Costing out Caltrain

I bought my monthly Caltrain pass yesterday. Along with a parking permit, it came to $189 (Caltrain charges by the zone; this happens to be zone 2 to zone 4). Taking the train saves me about 45 miles of driving per day, so to break even, if I take the train 20 days a month, driving would have to coast me 21¢/mile.

I get about 30 mpg, so with gas around $3/gallon, that’s 10¢/mile, leaving 11¢ to account for. I won’t count insurance, since it’s not going to change whether I drive the extra miles or not. Likewise, my 1997 Civic already has 250,000 miles on it, so depreciation isn’t much of a factor any more.

If I get 40,000 miles on a set of $400 tires, that’s only a penny a mile. I probably spend around $1000/year on maintenance and repairs (wild guess, but I’m religious about maintenance, and it’s an old car), so at 20,000 miles/year (long commute), that’s 5¢/mile.

Doesn’t seem like that great a deal, does it? I’m a little surprised. Maybe I misplaced a decimal; somebody check my work.

2 thoughts on “Costing out Caltrain”

  1. Your case — fully paid-for car, 30 mpg — is quite unusual. Also, insurance rates usually reflect usage, so less use will lower your rates.

    There are also the non-monetary issues. You may like driving, and enjoy the challenge every day. I prefer trains with power outlets at the tables, because I find driving boring and stressful.

    BTW, the IRS official mileage rate for 2009 is $0.55 per mile, so I see $24.75 per day.

  2. At least with my insurance (State Farm), there’s a relatively low-annual-mileage infection point, and beyond that it’s a flat rate.

    I do prefer the train, though audiobooks have transformed my driving experience.

    And yes, the IRS rate is much higher than my rate. But it doesn’t do me any good.

    My conclusion is that public transit should be cheaper. Caltrain’s response to higher costs, understandably given their budget, is to reduce service and raise fares. That’s not great public policy.

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