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More Than Just a Bus Pass

Written by Doug Duncan
October 25, 2011

Tolling the 520 bridge pushed me over the edge.  “I’m not paying $7 a day to cross the bridge,” I announced.  Thus, was born an ORCA commuter.That was six months ago. Since then the ORCA pass has become my fitness, education and savings plan.   

Fitness. Initially, I got on/off the bus at Madison/Fifth and walked the 0.8 miles up/down the hill. Easily bored and needing a challenge, I began to adjust where I got on and off the bus. Eventually, I could go no further: I was at the Montlake off ramp on 520. Three miles from SU. Then I began to get off the bus farther from home on the Eastside and one day discovered I’d walked over 11 miles since leaving for work.Waist and weight down; fitness level up: what’s not to like?

By the Numbers

21,158: Most "commuter" steps in a day 
4,200: Dollars saved annually if I gut it out all 12 months ($2,800 if I wimp out Nov.-Feb.)
139: Most aerobic walking minutes in a day (14,927 steps; 8 miles)
100: Steps to the fifth floor of the Casey Building … in case you were wondering
71: Hours spent listening to podcasts while walking
8: Audio books completed on foot

Education. Listening to music is fine when walking, but why not raise the bar with audio books and podcasts? I download audio books from the King County library and discovered the Sticher app for podcasts. I listen about 60-90 minutes a day. All for free. Favorite books: Bossy Pants, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Unbroken. Moby Dick? Not so much.Favorite podcasts: "The History of Rome" (try it!), "Planet Money," "Freakonomics," "Car Talk," "Grammar Girl," "This American Life," "99% Invisible" and "Radio Lab." 

Savings.  This was a no-brainer. ORCA pass at $10/month vs. cost of fuel, parking, tolls and wear/tear? Assuming I drove one day a week and ORCA’d the rest, the savings would be about $350/month. And I drive a Prius. For the SUV folks, add another $50/month. A few months into this, I turned the mental savings into real dollars: I had Payroll pull $350/month right off the top and direct deposit it. Bonus savings: the planet...thanks to a smaller carbon footprint. 

Doug Duncan is associate university counsel.