Episode 380 – 2022’s Transportation Budget & Public Transit

WARNING: Boring numbers. Stuff I’ll want to look back at, but no one else will care about (unless you’re budgeting transit costs too).

Preamble: In 2021, a full year at home in Ontario due to Covid restrictions, the average monthly cost associated with owning our car (including the car payments, insurance, prorated license fees, maintenance and ever-more-expensive fuel) was about $1200 CAD, or $14,400 annually. Our actual car payments accounted for $9000 of that.

2022 has been a very different year, back to our pre-Covid nomadic lifestyle, so I was interested to see what our transportation budget would look like.

We’ve done our share this year of over-using our carbon footprint allotment by cruising around the world, and then flying to Europe and Mexico. On the flip side, once we reach our destinations, we rarely get into a car, preferring to walk or take the local public transit.

Travelling by Tardis would have been efficient, had it been an option!

Here’s a quick breakdown of our experiences in 2022:

January through mid-May.

Just…. wow. We were probably not great environmental citizens of the planet for these 5 months, but it was the first time in our lives that we’ve travelled truly first class, both in the air and on the water, and we definitely paid for the privilege. It’s difficult to break out the transit-only cost from an all-inclusive 4-1/2 month world cruise (plus I budgeted the entire trip into last year, when we prepaid it), but let’s just say it’s not cheap, and not something we’d do often. Episode 144 – Go! – Rose and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Episode 273 – A First Class Experience All Round…Almost – Rose and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Business Class flights, included as part of our Viking World Cruise.
Is there a better way to get 900 people to 54 cities in 23 countries in just 4-1/2 months? If you’re interested in the ways in which Viking builds its ships to be “green”, check out this video: VikingStar. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
Sometimes we got to shore via tender – decidedly less glamorous than the Star!

We continued to pay the last few months of our car loan while we were away, plus car insurance, and a minimal amount of fuel to allow son #2 to keep our car running through the winter months.

Back when our wonderful little red car was brand new, sporting our “going” license plate (Ted’s theory: a German car and a German girl both deserve a German plate)

June

With our final car payment done, our transportation costs became just maintenance, insurance and fuel. Then, just days before heading to Europe, with plans to put our car into storage for a year, we were in a collision that totalled our car. Episode 276 – This Wasn’t In The Plan – Rose and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. We decided not to replace it, at least until we’re back in Canada for an extended period of time, potentially mid-2023.

We continued to budget 2021’s payment-inclusive $1200 CAD/month for “transportation” nonetheless. For at least the next couple of years, I’m going to try to lump all our transportation methods together, as a way of seeing whether we can travel around the world for the same amount we were spending on owning a car. The transportation component of “package” vacations will stay separate; we’d be doing those whether we had a car or not.

There was no “cost” getting from Canada to Berlin in June, since we flew on accumulated RBC credit card AVION points. (Had we paid out of pocket, our one-way flights would have been added $1350 CAD to our monthly total.

July

Transit in Germany, and Berlin in particular, was wonderful. As part pf Germany’s effort to move away from Russian gas and oil, they implemented a country-wide transit pass for just 9 Euros per month, giving users access to all local and regional buses, trams, subways, and trains, most of which operate on green energy. The only time we topped up our transit pass was for taking the ICE (high-speed Inter-City Express) from Berlin to Verden. The DeutscheBahn app was a fantastic resource for route planning, and even allowed us to follow our trips in real time, including any unforeseen delays. When our ICE was delayed, causing us to narrowly miss our connecting train, the app immediately pointed us to the best available alternates – at no extra cost, since our trip was paid through to its final destination.

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station), reflected in the River Spree.
Credit: DB file photo.

August

Austria’s train system combined with Vienna’s city transit, made getting around a breeze, if somewhat more expensive than in Germany, since there was no equivalent of the 9 Euro national pass. Vienna public transport, Wiener Linien, operates five underground lines, 29 tram and 127 bus lines, of which 24 are night lines. We had no difficulty at all navigating our way around the city when we weren’t just wandering on foot.

Wiener Linien had a good app. Trieste had no app at all.

We’d be warned to expect “issues” in Italy, but with the exception of one pair of fairly inexpensive “timed” train tickets that I had to pay for twice, we found transit in Trieste very easy to navigate. The buses themselves were a challenge, but only because their interiors seem to have been designed by Escher, with seats of varying configurations, at multiple levels, and facing in different directions. Plus, each bus had far more standing room than seating. It was just weird. The Italian trains, though, were clean, comfortable, and on time.

