Thursday, March 16, 2006

Commute Or DIE!

Despite my inherently evil nature that tells me it is good to burn as much gasoline as possible and to take up the maximum amount of roadway whenever I travel anywhere, I have recently found myself exploring "alternative" options for my daily commute. This is probably the result of a non-stop action-packed... debate between a little evil dude (with flames for hair and polished black fingernails) on one shoulder and a logical thoughtful dude (with glasses and a white lab coat) on the other shoulder. Their conversations have been going something like this:
Logic-Dude: "Whose idea was it that the best way to transport a roughly 6-foot tall, 160-pound human was to put him into a 2,500-pound, 400ft³ steel cage? That's ridiculously inefficient and wasteful."
Evil-Dude: "Shut up you pansy, thinking is for losers."
LD: "But don't you think it's silly to carry around that much empty space, just to sit motionless in traffic half the time anyway?"
ED: "'Don't I think?' What did I just say about thinking? Just do what's fun and easy. Convenience is king, baby."
LD: "Listen, right now to get to work we sit in that dumpy car for over an hour a day just to drive 30 miles round trip, at a cost of over $50 per month. If we got a scooter we could cut that cost well over 75%. Or if we rode a bicycle, we wouldn't have to buy gas at all, and we could take the trail, which would cut the distance to 25 miles round trip. Plus, the trail doesn't have any stops, so we would still spend almost the same amount of time as we do to drive. Aren't you tired of being a slave to traffic?"
ED: "You're a moron."
As you can see, Logic-Dude has been winning the argument. Of course, if I relied on shoulder-men to make all of my life decisions for me, I would probably be declared unfit for service in the human race—which is why instead I'm asking for advice from the faceless Internet zombie clickers. Allow me to summarize each of my possible commuting options.
Car (current method)
Pros: Complete protection from "the elements," ability to listen to radio/CD, high top speed, sense of American Pride™, easier than thinking.
Cons: Subservient to oil-providing overlords (opOverlords), easy to get stuck in the middle of traffic with no hope of escape, low average speed to top speed ratio (ATR): 0.45, up to five minute walk from closest parking spot to work building, large overall expense.

Scooter/Moped (gas-powered)
Pros: versatile—able to get out of a jam easier, low fuel consumption (~100mpg), easy to find parking, fun to ride, higher ATR: 0.60, makes you look cool.
Cons: Low top speed (45mph), unable to use freeways, initial investment $2,000-$3,000, still subservient to opOverlords, no protection from the elements, no radio.

Scooter/Moped (electric-powered)
Pros: Freedom from opOverlords, warm fuzzy feeling in heart, that's about it.
Cons: Relatively low top speed (20-30mph), initial investment $1,500-$2,000, probably not legal on trails, wouldn't be able to jump a dozen busses, no protection from the elements, no radio.

Public Transit
Pros: Ability to do pretty much anything during the commute (read a book, play video games, sleep, whatever), $30/month subsidy from employer, and yeah that's pretty much it.
Cons: No direct route (baffling), daily cost higher than gasoline, round-trip time close to two hours (ridiculous), extra walking each way to/from bus stops, totally un-hip.

Pros: Bigger than those stupid Hummer H2s, childhood fantasy fulfilled, freedom from opOverlords, ability to pimp out a sweet travel compartment on top, nobody messes with the elephant.
Cons: Solid byproduct difficult to dispose of, not the fastest method available.

Pros: Daily exercise, no recurring expenses, freedom from opOverlords, shorter route via trails, $30/month subsidy from employer, high ATR: ~0.95, low initial investment (~$1,000-$1,500), highly versatile (able to use roads or trails).
Cons: Daily exercise, low top speed, no protection from the elements, no radio.

Electrically-Assisted Bicycle
Pros: Exercise optional, very low recurring expenses, freedom from opOverlords, shorter route via trails, $30/month subsidy from employer, high ATR: ~0.95, low initial investment ($1,000-$1,500), highly versatile, easy to reach top bicycle speed of 20mph.
Cons: No protection from the elements, no radio.

Pros: Low fuel requirements, able to carry extra loads, spit in the eye of anyone who cuts me off.
Cons: Desert animal possibly not water-resistant, very low top speed, chafing.

Pros: Ability to do pretty much anything during the commute, someone else gets daily exercise.
Cons: Difficult to find driver, possibly not legal on roads or trails.

Pros: Daily exercise, $30/month subsidy from employer.
Cons: Who am I kidding—as if I'm really going to walk 25 miles a day.
So what do you think? Should I listen to Evil-Dude and continue to go with what's easiest, or should I consider Logic-Dude's arguments and choose another method? And if I choose another, which one should I choose? Lastly, does anyone know where I can find some aerosol shoulder-dude repellant? Your feedback is welcome.
Categories: Personal


Blogger Sarah said...

I dig the bicycle option, or the electric scooter. I love my scooter and my bike. Eaither way I don't think the camel would be a good option, they spit...and don't like cold weather.

11:18 AM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Nathan said...

Go with the elephant!

12:25 PM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger DaButtminster said...

I think your initial investment numbers for a normal bicycle are about 10x too high.

4:57 PM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Skor Grimm said...

While the $100 bikes at Target are good for certain purposes, if I was riding a bicycle 25 miles, five days a week (that's 500 miles per month!), I would want something a bit nicer. Preferably a high quality, lightweight road bike, which tend run close to $1,000. Plus I would need to get a bunch of gear such as a storage rack, head and tail lights, etc. For something I'd be riding that often, it would be worth the one-time expense.

5:47 PM, March 16, 2006  
Blogger LotharBot said...

I'd go either elephant, or switch between bike and car depending on the weather.

11:59 AM, March 17, 2006  
Blogger Dove said...

I'd definitely consider protection from the elements essential in a city that rains 9 months of the year. In fact, I was looking for alternative transportation myself for a while, and desite the fact that I lived only a mile or so from work (as the car drives), the PFE factor kept me driving. Couldn't find a good subsitute.

I suppose an umbrella probably would have worked, except that that pretty much limited the options to "walking"--not a terribly good idea given the possibility of late nights, early mornings, and weird neighborhoods. Cars have doors that lock, and that's very very very nice sometimes.

Speaking of weird neighborhoods, you left off one of the most essential cons of public transportation: weird people on the bus. Tom and I took the bus all over Seattle while we both went to UW, and... well, let's just say we took a taxi last time we went to the airport, despite the fact that we're super-cheap and on a direct & convenient bus route.

I've seen folks with hard shells over weird vehicles that look like glorified bikes. Never looked into it, myself, but maybe something like that would work. Definitely a high 'hip' factor on that one.

6:24 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Amber E. Gulmatico said...

A great public transportation alternative for some (probably not you though) is the Sounder train. We live in Auburn and my husband rides it into Seattle. There aren't any creepy people on it and there's even internet access in the first car. However, my husband's work does give him a Puget Pass allowing him to ride the train for free.

Oh and I think the elephant idea is great. Just have one of the numerous homeless people in Seattle follow after you with a gigantic pooper scooper and I am sure they can find some environmentalist green house who'll pay the hp for the fertilizer so they can have warm fuzzy feelings helping out the hp.

3:29 PM, April 17, 2006  

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