Some bus numbers

I know a lot of scooter riders are NOT into taking the bus, especially because the bus does not match their sunny-Italian-Vespa-stylish-scarf image of scootering.  Well I like my scooter, but I’m a little more practical.  This past week, everyday, I took the bus.  Allow me to deviate from my usual scooter focus and talk about that.

If you want some reasons for taking the bus, read my last posting on this.  And you should also read a great story from Jeff about his January Bus Challenge.  I decided to look at some numbers, because I’m a nerd like that.  🙂  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Using googlemaps I found out that I saved driving the car 26.6 miles per day.  Not bad.  For last week I saved driving 133 miles.  Next I assume I ride the bus all the time to work, meaning only 3 weeks in the year would be scooter riding or car riding.  This means (including vacation and sick days and holidays) I would be riding the bus 45 weeks in a year.  This is 5,985 miles not driven in a year, which rounds to 6,000 miles not driven in a year.  Sweeet!

Now just for today I’m going to ignore some cost numbers.  Obviously I am saving on the gas those 6,000 miles don’t eat up (which at today’s gas price of $3 is $600) and on the other hand, I have to buy the COTA monthly express bus pass ($324 at my employee rate)… well I guess I couldn’t ignore the numbers, huh?  Well, I’m just going to gloss over them.  So moving right along (ahem) I want to focus on the environmental “benefit” of not driving those 6,000 miles.

Since I don’t have numbers for all the externalities, I’m just going to use a shortcut.  Have you heard of Terrapass?  I’ve seen the internet ads, and recently noticed a few cars here in Metro Columbus with little Terrapass stickers.  I think it’s a nice idea, but a little lame.  So you paid some money, and now you can feel OK/smug about driving so much?  Ehhh.  Right to pollute and all that.  Anyways, they use a rate of 19.564 (per gallon of gas) to estimate how many pounds of carbon dioxide your car emits.

Anyways, you can input your car and get a pass… I found their mileage numbers to be optimistic (so if your sticker says 25-33, they are probably using 33 instead of 25 or 30).  For these 6,000 miles… (crunch some numbers) …. they recommend a $29.70 “Around Towner” Terrapass.  This actually covers the 6,000 miles and then some.  (Because the 6,000 miles produce just under 4,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, and this pass covers 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.)  Close enough.

Conclusion?  Using Terrapass to help convince people to not drive isn’t going to work.  I like to help the environment, but if someone told me that I could pay $29.70 to get rid of my guilt for driving 6,000 miles a year, I would say “heck, so why not drive 60,000 miles and pay more?  $29.70 is nothing.”  Anyways, I’ll just focus on the 6,000 miles number and all the extra sleep and reading I get done on the bus instead.

5 responses to “Some bus numbers

  1. Very nice write up. I too like the idea of Terrapass, e.g. but I don’t think it is actually beneficial. As you said, that dollar amount is so low that it would be easy to quadrupple the amount and think you’re being a good citizen. Really the end result is your supporting just another financial market which serves more as a way to create paper profit than to actually benefit the environment. Just the way the cap and trade system will allow the worst polluters to continue polluting under the guise of being environmentally sound.

    Anyhow, I’m glad you’re able to take the bus as much as you can.

  2. Someone is surely congratulating themselves for paying attention to the lecture in their Medieval history class about the bishops and their sale of indulgences.

    To these smug, sanctimonious individuals with the stickers on their Priuses and the tags on their carry-on luggage, I am happy to point out this fact:

    My 2005 Vespa PX 150 has gotten about 70 mpg over the course of its 12,000 miles in my care, using 171.43 gallons of gas (12,000 mi./ 70 mpg). Assuming 22 lbs. of CO₂ per gallon of gas burned, that comes to 3,771.46 lbs. of CO₂.

    The 12,000 miles I rode my PX was 12,000 miles I didn’t drive my 2005 Ford Escape, which gets about 20 mpg overall. The Escape would’ve used an even 600 gallons to go that far, with CO₂ emissions of 13,200 lbs., a difference of 9,428.54. A difference that’s real, verifiable and takes place in real time, vs. the funding of “projects” of great buzzword count but questionable environmental impact.

  3. Thank you both for reading – and commenting!

    Andrew – yea I was really surprised at how cheap the Terrapass was… I guess if I was in the paper profit business, then the best option would be something like Terrapass (or cap-and-trade). Philosophically I prefer to try to actually DO something. And then, as you point out, there are issues with how effective these systems are.

    Orin – Thank you for sharing the numbers for your PX 150. Is the 22 pounds number a standard? (I have no idea, I just used the 19.5 number from the Terrapass website.) You are correct, the 9,000 + is real and verifiable!

    I think part of the problem is how we (people in general) quantify things. If you tell people you saved 9,438 pounds of CO2 emissions, they don’t know how that relates to anything else. (“Is that what a Hummer puts out in a day? A year? Or is it more like a Civic?”) If you say you saved $1,287 in gas, that is something people can grasp.

    But to make real progress in reducing our CO2 emissions, we need to start getting used to these types of numbers.

  4. The 22 lbs./gallon CO₂ figure is the one I’ve seen most often… there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the exact number, except that it’s in the 20 lb. ballpark. I’m sure if you could measure the output of any given source exactly, it would vary. Kinda like the way the gas/oil ratio needs to be 50:1 in a vintage Vespa, 2% is too much for lengthy idling and maybe not enough for full throttle.

  5. Orin – OK, gotcha! Thanks for that info. A rule of thumb is better than no idea!

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