Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Doing math for a civilized commute

It’s one day after the Bay Bridge has reopened and life for most commuters is seemingly back to normal. Fortune was on my side during this latest commuting calamity. I was able to work from home through most of it, and took a mid morning ferry on the one day I had to be in the City. Getting into the City that day was uneventful, save having just a little difficulty finding parking. Getting back, was crowded, but, despite a capacity crowd on the boat, I still managed to get my regular seat near a power outlet so I could work.

I may be one of the few who will openly admit that those of us who ride the ferry are snobs about it. There’s a reason for it, that I’ll get into later, but it might not be the reason you think.

Those of us who take the ferry kind of know each other. We know who always works, who likes to talk, and who sleeps, and we seat ourselves accordingly. There are also certain etiquettes and protocols on the ferry. For instance, if you are at a working table, one where laptops are out, it’s not considered to be a place for conversation. Eating is fine, but don’t be gross, and clean up after yourself. Loud talking in the morning is frowned upon, as is cackling laughter at just about any time. Although we do imbibe here, it’s not a bar. And to that note, if you imbibe too much, the fact that you are on a boat isn’t going to mask that you are swaying as you walk. You just think it does.

On day two of the bridge closure, on the 4:30 boat home, it was easy to tell who was a regular and who wasn’t. The two women who sat at my table for instance, didn’t realize that they didn’t have to sneak quick bites out of their food until I laid out a loaf of Acme olive bread and offered them some. There was also confusion for some about where the line begins for the snack bar. And a few still hadn’t figured out where the head was.

But some of the strangers seemed to enjoy the novelty of a boat ride home, and maybe even considered making a change in their regular mode of transportation to and from San Francisco. And this gets to the reason why we who ride the ferry are so smug about it: its a better way to get there. We simply know this to be true, and nobody can tell us otherwise. Even if you discount the bar, power outlets, wi-fi on the Intintoli, and clean bathrooms, there's still the issue of money. Seriously. Do the math.

A monthly ferry pass is $290. Were I to drive, I would easily use a tank of gas per week, which is about $48. Add in bridge toll for two bridges every day and that’s another $40. Next add parking, which at best in SF is $10 a day, that’s another $50. If you’re honest with your insurance company, your premiums will likely increase about $250 or more per year which comes out to $4.80 a week. Plus maintenance on your vehicle will likely double, consider around $1000+ a year for that which is conservatively another $19.23 a week. Add it all up and your weekly commute for those who drive is $74.03 per week or $310.93 per month.

Ok, so it’s only a savings of about $20 a month, and I probably spend that in one week on drinks while on board, but it still just feels better, calmer, happier to sit back and watch the water go by. And when we come into dock at the Port of San Francisco looking up at the cars crawling across the Bay Bridge, it’s hard not to think that it is the only civilized way to commute.

1 comment:

Chelle B said...

Clare, you described the ferry atmosphere and etiquette quite perfectly. :) I too agree that it's the ONLY way to commute! Where else can we talk to each other on Facebook right across from each other? ;)

-Chelle B