, I would make $8.75, or an extra $17.50 a day. If I spent that time writing freelance science articles, I could make something ranging from $0 to about $40 every day. Clearly, the economics of driving win here.

But what all of this ignores is that on the bus, I actually do have about 35 minutes in which I could be doing useful work (assuming it’s not a wifi bus and I spent that time reading comics on the internet). On Wednesday, I used it productively in the morning, but the rest of the week I was just reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw” and learning about ketchup and creative genius and the guy who invented birth control (awesome read). Anyway, if I were motivated, I could easily make up the lost time by being useful, and after I get a bike, if I’m useful I’ll actually be gaining 15 minutes of productive time every day by riding the bus.

Another thing this opportunity cost calculation ignores is that I only depart my house at 7:15am if I’m taking the bus. If I’m driving, I use that extra 35 minutes to hit snooze three times because I forgot to reset my alarm clock from when I took the bus the day before. So it’s not even sleep that’s worth anything except the comfort of lingering half-awake in warm blankets.

But mostly, what all of this means for certain is that I need a job closer to home.  Sigh.

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2 comments

  1. Update! I found a better parking spot at the bus station, so now it’s only 1:05 when I walk! I look forward to this cheap bike thing.


  2. […] previously mentioned, the commute sucks.  Also, only one other member of the group I work with — the […]



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