Golden Lesson 2: Make it obvious….in black and white


Car Free Familydom means lots of payments being made for mobility.  Any modern family has loads of payments to make to many organisations, but in (my) Car Free Family there are many mobility payments.  My last week’s payments were::

  1. Standing Order Bus Pass (actually paid by my employer) TO LOTHIAN BUSES
  2. Individual bus tickets for Maddie TO LOTHIAN BUSES
  3. Monthly pass for Tess TO LOTHIAN BUSES
  4. Individual book of bus tickets for Tess – TO LOTHIAN BUSES (she was away a lot of the month and thus when this month ran out she didn’t renew as she wouldn’t get the money’s worth this month)
  5. Taxis – for me + at least one other kid TO CITY CABS EDINBURGH
  6. Taxis for me alone – usually paid by work-  TO CITY CABS EDINBURGH
  7. Tess taxi back from friend’s very late TO CITY CABS EDINBURGH
  8. Maddie taxi back from friend’s while I was at work and no buses for a while TO CITY CABS EDINBURGH
  9. Paying for my Mum’s taxi TO FLEETWAY’S YORK
  10. City car club invoice CITY CAR CLUB
  11. Parking payment EDINBURGH CITY COUNCIL
  12. Parking ticket – oops – I was in Gardenlady’s car EDINBURGH CITY COUNCIL
  13. Booked car hire for holiday and flights HERTZ – I THINK

I’ve also taken trains for work, planes for work – here and in other UK and non-UK cities……

So this week, how much did it cost me?  Don’t know. How much less did it cost me than if I owned a car?  Don’t know

It is a pain (even for a middle-aged-male-transport-nerd) to keep track of every expenditire.  Why?

Sometimes I buy my mobility one month and use the next (eg tickets), sometimes I use one month and pay the next (eg City Car Club), sometimes I pay cash and then would forget to log (eg taxi).  (Sad as I may be, I don’t carry a little red book from the Post Office, lined for my pleasure, on which I have written – Mobility Spending, by Steven Cassidy aged 48 – to write every transport cost down.  I’m not really a mobility nerd – I just want to know.)

My estimate costs for mobility for our first 13 months without a car were:

£1,651 + bus pass paid for by employer =£500 (incl taxis, bus tickets, rail, city car club, but excl occasional rail trip and holidays and odd tank petrol for friends) plus lots of calories walking/cycling!)

The costs for having used a car ( For a petrol car, just the “standing costs” (VED, insurance, cost of capital, depreciation, breakdown cover) per year are estimated at a minimum of £2358 for a car that was less than £12000 new.  Then, running costs (petrol, tyres, service labour, replacement parts, parking & tolls) are about 21.95 pence/mile (for that same small car/cheap car).

So…..I did 1230 miles in City Car Club, rounded up to 2000 to include my travel by other modes (?) = 2,000 miles = £439 on petrol if I had owned a car (probably a lot more more as I would have been less discretionary in my use).

Thus, with some assumptiojns, and estimates (probably underestimating my car costs) the grand result is:

CAR = £2797

NO CAR= £2,151 (incl cost of my bus pass) – actually £1.651 to me

So what have I learnt? That in purely finaincial terms it has been cheaper not to have a car

But what have I really learnt? That the comparison, an accurate comparison, is neither obvious nor easy.

Surely, if policy makers want to nudge people to consider reducing car use and even giving up the car, the benefits, finaincial or otherwise, need to be IN YOUR FACE OBVIOUS

Perhaps it is even trickier to understand the cost of car ownership and use fully – (certainly if you include all the indirect costs).  But there really needs to be some personalised feedback comparing what you have done with what you could have done, on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis as to costs etc.

Then people will think about their behaviour and maybe change.  Feedback works

There’s lots to back this up – check the Invoicing and feedback link.  And maybe there’s scope for thinking how this is presented – I like the following design-based receipt the more I look at it:  [Thanks Andy (@mrhyde) for the receipt!)

Who will take responsibility for giving me this feedback, this comparison, this invoice?  Who will provide me with some on-line and/or regular paper bill incl. feedback on my mobility?  All my mobility?  Then I’ll have the tools to know, consider, change.  The others will too.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chas Ball
    Jul 10, 2012 @ 10:26:23

    Hi Steve
    I am doing a session at the Big Tent on 21st July (15.00) – leading a discussion on car clubs/car sharing and the future of motoring. It would be good to have your input!
    Chas Ball, Chief Executive, Carplus (0113 234 9299)
    PS We have a new version of our web site going live in late July. We’ll put a link to your blog. Contact [email protected] if you have any observations about this.

  2. Kim (in Edinburgh)
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 18:06:07

    Why do you use so many taxis? I sold my last car in 1994 and have never looked back, I found car free living in Edinburgh to much better, it is a great city to get about by walking and cycling.