Here's a short list of what are in my mind common sense things that people should do (and granted, many people do) to make life easier on everyone else around them during the morning commute to work:

1. If you were third to arrive at the bus stop, be approximately third to get on the bus. Of course, if you're the closest to the door when the bus arrives, fine, jump on. But please don't cut in front of everyone else to get on first just so you can get a seat. We do not really live in a dog-eat-dog world where only the strongest survive. If we did, I’d push you in front of the bus when you cut in front of me.

2. Once you're on the bus, sit down or move to the back. Stopping halfway down the aisle just makes others have to go around you, and when two or more of you are doing it, there's a big open space in the back that isn't holding any people, and the other people who want to get on the bus won't be able to. Again, remember that someone bigger than you could just push you out of the way and you’d be humiliated. You’re not proving anything by taking the “I’ll stand where I damn well please” stance.

3. If you get a seat, and you take it, please sit on the inside seat if it's available, which will allow someone else to sit on the outside seat without having to ask you to move. I have seen dozens of people violate this apparent common courtesy, and I suspect that their thought is, "If I sit on the outside seat, anyone else who wants to sit here will first sit anywhere else before asking me to move, because nobody in the city likes to talk to each other if they can avoid it. Therefore, I'll have a two-seat bench all to myself!" Well, you won’t for long; you’ll just force someone else into the uncomfortable position of having to ask you to let them in. If cursing someone in this way pleases you, you can improve upon your situation by rolling your eyes when someone finally does ask if they can sit.

4. Don’t run past me on the way down in to the subway. Walk. Preferably behind me, if that’s where you started out. You will almost never improve your chances of getting a train by running in front of everyone, and it just makes you look like an idiot. Why do people even think this is okay to do? If we were at Burger King you wouldn’t run in front of me to get to the register, would you? Of course not, that’s just unacceptable. Again, if you think you’re being the cunning one by getting to the turnstile first, remember that you are counting on me not tripping you as you go by and consider the fact that someone else might not be so nice.

5. As with the bus, get on the train in roughly the same order that you are standing when it pulls in. I swear, there was one time when this woman stepped directly in front of me so she could get on first and get a seat. I mean, I was standing there waiting for the train to pull in, and she side-stepped so close in front of me that her hair was practically tickling my nose. I couldn’t believe it. My only thought was, “She is the luckiest person in the world that I’m not the type to get excited about “accidentally” bumping someone into the path of a train.”

6. When it’s raining outside and you have an umbrella; please don’t walk as close as you can to the buildings. This simply forces those of us who do not have umbrellas to walk away from the buildings, which eliminates the possibility that we will get any shelter from the overhang. You are holding a shelter from the rain over your head. Why do you seem to think that being close to the building is going to improve your situation?

For many years I worked at as a hotel auditor about nine miles from home. It isn't the worlds greatest job, but it pays the bills. I was offered a construction job that paid $2.50 an hour more than the hotel did, but entailed a fifty mile commute each way. I did what most Americans did, I drove further for more money, ignoring the math of the situation.

The true cost of long commutes

Bob makes $20 per hour, commutes 75 miles (1 hour each way, because Bob speeds), to work, works 40 hours per week, and pays 35 percent of his income in taxes.

Bob's pre-tax earnings are $800 per week. $20 per hour.

It takes Bob 50 hours to earn that $800, which of course includes his commute.

Bob's post tax earnings are $520 per week. $10.40 an hour (for his 50 hour week).

Bob drives 750 miles per week for his commute, he gets 25 miles per gallon, and pays $2.50 per gallon for his fuel. Bob pays $75 a week for gas. $520 minus $75 equals $445. Bob makes $8.90 an hour.

But just hold on a minute! The true cost of driving isn't really even fuel. Cars cost money, maintenance costs money, repair costs money. Driving massive mileage eats up cars and is expensive. The most conservative estimates I could find for non-fuel vehicle costs was 15 cents per mile*. That can easily quadruple depending on what you like to drive. Most people will spend more like 30 cents per mile or more. While our friends who lease brand new BMWs every two years are paying as much as $1 per mile in non-fuel costs.

Bob spends $112 a week on cars, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and other non-fuel costs.

Bob ends up with $333 a week. Bob's true salary is $6.66 an hour.

Ok, now that you understand the math I can run a milder example, and a more extreme example.

Chuck makes $15 an hour, commutes 50 miles (45 minutes each way), works 40 hours per week, and pays 30 percent in taxes, and Chuck has an economy car that gets 32 miles per gallon.

Chuck's pre-tax income is $600 per week. His paycheck is $420 per week. His actual income after taxes and vehicle expenses is $306. It takes him 47.5 hours to earn it, and his true wage is $6.44 an hour.

Peter is a big earner, he makes $30 an hour, commutes 90 miles to work in an SUV (hour and a half), works 40 hours per week, and pays 40 percent of his income in taxes. His SUV gets 16 miles per gallon. Peter's more expensive SUV will use an ownership cost of 20 cents per mile, rather than the 15 cents we used for other vehicles. He spent $40,000 on the thing and even if it never needs any repair or maintenance then the purchase price alone adds up to 20 cents per mile over a 200,000 mile lifetime.

Peter's pre-tax income is $1200 per week. His paycheck is $720 per week. His actual income after taxes and vehicle expenses is $400. It takes him 55 hours to earn it, and his true wage is $7.20 an hour.

Notice something, in every case all of these people are reducing their big salaries to almost nothing with these long commutes. They have the appearance of success and wealth, but without the actual success or the actual wealth. These long commutes seem to be most common in high value areas such as California, but there are people doing them everywhere. Most of them never even looked at it long enough to do the math.

*My original source for the fifteen cent per mile average was a magazine article, and that was for older used cars. Newer cars will go over this number every time. Purchase prices, taxes and insurance hit the 15 cent per mile total on even economy cars.

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