Transportation costs around the country have been steadily increasing as time goes by. I remember (this will age me) when the price per gallon in L.A. was $0.98 in 2000!!
In L.A., traffic is literally a trending topic when anyone talks about our city. Our streets are busy and our commute time always ranges between 20 minutes with no traffic to 1.5 hours during rush hour. And I’m only talking about commuting 10-15 miles.
Needless to say, Los Angeles traffic has many challenges. And while I’ve been a long time commuter of more than 13 years, it was only a few years ago that I discovered the hidden secret to a great commute in L.A.
You’re probably thinking that it doesn’t make much sense to take the bus when you already own a car.
I had the same mindset for about a decade.
Some Backstory for ya…
Let me backup for a brief minute and give you the rundown of my scenario prior to taking the bus.
When I first started working in 2005 out of college, I had a little preschooler. I commuted 15 miles one way for work and never once thought about taking the bus. My husband would drop her off in the morning and I would pick her up in the afternoon.
A few years later, I had another little one. My kids’ age gap is more than 5 years, so they’ve always had to go to different schools, which meant that it made no sense for me to take the bus at the time.
After a couple of moves to different cities, we came back to the valley and my commute times seemed to increase.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago.
I had my oldest in middle school and the little one in elementary. It made more sense to finally transfer them to schools close to my home instead of close to my work. I figured if an emergency arose, I had family around the area to pick them up.
Now that I lost my carpool lane privileges, I had to rethink my commute.
I started researching and coincidentally had a conversation with one of my co-workers who happened to be taking the commuter bus right around my home. We started talking and I decided to try it out.
At the time, I was paying almost $80 in parking per month with my employer and about $300 a month in gas.
The bus pass was $40 a month in total.
The first day I got on the bus and left my car, it felt really weird. Like, I’d left my purse or was forgetting something important.
But, it turned out to be the best decision I made!
Here are 9 ways taking the bus improved my life…seriously
1- Saved on Gas
This changed the game for me. I didn’t realize how much of my money went to gas because for years it was just something I had to do. Spending hundreds of dollars a month was really natural and so normal.
Once I started riding the bus, I started forgetting when I filled up gas last….and that is a beautiful feeling. Nowadays, I fill up every week and half or so.
It’s saved me so much money, I shared more about it here.
2- Reduced Car Maintenance
Less driving means less oil changes, filter changes and overall maintenance I have to do on my car. I used to get an oil change every couple of months because I drove a lot. Now, it’s more like twice a year!
Maintenance costs have decreased over time too. Not as much wear and tear on my car now that I’ve cut my driving from 45 miles per day (including picking up my kids) to just 10. My car is 11 years old and still runs like new.
I no longer have to listen to the radio in the morning to see which freeway is backed up or where the accidents are. Traffic is not my problem anymore. I have the luxury of hopping on the bus, closing my eyes, and relaxing all the way to work.
4-Comfort and Wifi
The bus I take is a charter bus, specifically for commuting on the freeway. It is super comfortable! The comfy cloth seats recline, we each get out own air vent for ac and heat, and there’s even free Wifi on each bus!
5-No more parking
Where I work, the parking cost is outrageous. I think this year it’s $81 per month and the rate increases every single year. Plus, you’re not guaranteed parking and they dictate which parking structure you’re allowed to park in based on the building you work in.
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t scream “good deal!” to me.
So, taking the bus literally saves me $41 in parking (since my monthly pass is $40), meaning I save $492 per year, just by relaxing on a bus everyday.
Now that….screams “hello savings!” Doesn’t it?
6- Insurance Savings
Now that I drive less, I’m able to change my insurance mileage and get a discount on my premium.
Insurance discounts excite me!
There is not a lot of legroom in the way of insurance discounts, I was pleasantly surprised when I asked and was told that I would be saving money every year.
We’ve already talked about mileage and gas and all that type of energy. But, here I’m talking about my personal energy.
I come home much more energetic and willing to take care of tasks after work than I’ve ever been.
I’m so energetic that I’ve been able to tackle my chores during the week, so now my weekends are totally free! I feel so efficient, haha.
Driving in traffic after you’ve worked a tedious 8 hours every single day is completely draining and I used to find myself plopping on the couch or bed after dinner not wanting to do a single thing.
I’m writing to-do lists of things I want to get done. I take a quick 10-20 minute nap on the bus and I get my second wind to tackle more things.
It makes me feel so much more productive.
8- Increased Exercise
Recently, I took 3 weeks off during the holiday break. Let me tell you….I came back to work and was out of breathe from my walk to the building!
I didn’t even realize that my 2 block walk to work every day made that big of a difference in my fitness.
The second day I was sore. Like…..really!
Because I had been commuting on the bus and walking to work for years, I never paid any attention to how beneficial it was to my body.
Most days, that’s all the exercise I get….don’t judge….your girl hates exercise. But, at least I’m getting some in without thinking about it.
You’d be surprised how much your body will indirectly benefit from you taking the bus.
If you’ve been here a while you know I work a full time job and run this blog business full time as well. It’s a hard balance to do both at the same time while tending to my husband and kids.
Commuting on the bus gives me more time to work on the blog and gives me the energy I need to get things done.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve become an efficient machine. Every spare moment I have on the bus where I’m not sleeping, I’m writing, researching, learning.
It’s given me more free time to pursue my business and I’ve been loving it.
Take the leap
If you’ve ever been on the fence about taking the bus, just know that it is not just for people without cars. You have a lot of potential benefits waiting for you on the other side, my friend. Benefits that will outweigh your doubt.
