Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gas prices make the bus a bargain

Lake Transit rider's pass in
hand-made brocade ID pouch
Among the messages on an e-mail group I subscribe to, were the instructions not to buy gas on April 15. The timing was ironic because I had added gas to the tank only one day before.

Gas boycotts limited to a single day are pointless because in order to genuinely reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels, we have to make far more radical changes than simply delaying an inevitable purchase. Gas sale totals on every other day of the week will easily compensate station operators for reduced sales on a single day.

I think a far more meaningful gesture would be to spend $35 on a Monthly Fast Pass that gives the bearer unlimited rides on Lake Transit routes in the County of Lake. (For $15 a week, I can buy a pass that includes ridership on Lake Transit routes into Napa and Mendocino counties.)

It costs so much to drive a car these days that $35 for an entire month’s bus ridership seems a far better investment than spending $35 or more every week to fill a car’s tank full of gas.

Riding the bus makes financial sense: AAA issued its 2011 edition of its annual “Your Driving Costs” and according to its findings, the overall cost of owning and operating what it terms “a typical new sedan” is up $289.

The AAA calculated an increase of 8.6 percent in the cost of gas. “The average price in California last month was $3.91, which is an 84-cent increase compared to last year.” AAA notes, “Drivers may experience regional differences in their overall cost of driving based on varying fuel prices and other factors.”

Other factors in the AAA report include maintenance and insurance costs (down this year, compared to last, according to the AAA), tire prices (up 14.8 percent) and depreciation costs.

Environmental consciousness also makes public transit all the more attractive and viable. Instead of burning fuel during a trip in which I’m the only person in the car, I can be one of several passengers on a Lake Transit bus.

Bicycling and walking are viable options too in our population centers’ downtowns; many Lake Transit vehicles are equipped with grills that will transport riders’ bikes.

I’d encourage motorists to check Lake Transit schedules and see if there are routes that are compatible with getting them where they need to go. To be sure, defecting motorists may have to make adjustments to their daily routines, since their travel options will be limited to fixed times when the buses run.

But on the plus side, bus riders have the confidence of knowing that an entire network of drivers, in radio contact at all times, are actively working and communicating with each other to ensure that their riders get where they need to go. Bus rides are also a great time for homework or for catching a few extra Z’s.

For more information about AAA’s report on 2011 driving costs, go to www.csaa.com/auto/driving-commuting. For information on Lake Transit routes, go to www.laketransit.org.

Published April 19, 2011 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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