[this is a ymoyl update.]

ezpass sent me a list of the tolls i paid on my trip to massachusetts, so i’m able to get the total:

date time agency plaza amount
7/21 10:23 mdta bht $2.00
7/21 11:29 mdta jfk $5.00
7/21 11:48 deldot d95 $1.25
7/21 14:16 njtp 18w $2.55
7/21 14:38 panynj gwu $4.00
7/21 15:07 nysta hr $1.13
7/28 16:28 mtab&t tbb $4.00
7/28 17:39 mtab&t vnb $8.00
7/28 19:37 njtp 1 $2.85
7/28 20:20 drba dr $3.00
7/28 20:30 deldot d95 $1.25
7/28 21:13 mdta bht $2.00

total: $37.03

on gas, i spent $65.64, so the total cost of the trip in tolls and gas was $102.67.

the alternatives:

bus (greyhound)
$78
train (amtrak)
$176 (to get only within 23 miles of sturbridge.)
plane (southwest)
$98.40 (to hartford.)

greyhound from hartford to sturbridge and back is $28, for a total of $126.40. in other words, for $50 less than taking a train, i can take a plane and a bus and get 23 miles closer to my destination. the american rail system is so embarrassing. 😦

so the car cost 25% more than the bus even before you count the cost of wear & tear and depreciation on the car.

but you can’t discount the intangibles:

anti-bus
  • being able to stop whenever you like.

    well, not really.

    my experience this trip was one of long hours during which there’s nowhere to get off the road, it’s impossible to get off the road, or getting off the road will just dump you into a half hour of bumper-to-bumper city traffic, like my forced detour through queens.

  • two transfers on the way and one on the way back.

    but still just eight hours each way, faster than some trips on which i’ve made a wrong turn or two.

  • having the car once you’re there.

    in the case of this trip, my car allowed me to take a more active part in helping with preparations for the retreat. without a car, there are some ways in which i’d have to be more guest than host.

  • many hours of forced companionship.

    if you’re traveling alone, you’re at the mercy of the person who takes the seat next to you. on a local city bus, this could be a problem for twenty minutes. on greyhound, it could be eight hours of looking at someone’s photo album or hearing every detail about his divorce.

pro-bus
  • being stuck in traffic.

    a lot of my trip was spent creeping forward a few inches at a time in stop-and-go traffic. better to be sitting and reading for twenty minutes instead of getting a backache from working the gas pedal and clutch.

  • the stress of watching accidents.

    just outside new york, i watched a car burning in the middle of five lanes of traffic as the driver waved people around it. just into connecticut, a teenager came flying past me at about 100mph. he wove in and out of traffic across three lanes, then disappeared out of sight. after a minute or two, there was a loud boom and an explosion of dirt shooting in the air. by the time i came up to him, he was spun around in the opposite direction and the front half of his car was demolished. i think it’s unfortunately not uncommon to witness two such incidents in one afternoon, and to wonder when your time is coming.

    it is possible, of course, for a bus to be in an accident, but:

    1. bus accidents are much less common than car accidents (6.3 million of the latter in 2003, only counting the ones reported by the police).
    2. you’re much less likely to be injured, maimed, or killed.
    3. it’s not likely to be your fault, and you’re not going to pay anyone else’s medical bills.
    4. you’re not going to pay for the repairs to anyone else’s car, nor to the bus.
    5. you’re not going to be stuck in some far-away town for days waiting for your car to be fixed, or have to pay to have it towed three hundred miles (likewise if you break down without an accident).
  • avoiding insane drivers.

    even if you don’t get into a wreck, there are plenty of high-horsepower lunatics who want to play chicken, teach you a lesson because they think you cut them off, etc. but no road warrior is going to follow your bus off the interstate to get out and confront you when you’re sitting in seat 7b.

  • leaving the driving to them.

    it would be nice to leave behind all the worries of “boy, my leg’s getting tired”, “i’m getting sleepy; i wonder whether i should pull over”, etc.

  • there are more thoughts along these lines in my general comments about taking the bus locally.

there are other options beyond bus, plane, and train, including trying to find someone else going there to carpool with, or renting a car if i really needed to have one while i was there. but the bus is intriguing enough that i’m tempted to give it a try.

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