Friday, June 18, 2010

Pet Peeve

It's been a while since I've posted a pet peeve so here's the one for the month: Why do studies have to exaggerate?

Journalists and regular people too. I read a puff piece in the paper today about how you can save money and oil by using mass transit to commute. That's an obvious truth and well worth an article in the paper from time to time, I guess. Though it's so obvious who's it going to inform?

But my peeve is the exaggeration they use in these things. According to the article people typically save $7,000 a year in gas by using mass transit and they use several people as illustrations and they claim to save $6,000 to $8,000. Then the article goes on to quote a $9,000 annual savings from the American public Transportation Association (who obviously has a vested interest in quoting a high number).

Well... what in hell are these people driving? I get around 30 miles per gallon (actually 33.2 recently) and with gas costing in the $2.40 - 2.65 range, that's roughly 8 cents a mile. So to save the lowest amount, $6,000, I'd have to "not drive" 72,000 miles a year. How many people commute that much?

Given a 5 day work week, 2 weeks off, you have 250 work days a year. That means I'd have to use mass trans 288 miles a day to save that much on gas. And while a lot of people drive big SUVs (shame on you!) which block my view (shame on you again!) they still get at least in the mid teens for gas mileage. That would mean they'd need to avoid driving 145 miles a day to make that $6,000.

So the official estimate of $9,000 savings? Wow. Are those people driving across the state every day?

Making this even sillier, I drive about 12,000 miles a year. At 30+ miles per gallon that means I use about 400 gallons of gasoline annually. That's a cost of roughly $1,200 a year (assuming gas averages 3 bucks a gallon). How in the world can I save multiple thousands a year? Even if you're one of those people always on the road, it's not easy to accumulate that kind of savings---and if you drive that much, a bus probably isn't going to work out for you.

BTW, that's a Red River Hog up there, not a gas hog. Potamochoerus porcus if you want the Latin. Courtesy of the NC Zoo.


noceleryplease said...

It's the whole "mileage" thing... like I get reimbursed on a T&E at around 70 cents per mile... that could equal out to thousands a year.

Wear and tear, tires, etc.

Could get up to 9K for an SUV.

I mean, but that's going from all driving to NO DRIVING... and frankly, there's places you just can't get with public transport.

utenzi said...

Absolutely. There's no mass transit anywhere near my house. Of the 15 miles between me and my lab only the last 3 are served by a bus.

srp said...

It would have taken me a lifetime to save that much. The lab was five miles from my house, the hospital six. I only kept mileage when I had to drive out of town to other hospitals. As for the wear and tear... my Honda Odyssey is a 2000.... ten years old now and I still have only 85,000 miles on it... and it still gets over 24 mpg averaged out city and highway.

What peeves me is that they have added the ethanol to the gas to decrease our gas consumption, but the gas mileage you get with it is less than with gas that does not have the ethanol... so you end up having to buy more gas than you did before... where is the common sense?

kenju said...

In the almost 42 years we've been in Raleigh, we have never lived near bus lines. We are three miles from them now. If I wanted to use buses (which I do not), it would take me hours and many transfers to get where I want to go, and like most of my excursions, would include many stops. It's hardly worth it if you factor in your time and the loss of it.

Teresa said...

I know this is an old post and no one cares, but the savings isn't just in gas. If you had mass transit readily available and gave up your car, what you spend on having a car would probably make up the amount. They don't explain that. Having the car is more expensive than using it, what with registration, insurance, maintaining it, storing it, etc.

Still the number may be high for a lot of people anyway. I get more annoyed with them not explaining where the numbers are coming from than the seemingly arbitrary (and seemingly high)numbers presented. I don't know if the article actually said they saved 6 to 8 thousand a year in gas, or if it said they could save that (without the "on gas" part). Unless you drive for a living or have a REALLY long commute, I can't imagine anyone buying between $120 and $160 worth of gas in a week.

But buses aren't really cost effective; they are usually subsidized though. THey waste a LOT of gasoline with all the stopping and standing and actually create more pollution than if people would just carpool instead of piling on a bus. Just saying....