So far, this has been the year of numbers for me.
On January 1st, I promised to track every penny I earned and spent. I’ve been doing that. (Look for my first budget report soon.) I’ve also been tracking my fitness, including calorie burn and alcohol consumption. I’ve been much more aware of the stats behind this blog. And, for no real reason, I’ve been logging my transportation miles.
I guess the impetus for this was a desire to see if I’m really walking the walk. (Heh.) I say that I don’t drive much and that I walk whenever possible — but is it really true? When Mr. Money Mustache stayed with us in August, he chided me for driving five miles to the gym and back every morning. I made some changes to my lifestyle — I drove only 618 miles in three months — but even so, I didn’t cut back to Mustachian levels.
Crunching the Numbers
Like any good nerd, I decided it was time to crunch some numbers. I whipped up a quick spreadsheet to log my daily (and cumulative) transportation and dutifully began tracking my numbers.
Here are daily results for January:
That’s a wall of numbers, so let me try to provide some clarity.
I’m tracking only movement originating here in Portland — vacations or business trips are too complicated for this project — except for walking, which my watch records anywhere I go. The Walk and Bike columns ought to be self-explanatory. The Moto column indicates miles traveled on my motorcycle; the Mini column indicates miles traveled in my 2004 Mini Cooper; and the Honda column indicates miles traveled in Kim’s 1996 Honda Accord (no matter which one of us is driving).
Each line records my transportation methods for a single day. If I didn’t use a car that day, the walk column is green. If I used the car for more than half my miles, the walk column is red. (If I drove more than ten miles in a day, I’ve used red to highlight that in the car’s column too.) If I drove but for less than half my daily miles, then the walk column is orange.
And here are the cumulative results for the month:
No highlighting here. The second half of the spreadsheet merely aggregates total miles traveled via each method. You can see that at the end of the month, I’d traveled 428.7 miles in and around Portland. Of those, 136.4 miles were by foot — or about 31.8% of the total. I didn’t use my bike even once.
Let’s look at what these numbers reveal about my transportation habits.
First, I think it’s interesting to note that for 15 of the 31 days in January, I didn’t drive at all. For another five of those days, driving made up less than half of the miles I traveled. There were nine days during which I traveled more than ten miles by car.
Overall, I had 268.4 vehicle miles in January. But 189.1 of those miles — about 70.5% — came from three trips down into the Willamette Valley. There were indeed a few instances where I could have replaced driving with biking if I weren’t such a wuss. On the 19th, for instance, I drove 3.3 miles to meet a colleague, then drove 3.3 miles home. MMM would have biked. And in the summer, I would have biked. But it was freezing and dark, so I didn’t. On the 27th, I drove to attend a beerfest. During the summer months, I would have biked to this too. (Which means I’d be able to drink more beer!)
After just four weeks of logging my miles, it seems clear to me that I do a good job walking around my neighborhood, which is what I thought. There were a handful to times that a car was necessary for the trip I was undertaking; I’m not going to walk or bike the 56-mile route to my brother’s house, for example. But there were also several times I might have opted to not use a car if I’d been a hardier fellow. It’s here I want to change my habits.
Obviously, I’m not a big driver in the first place. According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives 13,476 miles per year. I’m on pace to drive less than a quarter of that in 2017. And while the typical household spends $9073 per year on transportation — which represents about 17% of the average household budget — I spend much less than that. Because I’m not a big driver, this exercise is mostly academic. (And fun nerd side project.)
That said, as the weather warms I’m going to do what I can to drive even less. Yesterday, I took one big step to removing the barriers between me and my bike. It used to live on a bike rack behind Kim’s car in the parking garage, which made it tough to access. I moved it to an open space in the condo’s trash room, where it’ll be easy to grab and go.
What about you? How much do you drive? Are there steps you can take to cut back? Have you considered using public transportation? (From my experience, the biggest barrier with buses and trains is simply figuring out how they work. After you do that, it’s easy to get a good routine.) Can you build in one or two additional walks per week? (Perhaps to get groceries or to go out to dinner?) Can you bike to work instead of drive?And, more importantly, what sort of money nerdery can you use a spreadsheet to track in your life?