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Fiscal year blues

By enelson
Wednesday, July 5th, 2006 at 12:24 am in Altamont Commuter Express, BART, Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), driving, Transit vs. driving.

I recently bought my Capitol Corridor Amtrak ticket for this month and should not have been surprised that it went up $14 to $269. Seems like a lot of money, doesn’t it? It does to me, too, especially when I add the $80 or so that I spend on BART.

But, to quote my favorite rail rider rep, it’s not going to get me back into my car.


With gas prices at $3 and up, its still going to cost me about $300 in gas for the month if I drive, plus $66 in tolls. Now that $17 savings is multiplied by the fact that I can read the newspaper or even write blog entries on the train. (Perhaps I can even post them on the train when A, I get around to figuring out which wireless internet service is worth the money, or B, Capitol Corridor finally gets a permanent wi-fi service set up.)

Then there’s the sanity issue. I’ve always dreamed of commuting to work when no such alternative existed, and that was simply so that I could arrive at work refreshed, rather than tense and mentally spent from dodging SUVs for 90 minutes.

What I find puzzling, to some extent, is that so many people choose to drive when they do have an alternative. Especially in the Bay Area, which, despite everyone’s whining, is pretty well outfitted with transit. (Ok, Marin County residents, you have my permission to continue whining — and driving.)

So with the start of the new fiscal year, when riders on the Altamont Commuter Express and Capitol Corridor are wrestling with this same equation, remember to factor in mental health as well as gas, tolls and car maintenance.

I pondered that question the evening I used up my June pass. As if to help answer my question, I ended up sitting next to a couple of Miller-timers on their way to Sacramento.

There were several empty 500 ml white wine bottles on their table, and they were into a very loud game of cards. The wine-drinker was a visiting Swede, and I was reminded of the pair of ne’r-do-wells in “Fargo.”

Halfway into the ride, a 40-ish woman who had apparently met one of them in line for more drinks came to the table to join them. In no time at all, she was pulling down her jeans to show them her tattoo and piercings.

It may take a little longer, but I’m sticking with the train.

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2 Responses to “Fiscal year blues”

  1. Michael Says:

    To be fair, you’re saving a lot more than just gas money, though you hinted at other savings (tolls and maintenance) later.

    Probably the biggest savings is in extending the life of your car. Assuming you still have a car for other uses (like most commuters), it will last a lot longer since you’re driving it a lot less. If you can go another five years before buying a $25,000 car, you’re saving $5000 a year or about $400/month.

    That’s huge, bigger than your entire monthly ticket or gas cost, never mind the $17 difference between the two.

    We bought our newest car in 1995. It still has under 100,000 miles on it.

  2. Jayne Says:

    I know this response is late, but ah well. I’m new to the tri-valley area having just moved to Livermore, and the commute can be a bitch. That being said, my work schedule doesn’t allow for me to take ACE.

    This is disappointing since in the past I enjoyed taking mass transit, and would again if ACE offered more times. However, in order for me to catch the last shuttle from my area to the station, I have to leave work before 5pm. This just isn’t realistic for me, and, I bet, for many others.

    I like that mass transit from Livermore to San Jose even exists. But what good is it if the schedule offerings are so spare that most people cannot be accommodated? Is there an alternative to ACE that will allow me my 8:30 – 5:30pm schedule?

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