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Archive for February, 2008

Taken Off

To call it air-travel is misguided. We’d be better off to call it ‘lower atmospheric-travel’. ‘High atmospheric-travel’ would be reserved for those who could afford it.

The airlines were wise to install ticketing kiosks. Verbal exchanges in the building are now reserved for the TSA. I told my TSA agent (of which no less than three were assigned to my line) that it was “my pleasure” as I handed over my drivers license, which he carefully inspected for signs of tampering. When he did finally look at me, he thought I was serious.

Airports are still filled with the same types of people.

The fashion forward – who’ll be damned to let terrorists interfere with their wardrobe. What can’t fit into the “gift with purchase” bag from Shiseido gets unloaded from the Hummer and checked curbside. Removing the Jimmy Choo’s for screening is a sure sign of her patriotism.

The hat from Gilligan’s Island and the vest from Eddie Bauer signifiy that he’s either going fishing, or heading to Gaza, where all sixteen pockets can be filled with explosives, in which case he’ll continue to be a threat to public transportation.
Once that map from Hertz is unfolded, there’s no going back.

The small spaces of quiet between color-coded announcements of threat levels is actually the Canadian National Anthem. Blackberry keyboards mask the formerly obnoxious monologues over sales figures, deadlines, and flirty messages to girlfriends, wherever they may be. Actual calls are used only for informing their wives of delays.

Onboard, the crew announcements have changed little, though a few phrases have been re-vamped. “….we’re also concerned with our service to you”. Concerned. That’s democratic.

The crew should be concerned with the sodium content in the $6 croissant sandwich, second only to the amount of paint used in Delta’s third paint job in eight years. “Developed” by Todd English, this sandwich was really rather tasty and advances in transporting croissants seem to have come a long way. I have to wonder though, do A-List chefs really get a boner over creating signature entrees for a tourist-class snack menu? The picture only shows him from the waist up.

First Class passengers no longer have the luxury of hiding behind the Burlap Curtain. The FAA prevents it from being pulled closed. First Class passengers don’t seem to read much anymore either. No longer are they engrossed in five-page articles in the Economist or the lastest pictures of Posh Spice in OK Magazine while sipping a smart cocktail. Those folks are now on Net Jets.

The Nouveau First Class watch the “others” as they board the plane, in circus-like amusement. They try to cheapen me with their glossy stares, but I know better. They are, after all, impostors.

All leather seats in blue reside nicely against the hues of man-made materials covering all remaining surfaces. Formaldehyde levels in FEMA trailers are certainly lower. Oddly, the four square feet of flooring in each of the aft lavs is made to look like wood planks. Its now the only indication that indeed, this is a one-holer, as there were no adverse smells whatsoever.

Overall, the crew was as lovely as they could be, despite their age. Almost no one new has been hired in years, and those that have stayed, have aged considerably. Pay cuts have forced the sale of the extra homes in Nevada, or terminating the lease on that little apartment in Prague. A little something from the vending machine before calling it a night at the airport Holiday Inn saves a little money, but does nothing for the complexion.

Arriving an hour late, I’d forgotten that I would likely encounter sunlight. It’s been so long. It hurt my eyes even at this early hour. Exiting the freeway onto Caesar Chavez Street, formerly Army Street, I find the juxtaposition curious. Young Mexican men line up along the street, block after block, looking for work, but only on the side of the street coming off the freeway.

It’s been nine years since I’ve been here. It’s cleaner. Much cleaner and now I’m wondering if both of Carol Doda’s nipples might be blinking up on Broadway. The weekend has only started.

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The Numbers Are In

Calculating costs between methods of transit is not necessarily comparing apples to apples. A car ride to work, while the same destination by bus, occurs over less miles because a car takes a more direct route. Cost per mile becomes skewed. We’ll have to look at this, for comparative reasons, by “trips”.

Here’s the breakdown.
Total bus trips taken: 39
Total car trips taken: 18
A total of 57 trips taken in a motorized vehicle. Trips on foot, of which there were many, are not taken into account.

Over the course of January, I put $30 of gas in the car. Roughly 10.25 gallons. I also bought a $45 COTA pass. A total cost of $75 for transportation. Based on this number, the average cost per trip (of which there were 57) would be $1.32 per trip.

Using COTA 39 times for my transit needs gives me an average cost per bus trip of $1.15 (based upon the $45 monthly pass).

Using the car 18 times gives me an average cost per car trip of $1.66.
The difference here, with these simple statistics is minimal. But we have to look a bit deeper, because the cost of using a car is more than just the cost of fuel.

Here’s an estimate of my annual car costs.
$3720 for payments
$1080 for gas
$800 for insurance
$300 for maintenance
$5900 in total annual costs or $492 per month.

With this number, my 18 car trips now cost $27 each
If I had taken all 57 trips by car, each would have cost $8.63.
If I had taken all 57 trips by bus, each would have cost 80 cents.

If the car were paid for, the cost per month would drop to $182, bringing the cost of 57 trips to $3.19 each. Still, thats almost four times more expensive than using public transportation.

These are the most transparent numbers, but there are more that are not so transparent and I really have no way to calculate them. There’s the taxes I pay for roads that both cars and buses use. There is the cost to the environment. There are associated costs with stress and healthcare. Costs for storing billions of used tires. Costs for disposing of dirty oil. Likely these costs would add more to my annual car costs, and still to my use of public transit. However, putting more people in one vehicle dramatically reduces the cost per individual.

One of the benefits for me by moving to the added use of public transportation has been the “me” time. During my bus time in January, I read two books, listened to two audio books, and multiple pod casts I ran into a few neighbors that I don’t see very often and I got in added walking time, both to and from the bus, as well as during times when a quick trip around didn’t require a combustion engine.

Despite the hours spent on the bus, I find that I’m more relaxed, less stressed, and overall, my thoughts are clearer. I feel as if I’ve accomplished more for myself than during the months when I only used the car. The world has slowed down a bit and I find that I like that.

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