Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mass Transit

Today I was without a vehicle, so I decided to take mass transit home. A number of people offered me a ride (most people in Dallas still look at getting around without driving as something that only the destitute resort to), but I like to make my own way whenever possible, so I refused as politely as I could.

The cost for my DART pass was $1.75 for a twelve-mile trip. According to the IRS the reimbursable cost per mile is $.55, so the trip was a bargain—I saved $4.85 over the IRS’s estimate.

My driving time to and from work is 24 minutes, so to begin with it looks like I lost 36 minutes. I managed to get some things accomplished during the trip, so I think you have to subtract some of the time I spent from the total. Here’s how I see the overall result:

Now I think my time is valuable, but if those two minutes saved me $4.85, then my time would have to be worth more than $145.50 per hour to make driving worthwhile.

I don’t know how to evaluate whether or not that is a good deal. I get paid a lot less than that at Central Dallas CDC, but when I was practicing law my hourly rate was significantly higher than $145.50 per hour. So at least to someone, my time is (or used to be) more valuable than the money I saved by taking mass transit. I could have been working.

But the real savings went to my wife, friends and co-workers, one of whom saved about an hour of time by not driving me home and then driving back to wherever they needed to be. I may not know exactly what my time is worth, but I know that two minutes of my time is not worth as much as an hour of their time. Even though they would have gladly made the trip for me, I would have felt that it was a moral failing to use so much of their time to save so little of mine.

Every action we take affects other people for good or for bad. Turn off the light when you leave the room and a child somewhere probably breathes just so slightly easier. Make a place for someone to live and their life becomes worthwhile again. Build a business; make jobs; and families flourish and the community improves. Many times these choices are abstract and difficult to understand, but I’m sure that no matter how willingly the sacrifice is made, my time is not worth thirty times as much as that of anyone else I know.

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