Category Archives: saving money

MTA to NYC: Drop Dead

So, it is the dawn of day 4 of the doomsday service cuts in NYC. My commute has been complicated a little by the changes – I have to leave home for work about 15 minutes earlier than before just to be SURE that I can get the bus to the subway station and get to work on time. 15 minutes is a lot of time, but some commuters are seeing 30 and 45 minutes added to their commutes, so I won’t complain too loudly.

The cuts eliminated two subway lines and dozens of bus lines, changed the routing of one subway line and now add additional wait times for everyone riding the subway or bus. The cuts could not come at a worse time when NYC is trying to drag itself out of the Great Recession and we experienced a heat wave the early part of this week.

Walder, the head of the Transit Authority, promises no fare increases this year. He would have been met with the stereotypical New York attitude if they even tried to pull that move – higher fares and less service? Fagetaboutit. However, fare increases WILL come in 2011. Brace for it. We’ll probably see $100 dollar monthly MetroCards, which is still a great deal for unlimited rides for 30 days. The most important thing at this point is to realize that we’ve been underpaying for the service and allow fares to be collected that are more in line with what rides are around the world for world class systems. The NY subway system is world class in some ways (24 hour service, access to all parts of the city) but in other ways, can use some serious technological upgrades that will improve the riding public’s experience and overall safety.

I don’t want to see a zone fare introduced – especially as someone who travels 32 miles round-trip on the subway each day. Instead, I want to see more realistic fares and discounted passes that really mean the agency can make money. Even in my poor/lower middle class neighborhood, most people I observe using the bus use unlimited cards. On average, that reduces the fare to around a dollar per ride. The agency cannot make money for operations like that.

Additionally, New York State and New York City need to step up and contribute to the MTA; the MTA system is the lifeblood of the city and deserves adequate funding for operations AND capital improvements.

I’ll keep an eye out for other changes coming down the pipe. This is definitely an interesting development going forward in transportation financing and operations.

Are you in NYC? Have you been affected by the service cuts?

I’m Still Car Free and Other Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but the my car free world is still walking and using public transport to get from point A to point B.

It’s been easy to stay car free since I live in New York City. Previously, I counted using a taxi cab or car service as ‘cheating’ at being car free, but I have had a change of heart. Since the cab or car service isn’t for my exclusive use 24-7, I am still car free. I haven’t taken a taxi cab or car service recently, but I did find that it is far faster to take a taxi 1/3 of the way to work on Sundays and then get on the subway. The time saved is about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the cost is $12-15. The benefit-cost analysis I go through each Sunday morning is priceless. Some Sundays I have born the cost of the taxi cab because I couldn’t deal with the bitterly cold winds racing down Amsterdam Avenue as I waited for the bus. On other Sundays, like today, I knew I wanted to buy lunch out while at work, so I had to decide between a comfy, quick ride 1/3 of the way to work or taking the bus to the subway (and transferring at Herald Square to a second subway).

I have been reading about alternative transit and ways to make life easier for people interested in living car free. One of the recurring themes is building or redeveloping walkable cities. Walking is good exercise and if people have stores, businesses and entertainment within walking distance, they are more likely to walk than to drive or even use public transit to get there. I know that walking is not feasible for everyone, but for the vast majority of people, walking to the grocery store could be an option if we build smaller, neighborhood groceries and encourage businesses to hire local employees, we could make huge strides in improving our communities and lessening the demand for new roads. Even if we begin building toll roads in earnest, we still won’t have the funds necessary to maintain the roads we have preexisting. America is truly at a crossroads in terms of transit. Some have predicted that within 20 years most people will be forced to be car free, rather than it being an option, simply because of traffic jams, the cost of oil and poorly maintained roads.

What are your thoughts?

World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.

Choose your own fares!

After reading about a taxi service in Vermont that allows riders to choose their own fare, I began thinking – what would people pay if they could choose their own fare on the local bus, subway or commuter rail?

the honor system
Creative Commons License photo credit: conbon33

I know I would continue paying the same fares as before. Nothing would change for me. But what about instances where you had no starting point for what the fare should be? How would people decide what was equitable, given that they had to pay something (no free rides)?

Any thoughts?

10 Tips to Getting Started Living Car Free

Gingerbread Man Rides the Subway
Image by Seth W.

So, you’ve made the decision – or seriously considering Living Car Free. It can be liberating and feel like imprisonment at the same time. These 10 tips will help you get started. If you think of more things, let us know in the comments!

