A huge number of people use the subway to get from one part of the city to the other twice a day, five days a week. If they’re smart, they buy a monthly pass which costs $59 and gives you unlimited rides within the central city zone.
For the same $59 you could buy 29.5 gallons of gas at today’s prices ($2 per gallon). Burn that gas in a 50cc scooter at a conservative 80 miles per gallon (you can get more) and you can go 2,360 miles. I would estimate that the average distance traveled between home and work is less than five miles, but, to be conservative and keep the math easy we’ll say 5. That means you could make 236 round trips to work with it. That’s just under one year’s worth of work commuting for the cost of one month’s T-pass.
You can get a Honda or Yamaha scooter used for about $1500. You can get a cheap chinese knock-off for new for about half that, although you’d probably need to buy a second one when the first one dies or needs a part no-one carries, so we’ll call it the same price. That’s just over the cost of two years worth of T passes (no insurance required, and registration is cheap). So, if you plan on living within the city for at least two years a scooter will easily pay for itself. In addition to the trivially cheap cost of getting to and from work, it also gives you the ability to get around after the buses and trains stop running (midnight… because they’re stupid), not deal with the hour wait on many bus routes (assuming they bother to show up at all), easily get to all the many places in between the bus routes, and legally park anywhere a bicycle can park.
So tell me, how does paying for a T pass every month make economical sense?
What’s worse is that the T is much better for the environment than thousands and thousands of scooters running around. While I admit I’m a huge scooter and motorcycle fan, I really do wish that mass transit came out better in this equation.
Obviously, this isn’t a realistic option for people who live outside the city, although a motorcycle could be, as mine gets 60mpg. But, the number of people who ride mass-transit every day just within the city is decidedly non-trivial.
Additional costs I hadn’t thought of when I initially wrote this, because I’m used to having them on hand: Helmet $100, good armored jacket $100+. There’s plenty more stuff you can get for protection, but those are the bare minimum requirements in my book. Related post: So you want to ride a motorcycle… and not die.