Cutting Commuting Costs

The three biggest expenses people have are housing, transportation and food. I’ve already been focusing on cutting my food expenses through bringing my lunches, but now I’m trying to turn my attention towards transportation.

A few weeks ago I sat down and thought through all of the costs associated with commuting to and from work. I was shocked to see that I was spending $379 a month just transporting myself to my job. It really got me thinking about alternative methods to get to downtown, compared to just hopping in the car and driving.

The only other way I knew of was to take the LA Metro Green Line to Blue Line. I’d need to drive about 10 minutes to the station, and then that route would get me to within a few blocks of the office about an hour later. My main issues with taking this route were that A) the interchange for the Blue Line from Green Line takes place in an area that’s pretty rough, and the station gets pretty terrible reviews on Yelp; and B) it would take me an hour and 10 minutes to get from my house to the office (driving in the morning takes an hour, at night it takes 45 minutes).

Coming up with a plan

I started asking around the office to see if there were other people who lived near me, and how they got to and from the office. My employer participates in a pretty awesome program that will give employees up to $110 a month to use on public transportation.  Luckily, there are a few other people who are pretty adept at taking public transit and they really opened my eyes to other routes for getting to and from work, without having to go through the sketch station.  I’ve been experimenting with some of the different options the past few weeks, and now I am committing to taking public transportation full time starting this week!  Here’s my plan, based on the past few weeks. If you know the LA area and can give me some more tips I’d really appreciate it!

The biggest game changer my colleagues told me about is called the Commuter Express. It’s a bus that picks up at the station near my house, and drives straight to downtown, making only 2 other stops along the way. It can take special bus lanes on the freeway, so the ride is only 40 minutes. When the 10 minute drive to the station is added, the total trip takes about 50-55 minutes, which is faster than driving (takes an hour). The bus is one of those tour buses, not a regular public transit bus, it’s really clean, and it’s filled with commuters. In the mornings, it’s amazing! It gets me to the office faster than driving, gives me some free time, and forces me to get out of the house on time.   The best part though, since it’s covered by the program at work, it’s FREE!

At night though, it’s a little bit of a different story. The Commuter Express does run in the evenings, but the problem is, the last bus leaves downtown at 5:55 pm. Most days I’m not leaving the office before 6 or 7, and during busy season that can get pushed back much later. So I needed to figure out how to get back home if I can’t take the Commuter Express.  Right now, I’ve narrowed my options at night down to 2. I can either take a different bus (the Silver Line) to the Green Line, or taking an Uber all the way to the station by my house.

If it’s relatively early (I’m initially thinking any time before 8, but I’ll play it by ear), I’ll be taking the Silver Line.  The Silver Line is a traditional public transit bus that has a stop right behind my office, and can take me to the Green Line with a few stops along the way. The interchange for the Silver to Green Lines occurs right at the intersection of the 110 and 105 Freeways. It seems perfectly safe, since it’s flanked on all sides by the freeway. The Green Line is a public transit train that goes to the same station that the Commuter Express does.  If it’s later than I’m comfortable taking public transportation at all, then I’ll just take an Uber from the office to the station by my house. Uber in LA has an Uber POOL option, where it will match you up with someone going in the same direction as you, and let you split the fare. Uber POOL from downtown to the station is between $10-15. It’s not covered by the program at work, but when I did the math, I realized that if I took an Uber home every single day of the month, I’d come out about even compared to driving and parking.  Any day that I’m able to take public transportation home will start bumping my savings higher.

Potential Savings

Since now I only have to drive 2 miles to the bust station instead of driving 20 miles to downtown, I think my bas bill will be significantly lower. I’m not sure what it will be, so I’m using $20 as a conservative estimate.  I think I’ll need to be taking an Uber home on average about 5 times per month. That could change month to month depending on busy season, but I think it’s a good estimate.

Driving Metro Difference
Gas 80 20 -60
Parking 160 0 -160
Sirius XM 7 0 -7
FastTrack 40 0 -40
Uber (Anticipating 5 times a month) 0 60 +60
Bus Pass/Metro Tickets 0 0 0
Car Insurance 122 122 0
Total 409 202 -207

 

I’m really excited about saving approximately $200 a month. Since I’ll be writing most of the time I’m on the bus, its almost like I’m getting paid $200 a month to work on my blog! It should give me a lot more free time to write, and I don’t have to get stressed out about sitting in traffic. Those 2 reasons alone make it worthwhile to take the bus, any savings on top of it gravy.

I think this is my biggest jump into really taking a look at my expenses and making changes in my life to minimize them.  Thus far I’ve started bringing my lunches to work, but that didn’t feel like a significant change. Taking the bus does feel pretty different though, especially since it seems like living in your car on the freeway is a way of life in LA.

How is the public transportation in your city? Have you been able to cut your transportation expenses by using it?

 

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