September

We knew London would be complicated, simply because there are so many options and so many routes. Like almost everything in London, the transit system is cashless/contactless, so we were constantly tapping our credit cards on – and sometimes off – buses, trams, DLR (docklands light railway), underground station kiosks, and water taxis.

In a fluke of the way our stays fell within the calendar, we arrived in Greenwich on August 30th, so our incoming flight and bus costs show up as August expenses. Our flights home were “free”, having been booked using credit card loyalty points, but were “worth” $1350 CAD total.

We took the opportunity while in England to visit my best friend’s daughter in Portishead, opting for a 3 hour bus ride at 1/5 the cost of a two hour train option. The balance of our transportation costs were bus and underground trips, paid for by a credit card “tap on/tap off” process, since the transit system in London is completely cashless/contactless.

Our flight home was the other half of June’s Icelandair return fare booked on reward points.

October

We spent the first week of October with our #1 and their family, right on the Toronto subway line, which was wonderful. We each still had funds on our Presto transit cards, even though we haven’t used them in years, but we topped them up to ensure we could seamlessly gallivant around in the city and get back and forth to the airport. We’ll use them again in November.

On October 1st, though, we needed to be in London Ontario for my amazing and much-missed brother-in-law’s long delayed memorial service. #1 offered to drive, but we put fuel in their car.

We also rented a car for a day to drive north to Stayner for dentist visits.

Then it was off to Coquitlam BC for the remainder of the month. Aren’t reward points fun? It’s been forever since we’ve used Aeroplan/Air Canada points, but we had enough left in our account to get us premium economy tickets from Toronto to Vancouver. Total out-of-pocket cost: $6.90 CAD, plus $16.20 for the Skytrain (elevated light rail) from the airport to within 10 minutes of our son’s home.

Loading for our Air Canada flight to BC

We enjoyed using Translink, Metro Vancouver’s transit network, which functions much like London England’s system, using a Compass Card which works on buses, the SkyTrain, and the Seabus. Vancouver does not have an underground (subway), instead using an elevated light rail rapid transit system of 3 interconnected lines called the SkyTrain. The stations are light and airy, and the views of mountain and urban vistas while speeding along the rail are lovely.

The Lafarge Lake Station, which is nearest to our “home”, is a line terminus, which means there are rarely crowds!

November

On November 2nd we boarded a KLM jet to Brussels, via Paris and Amsterdam. We had Viking credits which covered the cost of the cruise itself, so we decided to splurge on business-class flights, influenced by the fact that travelling from Vancouver to our first destination in Bruges involved almost 12 hours in the air, and the return flight from our river cruise end-point in Prague to Toronto involved 10 hours in the air.

That left only the last few days of November, back in an Airbnb in Toronto, for us to use Toronto Transit. We had pre-loaded our Presto cards, so there were no additional costs.

On November 29th, we flew to Merida Mexico for an almost 5-month long stay, and used a 230 peso ($15 CAD) taxi for the 20 minute ride from the airport to our mid-city townhouse.

December

As usual, we mostly walked, but when that wasn’t available we became Uber users for the first time. I’d thought we’d take local buses, but we soon realized from the blocks-long lines at bus stops – and the rickety look of the un-airconditioned buses themselves – that we weren’t interested in being jammed into hot crowded vehicles. We enjoyed weekly bowling with friends, which necessitated an Uber ride, but often split that cost by buying “bowling beer” as our share; I’ve tried to extrapolate that into our December expenses.

SUMMARY

  • January $758
  • February $758
  • March $758
  • April $200 (gas to #1 son for maintaining the car through the winter months + prorated car insurance)
  • May $405 (fuel)
  • June $612 (fuel + prepay Berlin ICE to Vienna + prepay Vienna to Udine train
  • July: $417 (airport limo Collingwood to Toronto + 2 monthly German transit passes + 2 x ICE Berlin to Verden)
  • August: $671 CAD (Vienna city transit 4 x 1-week passes + Udine to Trieste train + Trieste 2 week transit + flights to England + National Bus Airport transfers
  • September $183 (London transit + Bristol round trip)
  • October $304 (car rental, transit, taxi)
  • November $10,390 (that’s the impact of those business class flights!!)
  • December $65 (Ubers)

2022 Total: $15,531

So overall, by eliminating car ownership and assiduously using our reward points for flights, our 2021 transportation budget of $1200 per month ($14,400 CAD per year) allowed us to travel extensively, and (almost) stretched far enough to splurge on a business class flight. Without that flight, we’d have been well below our pre-nomadic transportation budget.

Based on our plans for 2023, it looks like it will be another year of not owning a car as we continue to spend 7 out of 12 months not only out of province but outside Canada and the continental U.S.

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