Image via WikipediaGovernment officials constantly talk about getting people out of their cars and into mass transit as a way to help alleviate gridlock on our roads. Car pool and ride share programs are constantly advertised on the radio as well. As much as I hate the traffic and gridlock of my daily commute on the beltway traveling from Bowie to Bethesda MD each day, I got a pretty good reminder this week as to why using mass transit for my commute to work will not work for me.
I had to attend the Fancy Food Show that was held at the DC Convention Center. Since parking is virtually nonexistent downtown, I decided to take the Metrorail down to the convention center each of the two days I attended the show. There are two Metrorail stations relatively close to Bowie; Greenbelt and New Carrollton. New Carrollton is closer, but parking is the pits there, so I decided on Greenbelt. The commute each day cost me $9 and $4 for parking.
When the Metrorail system first opened, it was one of the better subway systems in the country. It was consistently clean, and everything worked great. These days, the system seems to be falling into disrepair. The news constantly talks about the many escalators that do not work. When I was waiting to return on my train this week, there were notices that elevators were out of service in several stations. While the system has been mostly safe, there was a very deadly accident a couple years back.
While these issues are concerning and need to be addressed, they are not the reason for my reticence in using the system on a regular basis. For me to use the system for my daily commute to and from work, it needs to be both convenient and cost effective for me. In my particular situation, the system is neither. The subway system is great (when working) for those that live or work in the Washington DC or inside the beltway.
I have two options available should I want to use mass transit to commute to and from work. Both options would involve taking the subway followed by a bus transfer to the office. The first is driving to a subway station, and the other would be to to take the bus to the station. Since there are no bus stops near my house, I would still need to get in my car to go to a park and ride lot to catch the bus. No matter which option I would take, my commute time would be at least 1.5 hours compared to my average commute of an hour.
The next factor for me in using mass transit would be the cost factor. Of the two options above, the round trip cost of both options would be over $12 per day. If I were to choose to drive my car to the subway station instead of taking the bus, then I would also have to add $4 per day parking to my commuting expenses. Currently, I probably spend between $30-$40 per week for gas for my car. Taking mass transit would cost me $60-$80 per week.
I would love to be able to leave the driving to somebody else, but in my current situation, taking mass transit is a loser in both of the factors that matter to me; cost and convenience. My commute time would increase on average by 50%, and the location of the stations and bus stops are not close enough for me to completely abandon my car. Add to that the nearly double cost when compared to my car, and you can understand why I would be reticent to use mass transit.