Try it out for a week and be the judge for yourself. I understand that riding the bus isn’t for everyone. It takes a bit more time and coordination and some people would rather drive. I get it.
I just wanted to share my personal experience in case you have been thinking about it but were hesitant to try it out.
It’s one of the best decisions I made on so many levels and I get to reap the benefits each and every day.
I soooo strongly agree with this. Granted, the train is my favorite form of mass transit, but anything that transports potentially dozens of people is an improvement over individuals driving. And helps with sustainability (and air quality), too.
Hey Bob, thanks for stopping by! I would LOVE to have a train in SoCal, in fact, I say that they should have put in a light rail to eliminate the traffic problem in L.A., but no one listens to me, haha. I am so glad you agree with me, if more people opted to use public transit, society would greatly benefit in unexpected ways.
I’ve been meaning to write my own “Ode to the Public Transport System”. I’m a big fan, for many of the reasons you mentioned. It is my default mode of travel, so I forget that it can be daunting to start!
Google Maps makes it so easy to map out bus routes these days, which I have been using while travelling around USA on mini-retirement this year. I also check Wikivoyage before arriving to a new city, for a crowdsourced overview and tips for local public transport. I keep small bills and coins for paying cash fares, or check if mobile app ticketing is available.
These are some great tips, Michelle! I’ll have to check out Wikivoyage the next time I go on vacation with the family and want to use the location’s public transport system.
I can think of three reasons not to take a bus.
1) More time commuting. Unlike subways, buses (in the US) mostly travel the same streets as everyone else and hence deal with the same traffic. Additional time is spent 1) waiting at the bus stop, 2) stopping at each bus stop and 3) when the driver is engaged in activities other than driving.
2) Danger & despair. Let’s be frank. Poor people ride the bus. Middle class & even wealthy people ride the bus but poor people have to ride the bus because they cannot afford the alternatives. That may be depressing but the bus attracts some cross sections of society that most of us choose to have little contact with. Homeless people will ride the bus from one end of the line to the other to get out of inclement weather or avoid being hassled by police for loitering. Some of the homeless smell bad. Some of them have serious mental health conditions. Some of them scare me.
3) Unreliable & variable service levels. Say you have tickets to a play which start at 8 PM and there is no late seating. If you take the bus to the theater, you deal with two problems. First, 8 PM is well outside the commute hours for most places. A bus will make good time because there is less delay at the bus stops. Sometimes there is no one at a bus stop and the bus doesn’t stop. However, it is during this time period that many public transit agencies reduce bus frequency. During commute hours, maybe a bus is scheduled every 10 minutes but by 8 PM, they have reduced that to one bus every 30 minutes. The time you gain by less crowded streets is often more than offset by reduced frequency of service. Similarly, bus schedules are (in many places) purely aspirational. If your bus schedules say it will arrive at your stop at 7:30 and arrive in front of the theater at 7:55 PM, you would be foolish, in many places) to take the 7:30 bus. 1) it may be late and 2) it may take more than 25 minutes. You would be wise to take the earlier line (perhaps 7 PM initial stop and 7:25 PM stop at the theater). Murphy’s Law states that bus run will be on time which leaves you with 35 minutes to kill at the theater.
I appreciate the points you made here Dan, and to each their own. In my perspective, based on my personal experience, there are a lot of bus, train and other public transportation options that CAN make it easier and at times, more pleasant to commute to work or school. I hear ya with the possible dangers and such, but one could argue that there are equal amount of dangers driving in to work.
Thanks so much for stopping by! I love to exchange differing perspectives!! 🙂
Where I live there are essentially private transit companies that travel the most popular commute routes. For a monthly or weekly fee, you can ride on these private buses. Significantly more expensive than public transit but less expensive than the cost of driving solo, these hit a sweet spot for those who can or choose to afford it. Smaller & more exclusive ridership means no homeless, faster commute w.r.t. public buses due to less time is spent at bus stops because there are fewer people and fewer stops, more amenities, cleaner buses, etc.
Each city is different. Some places it is worth it to take public transit and in other places, the negatives outweigh the positives and I would choose to drive. Frankly, I have lived in LA and I have taken public transit in LA and think I would drive at this point in my life. When I lived there the first subway line just opened. I think the subways are worth the inconvenience. However, I say that with never having ridden the LA Metro but having ridden the subways in other cities.
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Thanks for the article! I live in Hollywood and work in West Hollywood and drive every day to work, but it’s a straight shot down so I’m going to try out the bus!
Hey Shay! So glad to help ?. Try the LADOT if it goes in that area. It’s a great bus with WiFi and comfortable seats
now that my kids are grown, I’m going back to basics. I’m tired of giving my money away to a mechanic, DMV & gas, etc, working my ass off just to pay these expenses. it’s definitely an adjustment, I get home in 20 minutes vs 120 mins, San Pedro to the long beach.. thanks
Totally agree Janet! Glad you’re changing as your season of life changes. I absolutely love taking the commuter bus, I’d never go back to driving to work ?
In my area in Washington being a commuter was actually fun. Not much crime is awake in the mornings. Most of us partnered up, took turns with waking the neighbor for their stop. We had Park and Ride Parties at the lot when we got in on occasion. A couple of times a month someone would bring snacks. We traded around. The folks smell good in the morning, look good, usually sleepy. In the afternoon we looked out for one another-the homeless didn’t bother us much. Most of us knew quite a few of the homeless. I have met and made friends I would never have met if I hadn’t ridden the bus. The dollar value is fab. I did get flashed one time while waiting for a transfer. I told the man “Please, I’m a nurse and that looks too much like work”.