Thursday, November 3, 2011

one car, four people, eleven places to go (May 2, 2008)

Current mood: thoughtful

People often ask me how me manage as a family with only one car, especially with one of them holding a daily job. Well, I'll tell you, in three words. First word, planning. Next two, public transit.

Here is how we dealt with today's travel needs. Wife needed to work a day shift, but early hours, 6:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and getting there on public transit is not an option. I needed to get to a meeting Downtown at 7:15, followed by a mid-day errand. The kids needed to get to school, but that doesn't count since they each have a school bus. At end of day, though, one needs to make a quick shopping trip. Dinnertime, the other one needs to get Downtown to a meeting at 6 p.m., and so does the wife. After that meeting, which lets out around 9, they both need to get home. At 10, we have an errand to run, picking up a large package.

OK, how do you do all that with one car? Note the overlapping difficulties: I had two mid-day errands to run, one absolutely requiring the car (daughter's shopping trip). Wife could potentially have tied up the car all day, as busing to work is not an option. Son needed to get Downtown at dinnertime. He doesn't drive, so can't just drive Downtown. Picking wife up at work to take her Downtown is a potentially extra side trip. After all that, everyone needed to get home, but there's that late errand, too. I don't need to go to the Downtown meeting, so need to get home after delivering son and the car.

So here's the choreography:
* Wife and I drive her to work.
* I take keys and bus pass.
* I walk to bus stop and take a bus Downtown.
* I attend meeting.
* Son and daughter get themselves off to school via school bus.
* I bus back out to wife's work.
* I drive toward home.
* I run mid-day errand while on the way home.
* Son comes home on school bus.
* I drive to daughter's school to pick her up at day's end. She needed a note from home in order to do this.
* I drive daughter to store, then home.
* After 4:30, wife buses Downtown. At start of day, I made sure she had pre-paid bus fare in the form of a ticket. (I needed the pass to get to and from my meeting trips.)
* Wife probably sits in a library or coffeeshop for an hour, or shows up at the meeting over an hour early.
* Around 5:30, I drive son Downtown.
* I park car, and walk with son to meeting.
* I hand wife the car keys.
* I walk to bus stop and bus home.
* If meeting done before 9, wife drives son home.
* If meeting done after 9, wife drive son to run the 10 p.m. errand first.

Net cost of this is one pre-paid fare ticket. The car makes three maybe four trips out:
(a) 6 a.m. to go to work, 10 a.m. my return. (one round trip).
(b) 3 p.m. to take daughter to store.
(c) 5:30 p.m. to take son Downtown, 9 p.m. their return.
(d) 9:30-10 p.m. errand may be worked in with (c).
By my figuring, the one car travels 80 miles.

With a two- or three-car family, though, not using transit, that would have been:
* Trip 1: Wife takes Car 1 to work.
* Trip 2: I drive Car 2 Downtown and park in a garage ($10, please); later return home.
* Trip 3: I drive Car 2 to school and store.
* Trip 4: Wife drives Car 1 home.
* Trip 5: Wife and son drive Car 1 back Downtown for evening meeting.
* Trip 6: I drive Car 2 on late-evening errand.
By my figuring, Car 1 would travel 50 miles, Car 2 would travel 40 miles, and we would incur $10 in parking charges.

So doing it the way we do it doesn't save a lot of fuel (10 miles), but does save $10 in parking, and the wife herself driving an extra 30 miles. Here's the real biggie: It saves the cost of the second car. That would likely be thousands a year, lots more than $2 in extra bus fare (beyond the $990 for the annual pass) and some good planning. The only downside is her having to kill time for an hour after work. Solution: Always bring something to do or read.

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