Monday, November 16, 2009

What Drives People to Public Transportation?

When my wife decided to go back to school, at first I thought she might be losing her mind. But she’s having a great time. A decision she agonized over for a while was whether to drive or take the bus. It’s nice to think that we take the bus for green reasons, but it really comes down to cost and convenience. I’ll let her tell you the rest.

When the City of Ottawa reversed their decision to limit student bus passes to students under the age of 27, I decided to buy a bus pass and take the bus to school every day instead of just the two days a week I start at 8:00 am.

A monthly student express bus pass costs $76.60 compared to the full adult express rate of $106. If you are paying with cash or tickets, there is no discount for being a student. A monthly parking pass at school in the cheapest lot would cost me $71. Of course, there are 700 people on a waiting list to get one of these coveted spots and the college doesn't guarantee that even with a parking pass you will actually have a parking spot when you get there with your car. It doesn't seem like that good a deal to me.

Now I'm not as good at analyzing financial matters as my dear husband but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the gas, depreciation and wear and tear on my car would cost me more than the difference of $5.60 per month.

It took awhile to figure out that the bus schedule is more of a suggestion than something written in stone and that when coming home in the evening with the thousands of public servants returning to the suburbs, any bus in the 70 range that has room will get me closer to home where I can transfer onto the proper bus once said public servants have gotten off the bus and into their cars that they left at the park and ride that morning. And it has been fun trying to figure out who is going to give me H1N1, but I will diligently continue to not touch my face and wash my hands when I get to my destination.

Time-wise taking the bus in the morning is more convenient than taking the car because of the transitway and dedicated bus lanes. I almost feel sorry for all the people in traffic as we zip by them. The off peak trips take a bit longer and are more unpredictable but it's not a big enough hassle to get me back in my car at this point.

The interesting pricing even makes it more economical for me to purchase a student monthly pass in December when I am only in school for 3 weeks instead of paying full adult fare with tickets. And next year the city is going to make it even cheaper to buy a semester pass. I don't see using public transit for grocery shopping but for back and forth to school, it is working out pretty well.


  1. Don't be dissin us Pubic Serfants, we pays for yo skulin!

    The bus in Ottawa CAN work well if you work and live within distance of a bus stop AND travel mostly on the transitway. If you are not as fortunate the variable to add to the equation is AGGRAVATION and TIME.

    Still drivin' my car. -c8j

  2. I received a comment by email from the "The James Gang" who found a creative way to cut down on parking fees:

    As a retiree/senior citizen, for 4 years I took advantage of seniors’ discount on tuition fees at Wilfrid Laurier University. I drove my car as public transit schedules from Cambridge to Waterloo did not suit my class times. After receiving a couple of parking tickets due to difficulty in finding convenient parking, I took a long walk in the vicinity of the campus (in the area known as the student ghetto) and discovered that a few of the private homes converted to student housing had empty parking spaces. I knocked on a few doors and found that some of the students did not own a car, yet were entitled to a parking space with their rent. Most often these were foreign students. It was then an easy matter of arranging to make use of their parking space at a cheaper cost than campus parking or public transit and enjoyed guaranteed availability. Both the student and I benefited with this arrangement. Walking distance to the campus was not a problem.