The joy of public transport

melbourne-tramHey there!

Having  started a new daily commute for work this past month, I’ve been looking to balance time spent travelling with the cost of travelling (economic, environmental, cognitive). Unfortunately, I work in a major city and can’t afford housing there (yet) which leaves me with just a few options

  1. drive from home to work (20km and 45mins each way)
  2. public transport, or (20km and 1hrs 25 each way)
  3. some mix of the above (20km, 1hr each way)

Cost of each of these look like

  1. drive from home to work (car $23.20, parking $33.12; total = $56.32 per day)
  2. public transport (cost $9.20 per day)
  3. drive to train station, use train > bus connections (car $15.08, parking $0.00, public transport, $4.50; total cost = $19.58)

On face value, it’s clear driving to work has a huge cash cost ($12,953.6 per year!) not to mention the stress of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic for almost an hour prior to and following work – not my idea of the best start to the day.

Pure public transport on the other hand is inexpensive ($2116 p.a.), has a low cognitive cost yet can be inconvenient at times. In reality, as much as I’d like to step on to the bus/train to work, I like to exercise outdoors or at a gym on the way home most weeknights (I keep running gear, gym cloths and swimmers in my car) or catch up with people I enjoy being with, and that’s more difficult do spontaneously if I don’t have a car until I get home in the evening. Example – today was 37 degrees Celsius (98.6F) and I really felt like going to the beach for a swim on the way home. If I only had access to the public transport, this would be impossible to do. At 1hr 25mins, it also consumes a fair amount of time – an extra hour per day compared to a compromise and a full 1hr 20 more than driving. Sure, you can use part of this time to relax or in productivity, but it’s a ton of hours you just wouldn’t get back (around 230hrs per year in my situation).

What strikes me though is how much stress melts away when you’re able to use public transport for a daily commute – no traffic, spare time to read, contemplate, chat with a friend or just zone out, significantly lower financial cost, less impact on the environment and only at a small cost of convenience. In most developed cities, public transport can really be a joyful experience and I feel blessed we’ve got pretty decent public transport in Australia (Ok, I know it’s far from perfect!). In my ideal world, I’d live a 20 minute walk to my office (cycling is another great option, if you have shower facilities at work – we don’t!).

What I’m currently doing is driving to the nearest train station, parking near by (so I don’t have to pay for all-day parking) and getting public transport from there. My fare at the moment with my student pass is under $2.00 for the round trip, plus running costs for the car and I’m looking at $3128 p.a. This is a pretty good compromise.

Hopefully in the next 6 months I’m able to move out of my current house into my own apartment. This has been a secondary dilemma of mine for a while now – I rent with 2 other people in a far away land (relative to work, recreation, friends and where most major transport hubs are outside of walking distance). On top of this, one of my housemates is also my landlord, so it’s often hard to feel like it’s “home” (e.g. air-con has been of limits in summer and using the heat lamp in the bathroom another transgression (grrrr,). She’s not direct about it, so we haven’t even had a major confrontation about these things. Even though I more or less ignore her more unreasonable requests (there, you get my confession) it’s not a great place to live.

I’d love to live closer to the coast, easily accessible public transport near work, and it’s really starting to look within grasp, even whilst keeping my expense relatively low. So that’s exciting – and in the mean time, I’ve some decent options for my daily commute.

How do you get to work? What’s your experience with public transport been like?






11 thoughts on “The joy of public transport

  1. I love catching the train. I have a 5 minute drive to park at our local train station for free (do your stations really charge for parking?!), then about 45 minutes on the train including a switch. I’ve tried driving a few times, but the stress of Sydney peak hour (peak 4 hours), followed by the fight to get a parking spot is just not worth it. One day it took me until morning tea to calm down, and that even included buying a coffee! I read blogs, write my posts, read books/mags/comics, plan, daydream, doze (rarely). Sydney trains have quiet carriages now, so I always try to get in one of those. So much easier to concentrate.

    1. Wow, that sounds just great. We don’t have quiet carriages, but my transit time on the train is brief. I tend to just look at the view or ponder…and yes, we really have to pay for parking at a train statoin – I tend to park a block away and walk, then it’s free for the day, although local councils are cracking down on it and erecting the ‘No Stopping’ signs everywhere!

  2. I totally get where you’re coming from WFT! The car is the most versatile because you can go anywhere.
    But for me, to get to work, it’s cheaper by public transport than a car – for the petrol alone.
    And it’s quicker.
    And I have an hour to relax, do some typing, play a game, read the internet – whatever I want to do. No rush hour traffic for me 🙂
    That’s why, between my wife and I, we have one car. Not because we couldn’t afford a second, but because we just don’t need one.

    1. Sounds great Tristan, being able to have one rather than two cars for your family is great, your saving thousands in insurance and registration, fuel and maintenance alone. Hope you enjoy your Thursday, WFT

  3. Great post. I’ve been travelling from the Central Coast to the city for around 2 years now using public transport. At first, it was really difficult to get used to the long commute but now I prefer it to driving. My partner has recently also started working near my work and we have been mixing up driving and catching the train. We’ll need to compare the costs but I believe driving is cheaper for us when you have two people in the car. Hope did you come up with your car cost estimates?

    1. Hey Len, thanks for stopping by. Long commutes do take some getting use to. I think half the battle is deciding if the time spent commuting is worth the saving cash/stress wise of using public transport. I estimated my car costs by averaging my $ cost for 2015 for auto expenses / km’s driven for 2015. It’s 58c per km. The national average is 70c/km. (you can check it out here:

      If you drive your partner to work too you’re saving a decent chunk, which is awesome. BTW central coast = great part of Australia!

  4. Hello! I carpool wit my bf to work, if I didn’t have him or if he worked in another place, I would train it. I tried driving to work but like Mrs. ETT, I get stressed. Super stressed. I don’t even drive to the city. I don’t pay for petrol but I think $60 is more than enough to get us through the week. It takes us about 30 minutes to get to work and we can always do grocery (or late night) shopping on our way home. When it comes to PT, in Melbourne, we get free train fares if we touch off before 7:15 am. Most people who can do flexi-time avail of this. Working early isn’t for everyone but $5 off your daily fare sure is tempting.

    I hope all’s well with you! Also, 37 degrees! I was already complaining when it hit 29.

  5. When I had to work in the city I would take public transportation. Now that I am working outside the city I have a reverse commute against traffic so it takes me 10 minutes to work. So I’m actually saving some money since I don’t have to commute as far.

  6. Driving for any distance for more than 30mins is a pain, and not to forget expensive fuel + parking charges – does take a toll on the savings 😉
    I like public transport only as long as I’m able to read on way(search Delhi, India metro, you’ll see how crowded it is).
    Luckily my office provides a cab for my commute, so that’s real saver – I don’t have to drive and not even get stuck in huge crowds in metro.
    But I’d definitely choose public transport, lets keep the environments clean & safe.

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