Beverly Hills syndrome is a highly contagious ailment that travels faster than the speed of sound and makes you feel that what you own is what you are. People are crazy about cars. They give them mobility, utility, status and a sense of independence. Car is a personalized capsule that the owner gets to custom–design in accordance with his taste and budget. It can be expensive or cheap. It can have a stereo system that plays the music you want at the volume you want. And you always get a seat. Anybody who owns a car doubtless revels in the freedom the car gives him. There are many more people on planet who want one. For people, enjoying all the money, power, comforts and luxuries on earth, travel on a crowded bus may be to find them jolted into griping about it, something kind of disguised blow to their pride.
For us public transportation is frugal, but not pleasant. Standing at the bus stop, braving ‘qyamat say qyamat’ long wait for the bus to arrive and then taking on pangs of jostles, tight squeezes, untold halts and attendant shove ins & shove outs drain energy, eat up our time and create a stream of unnecessary hassles. A 15 minute commute turns out into one hour and half long one. In the evenings when the public transport is not mostly running, humans can invariably be seen magnetized to the exteriors or rooftops of buses. Waiting and waiting on a bus that never arrives may lead to the decision of just walking all the way home.
Frugal choice is to use public transportation if you are looking at numbers only. But, then ‘opportunity’ costs in time and comfort terms are worth the extra. Saving extra money may be worth braving the discomfort that public transportation adds to your commute. If you have a car you may use it for stopping at the store or going out with friends/relatives after office work. If you don’t own it the choice is obvious, take the bus and save a bundle. Only you know how comfortable you will feel using public transport and what you have to sacrifice for the extra time and effort it takes to do so.
Cars are expensive for drivers, fuel, tolls, car maintenance and insurance not to mention the low productivity resulting from increased traffic congestion. Of all the transportation options available, car is the least sustainable, kind of fuel guzzler affecting the health of populations. Driving your own car in traffic snarl-ups, even if short distance, may take lots of sitting in traffic, listening to automobile horns andcolourful language choices from frustrated drivers. And even if you're not an auto owner, an errant car alarm that goes off at 2.00 in the night may give you nightmares; or some idiot taking up three spaces in your lot when all you want to do is park your car near shopping mall to load groceries.
Costs of owning a car that never runs are enormous---purchase price, sales tax, interest on loan, insurance. The marginal costs of driving car, given that is already owned and those costs have already been paid, is very cheap form of transportation even though its total costs are very high. What counts to the driver when making a decision to commute is marginal costs? Public transport systems which must cover average costs cannot compete with cars which must only cover marginal costs even if the average costs of those public systems are below the average cost of the automobile. With more and better roads more houses are built along those corridors and more people drive. Better road causes people to leave for work later, and peak road rush congestion continues to exist. And building more roads is not effective since most of the day have a lot of idle capacity.
Rising fuel prices make public transit more attractive for some trips, boosting ridership, but for most trips, transit fares are still comparable with fuel costs and generally take longer. Although fuel costs are generally about equal to bus fares for a typical 15-16-Km trip, car operation also imposes "mileage based depreciation costs" (wear-and-tear, tire replacement costs, additional maintenance and repairs, and reduced resale value). If the vehicle is fuel inefficient, or paid parking at the destination, then financial savings are much greater each day a commuter shifts to public transit.
For many trips, car travel takes less time and is more flexible than public transit. Unit travel time costs vary significantly, with higher costs for driving under congested conditions, higher costs for public transit under uncomfortable conditions, and lower costs for public transit travel under relatively comfortable conditions. As a result, under urban peak conditions, travel on a transit vehicle is often cheaper per minute than driving (travelers prefer to spend time traveling on a bus during which they can rest or read, than fighting traffic and searching for a parking spot). Much of the money currently spent to increase traffic speeds, e.g. by widening urban highways, could be better spent on improving public transit travel conditions and therefore unit costs.
Virtually all forms of motorized transportation rely on various subsidies (roads and services, parking facilities financed through taxes). Although it is not optimal to shift all travel from automobile to public transit, for many trips it is cost effective, particularly when all costs are considered. It's long been recognized that, if a train journey is 3 hours or less, more people will use the train than fly. Partly it's the hassle factor of flying. But there's also the productive time argument. If you go by air, you have to get to the airport, check in, wait board, fly, disembark, and then get to the downtown area. Your journey is fragmented: concentrated work on a short haul air journey is difficult. Contrast that with train. When you're on the train, you have all that unbroken time to use. You can use a cell-phone: you can use a lap-top and increasingly you can access the internet. You can read, write, doze, chat. Time spent travelling by air is a cost: it's time wasted. Time spent travelling by train is a benefit: it's usable working time. Same kind of thing is true for car versus transit for commuting: he who commutes by train and uses in-vehicle time for reading or writing certainly can't be done while driving car.