Gas still isn’t expensive enough to use public transportation

With gas getting close to $5/gallon, it’s even making me think about alternatives to driving into the office. I say even me because I’ve prided myself in keeping gas prices in perspective with inflation. When I was a teenager, comic books were still 75 cents, and gas about a dollar. I don’t buy comic books any more, but I remember them going up over two bucks. Intuitively, it seems like inflation. And since long before I had a driver’s license, gas has been cheap if adjusted for inflation. According to, we’re just now seeing gas about as expensive as it was in 1981 during the oil crisis.

It makes sense now to compare driving into work with my alternatives. We’ll throw out the idea of getting a new car. I just bought a Mustang last October and I love it. It gets 18mpg on the highway. (That’s what the computer in it tells me). Door to door, it’s 23 miles from home to work–46 miles round trip. Gas is $4.31/gallon at the Shell on the corner, but we’ll assume $4.50/gallon. One day of driving into work with the total freedom to go different places comes to $11.50/day. And that takes me about 35 minutes each way.

One really easy option for me is the Capitol Corridor train. It starts right here in Martinez, only 2 miles from my house. If it’s on time, it leaves Martinez at 8:40AM and arrives in Berkeley, only four blocks from my office, around 9:15AM. A one way ticket is $11! It’s almost twice as expensive as gas, or $22/day. If I buy 10 tickets at a time, the cost per day goes down to $13.60/day.  If I buy a monthly pass for $184 and get 20 days out of it, the daily cost is $9.20.  Only a tiny bit cheaper than driving.

Then there’s BART. Neither my office nor my home are very near BART. The nearest station to home is “North Concord/Martinez”, which is probably 5 minutes of driving away. From there, I need to ride to the MacArthur station in Oakland and transfer to the Richmond line and go back up to the “North Berkeley” station. This is a $3.70 fare one way, and it takes an hour if the trains are on time. Then there’s a 1.4 mile hike to the office. So, it’s cheaper except if you factor in that it takes twice as long.

Of course, riding on a train would allow me to read for some portion of the time. I already have more podcast content to listen to than I have time for, and I only listen to the Gillmor Gang, Coverville, TWiT and Egg City Radio. I really wouldn’t want to give up the Gillmor Gang.

I checked out riding the bus, and it’s $3.50 one way but takes two and a half hours! No thanks.

If I had a week where I knew I didn’t need to drive anywhere extra, I might buy a 10-ride pass on the Capitol Corridor. Otherwise, gas needs to get a little more expensive before I give up driving. And I suspect that we’ll see train fares go up before then. After all, the trains use Diesel, which seems like it’s even more expensive than gasoline.