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Three Modes in Three Days

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010


Written by Jason Kambitsis

There is no better way to start an argument here at Autopia then to start comparing the benefits and drawbacks of mass transit, bike commuting and driving to work. Everyone has an opinion and is utterly convinced it is right.

It got me thinking about my own commute here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so I decided to conduct an experiment: try each mode of transportation to see which was fastest. While I was at it, I decided to look at the overall cost and the health benefits as well.

With that in mind I set out on my adventure in commuting.

I took a semi-scientific approach to this. By picking three days in a row to try each mode — bike, car, bus — I could get a pretty good idea of how long each took and how much it cost me.

My methodology was simple. I chose a week in June with no holidays or special events that would throw normal traffic patterns out of whack. I decided to conduct the experiment on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so my trips wouldn’t be affected by Monday or Friday changes in traffic. Those same three days also had similar weather: clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s.

Each day’s commute started at home. The trip downtown is 5.6 miles on the road. I followed the exact same route on my bike and in my car. The trip has many ups and downs which definitely increased my commute home on the bike because there’s a long climb to my house.

I chose something a little different for the bus. I could have taken the bus that follows the same route to work that I drive, but that seemed pointless because the time would be exactly the same as in my car because we’d be fighting the same traffic. So I opted to take a bus that drives in a dedicated bus line free of other vehicles. It’s a longer way to get to work — 6.3 miles — and the stop is a mile from my house, so that added 15 minutes of walking time to both ends of my trip.

Every commute regardless of the mode was made door-to-door and included any time spent walking or money spent on parking. Not that it matters much to the methodology, but I drive a 1998 Honda CR-V that’s paid for and I ride a Trek Soho. So how’d it go?

Here’s a breakdown of what it cost in money, time and calories expended:

Bicycle: 2010 Trek Soho

  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • Time to work: 27:17 minutes
  • Time home: 37:42
  • Total time: 64:59
  • Calories: 781
  • Cost: $2.00 for a muffin at the local coffee shop to make up for calorie loss, 50 cents for maintenance.
  • Total Cost for a year (240 day work year): $600.00

Car: 1998 Honda CR-V

  • Distance: 5.6 miles
  • Time to work: 34:13 minutes
  • Time home: 30:32
  • Total time: 64:45
  • Calories: 208, including walking to and from my car.
  • Cost: $8.75 for parking, $1.50 for gas, $1.60 in insurance.
  • Total Cost for a year (240 day work year): $2,844

Bus: Pittsburgh Port Authority

  • Distance: 6.3 miles
  • Time to work: 35:07 minutes
  • Time home: 42:28
  • Total time: 77:35
  • Calories: 341, including walking to and from the bus stop.
  • Cost: $4.00 round trip.
  • Total Cost for a year (240 day work year): $960.00
View full article ( Three Modes in Three Days
Photo: Kordite / Flickr. Pittsburgh, PA has earned a bronze rating as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists.

Photo: Kordite / Flickr. Pittsburgh, PA has earned a bronze rating as a bike-friendly city by the League of American Bicyclists.

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