Winter Commute Options

I have to confess that I’ve started driving to work. If it’s not dark in the evening when I leave work, it’s dark by the time I’ve walked all the way home and some days, it’s even dark out when I walk to work in the mornings. So, it’s become a feeling of being unsafe walking to and from work and I feel like the best solution to that for now is to just drive.

How far is my walk? To my current office, it is about 1.5 miles, which takes about half an hour to walk.

What about taking public transit? Despite both living and working in the city and it not actually being that far from my condo to my office, there aren’t any convenient public transit routes. The fastest one would shave 4 minutes off the walking route and is 60% walking anyway, so that doesn’t really help the darkness problem.

Driving takes me about 10 minutes.

  • My car gets about 30 mpg in the city, so each round trip to/from work costs me about 0.1 gallons of fuel. I was already driving to work on average 1.5 times per week because I needed my car immediately after work, without walking the half hour home to grab the car. Turning that into 5 times per week is an increase in fuel usage of 0.3 gallons of fuel per week or 1.2 gallons per 4 weeks. Additional cost of fuel per 4 weeks: ~$5
  • I’ve been averaging around 400 miles per month since buying my car two years ago. My car manual recommends service every 6 months or 5,000 miles. An additional 9 miles per week or 36 miles per 4 weeks wouldn’t force me to take my car in for service any sooner.
  • My car insurance currently has a “low mileage” commute discount, so my insurance wouldn’t go up.
  • My employer reimburses up to a certain dollar amount of parking per month. This allows me to drive ~7 times per month without having to pay anything out-of-pocket (once reimbursements come in and assuming I file the expense reports, which I do faithfully). Driving 20 times per month would cost me almost $300/month in daily parking charges. I could apply for a monthly parking spot which would run me under $100/month out-of-pocket.

I absolutely love the walk to and from work! I hate driving, as I find the afternoon traffic quite stressful. I find the half hour walk quite relaxing.

But mostly, I really don’t want to pay for almost $300/month out-of-pocket in daily parking charges. I foresee the evening darkness being a problem probably through February or maybe March, so let’s say 4.5 months. Those few months would easily cost me $300 more out-of-pocket than paying out-of-pocket for the monthly parking pass for an entire year. I wish my employer subsidized a certain amount per year, rather than per month because I don’t usually use up the monthly subsidy each month…

My boyfriend and my mom have told me to just drive because neither of them wants me walking home alone at night in the dark. Some of the areas I walk through aren’t super safe or simply aren’t the greatest lit. One of my guy friends used to tell me to “man up” and just walk and I’d be fine, but walking that far in the dark still sketches me out. I don’t listen to music or anything while I’m walking, so it’s not like I wouldn’t hear people around me.

Another alternative would be to maintain a more regular work schedule that allows me to get home before the sun sets and leave for work after the sun rises. In order to catch that, I would need to leave for work around 7:30 am and leave work for home around 4 pm. I think that it is probably do-able since my work schedule is quite flexible and honestly, I prefer going in to work early anyway. I just need to make that a routine, which is super hard when you’re used to it not mattering what time you get to work :)

One last alternative: walk to work (daylight then) and pay for a cab home. Even taking the most expensive cab option in my city would be $13 per way. If I could expense that, the cost would be quite comparable to the monthly parking pass out-of-pocket. Taking a slightly cheaper cab ride would make it come out to very little out-of-pocket cost, assuming that I could expense it. The taxi option is also the most flexible because it doesn’t require any commitments like the monthly parking pass does.

After much thought, my solution for now is to try to make the routine working hours, which are my preferred working hours anyway and walking is completely worth it to me to adjust my work schedule.

Readers, what would you do?

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22 thoughts on “Winter Commute Options

  1. I like the walk to work, cab back option. On days your boyfriend is able to, he could pick you up.

    Pros: you can continue to walk to work, lowest out of pocket, if any, expenses, spend random quality times with bf as he fulfills his need to be cavalier to his woman.

  2. It sounds like the cab option is both least expensive and provides flexibility if you need to work later. But I’m not sure if you can expense it unless you are also able to expense parking passes. You’ll have to look into it!

    Make sure that leaving at 4pm doesn’t get you stigmatized as someone who is a slacker– if people see you leaving but don’t see you coming in, that may be a problem. Also, is it always going to be light out at 7:30?

    • I can expense daily parking and no one checks receipts if it’s under a certain amount (which the cab fares would be), so I might be able to expense the cab fares home. I know my current manager would let me expense cab fares home if I’m working late and no one can give me a ride home.

      Everyone knows I come in early most days. One trick I use to make sure people know is to look at code reviews first thing in the morning since that sends out an email with a timestamp ;) And honestly, everyone leaves between 5-5:30 pm no matter what time they come in pretty much every day, so I don’t feel super guilty.

    • I could carpool with my boyfriend and we do some days. That definitely helps on the walking home side of things. The catch is that he tends to work later than I do.

  3. I would probably shift my hours up a little, but I like getting work done early in the day. If you want to keep your current schedule I wouldn’t feel bad about paying to either drive or take a cab home. Pre-kids I used to take the bus too and from work, which was super easy but also super sketchy on the way home. I finally decided safety was more important and started driving. So worth it.

    • I like getting work done early in the day too, so I think I’ll be more proactive about going in early and then take a cab home if I stay past dark. It’s less about the paying to drive and more the fact that walking is far, far less stressful to me.

  4. I like the shifting of hours. I used to do that a little bit in the winter too.

    When it came to winter, I tried catching the bus, but honestly, given the walk from the bus stop and delays (plus the $$) it worked out better IMO just to walk and take my umbrella.

    As for the return walk…It would still be light when I left but be getting pretty dark by the time I reached home (20 minutes). I live in a reasonably built up area and walk along main roads, though.

    • I so agree with you on the walking to the bus stop and then waiting in the rain. Any of my bus options aren’t worth it because they involve so much walking and waiting that you might as well just walk. Thankfully, my employer provides me with a full transit pass at no cost to me, which would be great if I did need to take transit.

  5. The automatic exercise that a walking commute builds into your lifestyle is valuable, but not undefeated. I think your safety, comfort, and convenience can outweigh a few hundred bucks for a few months per year. Again, it’s all relative. You’re not commuting to a job at McD’s, you make awesome money. Reward yourself with the simple pleasures.

    • Convenience actually leads to walking over driving a million times over in my books. I hate driving and I don’t like cabs. There’s a reason I bought a condo within walking distance of work. The simple pleasure *is* walking.

  6. That is a tough one…..I wonder if you might have another coworker who could meet you at your house and you guys could walk together to work? Get a little morning walk/exercise in. That would be awesome because you could have someone to walk with at night!

  7. I totally concur with TimelessFinance. “Man-up” and spend the money for parking, cab, gas, etc. Don’t be lazy not wanting to drive when your life could be in danger. You do make a good deal of money and save 50%! So what if you save 49%. My wife and I have been robbed at gunpoint walking out of a restaurant late at night in an upscale neighborhood and I can tell you that was quite traumatizing. Do not be cheap on your well being, ever.

    Sorry for being so passionate about this but I was laughing how much you would spend in gas if you had to drive to work. Just driving to work costs me $5 each day compared to your increase for one month! Also the time you save can be allocated elsewhere considering time is so precious.

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