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Finances & Money

New Job, New Commute, Higher Costs, More Travel Time

It’s been over 3 weeks since my last contract ended, and I’m gearing up to start a new one with a new client this week. Last week, I went in and got fingerprints and photographs done. All I need now is the security clearance to finalize and to get badged. However, this new contract will be more expensive in both time and dollars compared to my last one.

I was already paying the maximum fare on Metrorail ($3.90 one-way prior to this week), so it cost me $7.80 per day to just ride to and from work. In addition, I was spending $4 twice per week to park at the metro so that I could get to class faster. Otherwise, I would have to leave even earlier from work to have time to walk home to my truck.

Oh, and the train ride was 30 minutes with no transfers.

Now with the Metro fare increases, I’ll be paying $4.50 each way, plus $4.75 to park. That comes out to $9-13.75 per day, depending on the day, or about $30-40 more per month in travel expenses. Granted, I would be paying this with the old contract too as I’m just stuck paying the max fare anyway.

The worse part is the time. My new contract is a few more stops away from the old, AND I need to transfer trains. This will add a minimum of 15 more minutes onto my commute, bringing it up to 45 minutes one-way. And that doesn’t count the time to get to and from the metro! I’m now looking at a 60-70 minute commute each way!

For class days, I now have to leave by around 2pm to get to my furthest class in time. If you’re familiar with the DC MetroRail, you know that prior to rush hour, trains run about 12-14 minutes apart. Now with the transfer, and this happened to me last week when I went for fingerprints, I could get stuck with a 24-28 minute wait to get the second train! If I just miss the the first and second train as I reach the platform, I’m stuck for almost a half hour, and like I said, that happened to me last week.

However, the nice thing is that I should have a seat for most of the commute and will be able to read for my classes, or even write articles like I did last year. But just knowing that the minimum time to get home in case of emergency has now increased so much is unnerving. I can handle the increased fares, but the time is going to be the make-or-break factor in whether I ask for a different contract, or even try to find another job.

So, is anyone else adversely affected by the new fare increases? I make a decent income so I can absorb the cost, but I know for some commuters, the $30-50 more per month could mean cutting some necessities.

About the author

Clever Dude

8 Comments

  • My wife and I moved to the DC area in mid-2006 for a pretty good paying job I had downtown. We lived in Fairfax and I hated the job, the traffic, the commute (I carpooled and took the metro…both were bad), and ultimately left after 5 months to move to a city we both liked much better, for much less pay.

    Now that I’m more aware of my financial situation, we might have been better off sticking it out for a while, but we’re much happier with where we live now…and we own a house, which wasn’t really feasible in July of 2006 in the DC Metro area.

  • Two Nickels: One thing I found about living in Rockville MD is that it’s easier to get to certain places in Northern VA and especially into DC than if I actually lived in Northern VA. Most of my coworkers had to come in from Vienna, always had problems finding parking at that metro, the trains were always packed and the service was more sporadic compared to the Red Line.

    Northern VA is just too overcrowded and the roads (especially Rt 66) just can’t handle all the people. I think we have it easy living on the northwest tip of DC, close to the MD/VA border. We have the best of all the roads, and have a quick exit to go visit family north in PA.

  • I have to admit, I’m not thrilled with the rate hike. My subsidy used to cover my costs, as I’m close enough to walk, but now it’ll be about $20 over a month. Luckily I have some MetroCheks from my reimbursement of my first month’s travel so I won’t have to add it in my budget for another two months or so–right around the time I SHOULD have my credit card paid off. At least this will encourage me to stop being lazy and occasionally driving to the station because I want an extra 5 minutes of sleep.

  • Man, I love the DC area, but everytime I travel up there, I don’t have to worry about traffic. I get jealous of people that live up there full time, though. There’s just so much….of everything – things to do, opportunities for education (scholastic education and museums), diversity, etc. I definitely would have to find some alternative modes of transportation if it got too expensive. There’s always room to “trim the fat,” so to speak.

  • There is a weekly pass of $39 you can buy from metro website. you can use it any where any time. My husband uses it daily to ride from Greenbelt to Suitland for his gov job and it is much cheaper than paying it daily. And there is also a neat tool on metro website that you can see online how many minutes a train will come into a certain station. Before you leave your job, check the website to see how long the next train will come and time it right so that you can leave and get to the station right when the train pulls in.

  • Sue, I had looked into that weekly pass as well, but we use WageWorks for commuter benefits, and right now they don’t support purchasing the weekly pass. I’ll ping them to see if they’re planning on adding support for it though.

  • I make about $22,000/year as a grad student and working as a research assistant on the side. My Metro costs are going up around $20/month, and $240/year is going to hurt!

    The first day of the rate hike, my normally 15-minute or so ride took about a half hour, due to delays described by our conductor only as “we are holding.” I think all of us on the train were so glad we were now paying more for such fabulous service 🙂

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