Gas prices in Los Angeles are nearing $5 a gallon, and I drive a lot. Well, so does everyone here. They say we waste 50 gallons a year here just idling in traffic. That's $250 for just sitting there.
Meantime, mass transit ridership is up 6 percent. On the five-county Metrolink train system it's up 15 percent. Tuesday was the most crowded day ever for Metrolink — 50,000 riders. Overall, more than 300,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area take some form of mass transit. That is still only a small drop in a huge bucket of gasoline, as there are an estimated nine to 14 million cars in the region. But it's a growing drop.
Today I decided to skip driving to work and take mass transit instead.
Here's how the two trips, my normal commute versus going mass transit, stack up.
By car — 38 miles one way.
By mass transit — 70 miles (eight miles driving to train station, 47 miles taking train to downtown Union Station, 15 miles on the subway to Universal City).
The mass transit commute can be shortened by using an employee shuttle at an earlier train stop, but it doesn't run early enough for my schedule.
By car — $15 in gas a day
Mass transit — $16.50 for roundtrip ticket.
It's still cheaper to drive! However, if I buy a monthly train pass I save. I spend $300 a month on gasoline for work (plus wear and tear, extra insurance, etc.). A monthly train pass is $256. NBC kicks in $50, so it's $206. Monthly gas savings: $94.
By car — usually an hour
By mass transit — two hours
Ouch. Sure, I got a lot done on the train, and it's very relaxing, but two hours? It's not convenient enough for me, and I'm blessed to be able to afford to just eat the higher gas prices.
But it was a nice change of pace. Metrolink has seen such a jump in ridership they're begging for temporary cars until new ones come on line. They've leased some from Seattle, and Seattle wants them back because of their own rising mass transit demands. Metrolink can't even afford to take trains out of service for long — hence, the train I was on this morning had problems with doors not opening.
I learned Blackberries don't work on subways. Duh. I also learned not to wear heels if you commute.
I was surprised at how few new riders I actually found on the trains. Most of the people were veterans who love telling you how much they save. One woman told me her 11-year-old car only has 56,000 miles on it. I drive that in two years.