Saturday 15 January 2011

Commuter Cost Comparison

Its cheaper by bus! [in Harrogate]

Commuters, a strange word, has its origins in "good ole U S of A" where folk who travelled regularly to work could buy a "commuted fare" ticket.  Nowadays the only other thing that is routinely "commuted" is the death sentence!   Maybe the two experiences have some similarities?

At this time of year the media is full of anguished wails from "commuters" at the extortionate fare increases as they are "held to ransom" by the rail companies.  What is quietly forgotten is that the self-same commuters are paying some of the cheapest rail fares available.
Harrogate, home of the celebrated and foul-tasting spa water, is one of the few places place where direct price comparisons can be made.   fbb has spent a pleasant (actually frustrating and challenging, the rigours of the internet!) few hours finding out.   These figures are  based on making 230 return journeys a year and are shown at cost per day.
CAR : peak journey time approx 45 minutes : comfort, excellent : stress, quite high : frequency, as required : cost, based on AA figures (which include nasty things like depreciation - which motorists all like to forget), £11.70

If you have to pay for parking in central Leeds, this goes up to a massive £18.35.   OUCH!  If you want to ignore everything except fuel costs, then, allowing for burning fuel in traffic queues, you might end up paying £4.00 a day. OUCH again!
TRAIN : peak hour journey time approx 40 minutes : comfort, poor to adequate : stress, low : frequency, every 30 minutes : cost, based on an annual season ticket, £5.86.    The anytime day return fare is £9.00, so commuting offers a discount of 35% on the relatively good-value West Yorkshire fares.
BUS : peak hour journey time approx 50 minutes : comfort, excellent : stress, low :  frequency, every 10 minutes (off peak every 20) : cost, based on the Harrogate and District Gold Rider annual season, £3.26.

There are various downsides and bonuses.   The above assumes that the "commuter" is within walking distance of Harrogate rail station (or the nearby Hornbeam Park or Pannal) so there might be an extra cost for the "kiss and ride" element.   Similarly there will be a time cost if an extra bus journey is needed to get to the service 36; but, in this case, the price remains the same as the Gold Card is, effectively, a Harrogate and District rover ticket.

The rail season ticket calculations mean that any "non work" journeys to Leeds (or intermediately) are then free - likewise,  all "non-work" bus journeys throughout H & D services are "free".   Similarly, if the car driver has stumped up a whopping £1600 for central Leeds parking, there would be no problems when driving in to do the Christmas shopping!   Enjoy the January sales!

Sadly, the opportunity of such a direct comparison remains rare; but, without a doubt, rail "commuters" get a very good deal, arguably at the expense of poor mugs like fbb who have to subsidise them with heavy peak time fares!  But, where there is a comparable bus service with only a minimum time penalty, it's a no-brainer.

IT'S BETTER, and CHEAPER by bus!

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