Today I’d like to take a slightly more analytical approach to this blog by going through a very basic equation that drives a great deal of decisions in our lives:
More Money In My Pocket > Less Money In My Pocket
Where > is better and < is worse
Specifically, I want to show, how in my situation, this equation is borne out by the following:
Cost (Car) < Cost (Bus) < Cost (Biking)
First, the facts: I am 27 years old, and currently a resident of San Francisco, CA. I live in the Mission District at 20th and Florida (map) and work in SoMa at 2nd and Mission (map). The distance between the two is approximately 2.7 miles (map), making a round trip distance every day of 5.4 miles.
In a car, I pay $100 every year for a neighborhood parking permit (policy side note: the city needs to drastically raise this price in order to meet its goal of increasing the population while decreasing the number of cars; but that’s just the economist in me talking). I then average about 18 miles per gallon of city driving in my Honda Civic. Gas is about $3.90 in the city. Let’s assume that there is .20 cents a mile in maintenance cost and I go to work every week day for a year. I pay just over $100 a month for full insurance on my car. Finally, parking at the lot at I-80 and 2nd street costs $250 a month. That makes ($100 ($3.90/18*5.4*255)+(5.4*255*$.2)+(100*12)+(250*12)) = $4873.70 per year which is $406.15 per month. Ouch! No wonder Americans are driving less these days.
The bus is much better by comparison. You could pay out of pocket for $2 each way, making the journey $4 every day for a monthly cost of $88 per month or $1,056 per year. But at that rate you’re more likely to buy the monthly pass at $74 or $888 per year. Not bad, except you have to deal with the s**t show that is the SF muni.
Finally, biking is free! Okay, not entirely. Let’s assume there is an ongoing maintenance cost of about 7 cents a mile. Also, we need calories to power those legs! So it takes my 200 pound frame about 140 calories (source) to go 2.4 miles each way. At an average cost of $1 per 100 calories (source), it costs me $2.8 every day in food to pedal to work (2nd policy side note: that’s about the same cost in gas to drive my car, and if I only ate non-processed, unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, it would cost more to fuel my legs than my car). Add up maintenance and food ($.07*5.4*255)+($2.8*255), and that makes a yearly cost $810.39 and a monthly cost of $67.53 to bike to work. Bad ass.
So let’s review my annual costs for commuting:
- Cost (car) = $4873.70
- Cost (bus) = $888.00
- Cost (bike) = $810.39
Pretty clear decision. Later this week, we will review my favorite part about bicycle economics in San Francisco: what we found with cost is reflected in commute times as well.