What is Your Time Worth? Picking a Commuting Option

When I last worked at the University, I heard how much the parking pass was for my building (which wasn’t part of the University parking systems) and simply determined I would take the bus.

At first I took the light rail into downtown. There’s a light rail station just a couple of minutes from my house, and during commute hours, trains run every eight minutes. I then caught an express bus from downtown to the University district and walked a couple of blocks to work. I did the reverse in the evening. On this route, my commute regularly took 90-100 minutes.

Then, I discovered an express bus that I could catch and take the whole way. I would get on in the morning at a park and ride about 7 miles south of my house. (I work north.) Based on the scheduled commute time, this route would take me only about 75-85 minutes each way, and I got to stay in one place, reading my book.

There ended up being some problems, like the bus running routinely late in the mornings, so I started to show up in time to catch an earlier bus, just to make sure I got to work on time. And on nights when traffic was bad, it could take me over 2 hours to get home, partly because of those 7 miles past my house the bus had to go on the freeway, and that I then had to drive back.


Now, I am back at the University. For my first week, I drove every day, and paid the $15 in parking. I knew that $15/day was not sustainable, but for the first week, getting back into the swing of things, it was worth it. And I started timing my commute.

Driving, my commute has been about 50 minutes each way.

On the bus or bus/train, I was never home before 6pm. The first week, I was home before 6pm every night but one- when there was an accident on the freeway, with most of the backup happening before the carpool lanes even start. (So the bus would have been just as caught in traffic as I was.) There was about 15 minutes from the time the carpool lanes started to when I passed the accident, so the bus only would have saved me some of that 15 minutes. (And I was still home by 6:15.) In fact, even with the accident, even with it taking me almost 50 minutes just to get to the carpool lanes, I was still home in 75 minutes- the shortest of the commute times I had on the bus.


This means that driving saves me roughly 1 hour every day, and gives me a flexibility that just isn’t possible with public transportation.


So, I ran the numbers for University transportation options.


Bus Passes are $44/month ($528/yr)


A single occupancy vehicle parking pass is $141/month ($1,692/yr). It INCLUDES the bus pass, which means I can still take the train to events downtown or even take public transportation to work, for no additional costs, when that option makes the most sense. So we’re looking at a difference of $97/month or $1,164/year for just the parking pass part.


A motorcycle parking pass is $47/month. It also INCLUDES the bus pass. So in that case, it would be $3/month or $36/year.

The difference between the car pass and the motorcycle pass is $94/month or $1,128/year.


The best deal is obviously a motorcycle pass. Sadly, my dream motorcycle (Can-Am Spyder) is about $11,500 used. So, it would take roughly 10 years of motorcycle pass vs car pass to pay for itself.


However, I could get a used, highway capable scooter for around $2,000-3,000, which would pay for itself in 2-3 years.

Either way, I’d also have to take a motorcycle riding course, and we would have another vehicle to insure. Plus, it would essentially be a “me only” vehicle, with no real ability to transport anyone else.


Going back to the car parking pass, assuming there are 20 working days a month, driving would save me 20 hours a month. At the cost of $97/month, that works out to $4.85/hr. On the job, I make about $41.50/hr.

Driving does mean gas and upkeep costs, but C is no longer driving 50 miles south every day for class, so I think our car costs may still actually go down from what they were last year. And there are no upfront costs or increased insurance premiums.


The question is, what is my non-working time worth?


I purchased the parking pass.