  1. Commit to being car free. If you aren’t ready to give up your car, try being car free once a week. Then every few weeks add another day. Use transit for pleasure trips or commuting. Have reasons for becoming car free – are you conscious about the costs of car ownership, the environment or just want to try something new? Knowing why you are doing something makes it easier to commit.
  2. Get some maps and schedules. Find transit maps, websites that can help you build transit directions and ask car free friends for suggestions on the best ways to travel in your area. Make up schedules for going to work, play, entertainment, school, etc. Print these directions, schedules and information out, or keep in a Moleskine or other notebook.
  3. Remember the weekends and holidays. Most transit operators change the schedules on the weekends and holidays, so make sure to make travel schedules around these anticipated changes to the schedule. There’s NOTHING like showing up for your bus on a Saturday or holiday and waiting for an hour because you forgot to take into account weekend or holiday schedules!
  4. Buy a monthly transit pass. Make the investment in a monthly transit pass. It is a discounted pass that typically allows you unlimited transit trips on your preferred method. Check your transit agency’s website for information on costs, when and where to buy and how to purchase. No one likes to give away money, so this will be an additional incentive to make trips on transit.
  5. Pack your bags carefully. Being car free, you can’t drag along everything you had in your car with you on your daily transit trips. Even if you have a backpack, you will find the heavier it is, the less motivated you are to walk up two flights of stairs out of a subway station or ride your bike 5 miles to work. Get rid of the things you really don’t need – just stick to the basics.
  6. Consider your social life. In some cities, transit stops running at late night hours, which can put a damper on your social life. Make sure you have contingency plans for when you go out on the town with your friends. Also consider how you will get to a friend’s home for Superbowl Sunday or just to hang out after work.
  7. Come up with a contingency plan. In case of emergency, how will you get home? I was unprepared for having to find an alternative way home from work when the 2004 Northeast blackout happened. The subways weren’t running and no one had cars. What would you do? Sleep in the park? Walk home? Wait at a transit terminal? Hitchhike?
  8. Be flexible. Sometimes, the bus will be late. Or a sick passenger will be on the train. Plan for minor delays and have plans in place at work or school for days when you are late. Leave extra early if you have a major meeting or test. Learn alternate routes to/from your destination – if the trains are down, what buses could you use? Or vice versa.
  9. Learn transit etiquette. How do other riders behave? What are your transit system’s rules of conduct for passengers? Check out my post “Stop being a JERK on Public Transit!” for more dos and don’ts for transit. Some of the major don’ts are preventing passengers from getting off before you get on, eating or drinking, or smoking.
  10. Prepare for the weather. Now that you are no longer protected by two tons of steel, you will need to be prepared for the weather. Keep an extra change of clothes at work, think about wearing sneakers instead of nice dress shoes on your commute, always carry an umbrella, think about buying some rainboots or a raincoat – you get the hint.

Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Why Ca$h for Clunkers won’t work

It’s the economy, stupid!

The economy is not in full recovery mode, yet, so we can’t expect Cash for Clunkers – the government program to provide up to $4500 off the purchase of a new car if it is more fuel efficient than the old car – to work the way it was designed. Frankly, how many people do YOU know are going out and buying new cars in these uncertain economic times?

Clunker

The program is funded for $1 billion dollars – which could help a transit agency upgrade its equiptment, close a budget gap and prevent fare hikes, or ensure preventative maintenance continues on rail lines or buses. I’d rather see the federal government begin funding sustainable, more economical transit than keep throwing money behind Detroit, which seems bent on producing cars with dismal gas mileage, instead of buses, light rail vehicles or train cars. I’m not anti-car at all, but instead looking at the bigger picture. Oil will not last forever, and we have not made significant inroads in alternative fuels to be used mass-market – so we need to get back to what we know will work in the meantime – public transportation and alternative modes of transportation.

Perhaps it will take a partnership between a transit agency and a big 3 automaker to make some major changes in how transportation is funded and thought of in America, so in the meantime, I will be waiting and watching the success (or failure) of the Cash for Clunkers program, which runs from July 1 to November 1, 2009.

National Train Day 2009 (Photos)

While I am a transit fan through and through, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to attend National Train Day 2009 and see what all the hype is about. I got so many emails, tweets and saw so many ads about National Train Day! I was totally hyped – got up at 430am to catch the 527 NE Corridor to NYC, then hopped on BoltBus to Washington, DC, where the biggest festivities seemed to be being held.

Once I arrived in DC, I walked to the Red Line and took it over to Union Station. I would have walked the approximately 20 minute walk from the bus stop, but it was hot and humid in DC!

Union Station was PACKED with people, exhibits and Amtrak employees. I got as many pictures as I could, and waited an hour in line to tour an Acela high speed train. The enthusiasm of the crowds was contagious! I soon forgot that my feet hurt, it was hot inside Union Station, too and that the lines to see exhibits were long.

See my photos from National Train Day 2009:

NTD2009

Did you attend in your city? Or were you in DC, too? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!