While riding light rail downtown to a morning meeting, I had some time to think about my transportation choices, and the sometimes not-so-conscious cost-benefit analyses we make on a daily basis.
Of course, this morning’s ride was a no brainer, the four buck round trip fare less than the cost of a parking meter, let alone a downtown parking lot. Plus, the cool, overcast morning made the 15 minute walk to Othello Station a pleasure, at least in the sense that I didn’t arrive at my destination completely covered in sweat.
But let’s say my daughter was with me, which would double that $4 fare to $8. If we’re gonna be downtown for more than hour or two, that makes economic sense, but for a relatively quick trip, not so much… especially considering that I still have to amortize the cost of owning a car, regardless of how much I use it.
The anti-rail folks complain about the high cost of the public subsidy, but I can’t help but wonder if the subsidy simply isn’t high enough. For in a city designed to virtually require car ownership, and in a nation where the public subsidies for our automobile culture are largely hidden (you know, things like the BP oil spill, the Iraq War and global climate change, let alone more obvious stuff like roads), it can be hard to justify the added cost of using mass transit when there’s a perfectly good car sitting idle in your driveway. In fact, I personally tend to use light rail more out of convenience (parking/traffic) than any real cost saving.
So my question for the rest of you is this: why do you or don’t you use mass transit, and would lower or higher fares change your behavior?