Work to drive, drive to work.
The average American works at least an hour per day to pay for costs related to owning and driving a car. The purchase and care of a mid priced commuter bike costs about 4 minutes of labor a day.
James Schwartz at the Urban Country figures car ownership costs the average American about two hours a day — that works out to about 500 hours each year to buy, insure, and maintain a car. Compare with the 20% recommended for transportation costs by financial planners and the 13% the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says Americans spend on transportation (2009 numbers).
The difference between an hour and two hours might seem like a lot — but compare that against the four minutes Schwartz figures we spend to buy and care for a $1500 commuter bicycle.
I take public transportation everyday. Today was an exception — my wife has some business to take care of, so we took a car from ZipCar in Santa Cruz and carpooled together to my office. The trip in the car (a brand new Honda Insight hybrid) was about a half hour shorter than my usual bike + bus + train + bike commute and I enjoyed the time with my wife, but I missed two meetings that I usually do on the phone during the commute, and I also skipped my usual morning workday preparation.
Still, for those days when we need an extra car, ZipCar is super handy. In the SF Bay Area, ZipCar has cars at several locations throughout San Francisco, at various East Bay neighborhoods from Berkeley to Oakland, in Hayward at CSU East Bay, several locations in and around Stanford University and Palo Alto, and at Santa Clara University. Besides the several ZipCar locations on the UC-Santa Cruz campus, ZipCar now has several ZipCar locations in the city of Santa Cruz.
ZipCar claims that each of their cars takes about 15 privately owned vehicles off of the road, and ZipCar drivers tend to drive much less. They make a lot of sense if you occasionally need a car for a few hours out of a day. After the membership application (all they need is a credit card and clean driving record), there’s absolutely no membership hassle. You reserve a car online via ZipCar’s website or their iPhone app or Android app, then show up with your ZipCar smart card to electronically unlock your vehicle. You get 180 miles each time you use a ZipCar, and ZipCar pays for the gas and the insurance.
If you click here to join ZipCar I get some driving credit added to my account. I think I’d still be enthusiastic about ZipCar even without the promotional credit, but still, I need to let you know about it.