So, now that Naveen is in Texas and I'm still in NJ, I got to keep our vehicle and he got a new (well, used) Mazda 3, I think a 2010 or 2009. The vehicle in NJ? A 2003 Honda Odyssey. HA! So one of these days, hopefully in TX, I'll buy my own first car myself. But for now, I'm looking at all the ways driving is better than taking the train.
First, I love to drive. LOVE to drive. When we moved from Chicago to NJ, I drove us the ENTIRE WAY. Naveen offered to drive several times, but I took it on and loved it (until we nearly ran out of gas at 1am in NJ where the gas stations close at night.. but we still made it).
Secondly, I have learned to hate the trains. A part of me still remembers the wistful, distant chugga chuggas and woot woots with blissful, rose-colored nostalgia. However, the bigger part of me remembers being shoved around in the vestibule between cars when all the seats were full and "standing room only" on NJ Transit would equate to being married in some countries, as no part of yourself is any longer private in the mangled mess of limbs and briefcases and bags.
There is of course the memory too of being able to read, sleep, and converse with people while riding the train, but those occurred primarily during the wait for a train to arrive a half hour later than scheduled, or more, or while on a stopped train waiting to start up again.
A lot of time was wasted on NJ Transit in the past couple of years. My route cost me 1.5 hours or more each way, depending on one excuse or another about a train becoming disabled, blocked by another disabled train, police activity, or an unexplained cancellation, so anywhere from 3-5 hours per day had been spent on or waiting for trains. Even on the worst days when Route 1 is stop and go and the Garden State Parkway is more of a Garden State Parking Lot, a one way trip will at most cost me 1.5 hours; but on a normal day, one way is 45 minutes.
Then there is the cost. I plan to save my receipts through April to determine my cost of travel. With the trains, a monthly pass for me to get from Jersey Avenue to Westfield cost me $248. From J-Ave to New York Penn is $361 per month. This of course doesn't count the 10-15 minute drive it takes to get to J-Ave, and of course it overlooks the fact that J-Ave is closed on weekends - I have to go farther up the line to New Brunswick to catch a train in that case, or if I am going by myself instead of getting dropped off, I have to go south to Princeton Junction for a chance at a parking space, which you pay for and then pay more for your ticket as well.
It's true, gas is expensive right now. I filled up on the night of 3/31 right near home so that I could start this experiment with a full tank of gas. The gas was $3.31/gal and my total was $45.22. I will not be counting this toward my April total, but I figure if gas is an even $50 per week, that's $200 per month and definitely cheaper than the train. We don't have car payments on this old thing (on April 1, I had 146,862 miles on it!), so that helps, and our insurance is pretty reasonable at $64 per month (both drivers and a variety of services), but keep in mind if you were actually making a cost analysis of train vs. car, you still need a ride of some sort from our apartment to the train station, so that can't be overlooked.
The roaring motor and whistle sounding in the distance beckons ("Stella!!!!!") -- but I've moved on!