Monday, January 27, 2014

Deciding not to renew the bus pass

For years, I’ve tweeted every transit trip I took, continuing a tradition I began in the 1990s of logging each transit trip in a paper notebook. Since I began seriously using the bicycle as a commute mode, I wondered if I was still getting my money’s worth out of the bus pass, like I used to when all I did was bus. To that end, I downloaded all my archived tweets, tallied up every transit trip in 2013, and crunched the numbers.

Short answer: No, not even close. The bus pass cost me $1,608.75, but I only used $1,230 in equivalent, full cash fare. In only one month, March, did my cash equivalent fare exceed the $146.25 cost of a Zone 2 monthly pass, and even then, by less than two days' riding.

My son as well has a ConnectCard fare card, but has only ever had cash equivalent fare on it. It did not take long for him to burn through the $50 or $100 he had on it. During the year, if we were both paying attention, we would arrange for him to borrow mine with its unlimited riding annual pass on it, and I would take the bicycle (or motorcycle). But this too had its drawbacks, as the next day I would go to get on a bus, only to find I did not get the pass back from him, and he had no travel plans for that day.

After crunching the numbers, we arrived at a decision. The solution is to let the annual pass expire at the end of February. Instead of slapping down the equivalent of 11 monthly passes all at once, we will put 1/3 of a monthly pass on his card right now, $50 in non-expiring cash-equivalent fare. At the end of February, we will put the other 2/3 of that monthly on mine, also in cash-equivalent fare. He does not travel daily, and I have the bike and motorcycle, so this should allow us more flexibility in travel. $100 will get me around town for at least a month, and every day I bike saves me $7.50.

In addition, this allows my wife and me to travel around town easier, as she can borrow his pass. For example, on Saturdays when he works (up the street, within walking distance, not needing the pass), she and I can travel around the city to visit museums and other attractions.

Twitter has thus helped us make a significant household business decision, which may actually help us ride transit more, not less, and save us hundreds of dollars in the process. In a larger sense, though, I've gone through yet another transition, from four cars to two cars, to primarily transit usage with car backup, to using the bike some, to using the bike a lot, and now to using the bike as primary with bus as backup.


  1. I didn't exactly waste $380 last year, but I can use that money a lot better in the coming year, and possibly cause ridership to increase at the same time.

  2. That was always a mathematical challenge when I was working Downtown. Even with the now-defunct pre-tax income pass purchase, you really only make out on the deal if you ride close to 20+ days a month. And I never did.

    This non-expiring cash card option is a good step, but you're right, it's still a disincentive to ride many times per day.