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Why I Have A Love-hate Relationship With Public Transport And My Daily Commute

Why I have a love-hate relationship with public transport and my daily commute

Don’t you just love public transport? I do, at least, most of the time. Although as of late, “most of the time” has become “half of the time”.

Let me elaborate.
Ever since I started working in Brussels, 6 years and counting, I commute to work using public transport.
In theory, it works pretty well. It takes exactly 1 hour to get from my door to the doors at work, all modes of transport included.

Icons of my daily means of transportion to reach work (bike - train - metro - walk)

Of this 1-hour commute, ~25 minutes is by train. If the train would actually arrive on time. Unfortunately, that has become rarer these last two years.
It’s almost like expecting a politician not to try and circumvent an uncomfortable question. It’s not impossible, but it sure as hell is not something you expect to happen.

My main commuter frustrations

Delay, delay, delay

These delays have become part of my daily routine. If it was only a few minutes, I wouldn’t care, but alas, more often than not, it’s 10 minutes, with spikes well into the 20 minutes region.
The National Railways is working on improvements, but it’s not really showing. Their punctuality even decreased to 87.2% (FYI, a delay here means: a train that doesn’t reach the end station within 6 minutes of its foreseen arrival time).

I know lamenting is stupid since I don’t have to drive myself which means I can do other stuff like:

All things I can’t do in a car. This is a huge benefit. It outweighs the frequent frustration of me being on time at the station, but not the train. It also gives me the chance to cool down from my bike ride to the station. I definitely need this since I sweat buckets when I arrive at the station, especially during summer.

Desiro train of the NMBS/SNCB on the move
The Desiro trains are the most recent trains of the NMBS/SNCB. They have good air conditioning and are OK in terms of comfort. This type of train is mainly used for the so-called Suburban train offer in and around Brussels.

And sweating during hot summers

Whether it’s winter or summer, I have come to accept that I sweat profusely by the time I arrive at the station. It isn’t “the fault” of anything or anyone: I just sweat faster than most (most likely due to my fitness level).

This grievance gets validated almost daily. Even as recent as this week just standing still on the metro. During rush hour it can get crowded on the metro and due to lack of airconditioning, it becomes damp and hot (at least for me) fast.
What do you think happens after not even a minute in? Correct, I feel my pores opening and the salty liquid merely pouring out like they are sliding down a slide at the water park.
By the time I’m at my destination, I have to walk like a bodybuilder on steroids to prevent my shirt from becoming a wet rag.

The major Benefit of public transport: Saving money!

Even with the daily annoyances, I really do prefer the public transport for my commute. Besides the aforementioned benefits of not having to drive yourself, there is one additional major reason for it:
I save money! Because the government gives a tax incentive when you take public transport it’s free for me.
On top of that, I earn money because I bike part of my commute.

“Earn” and “save” don’t say a lot, so let me put some real numbers:

  • One yearly pass for both my train (route) and metro:  1781 EUR
  • 12 km round trip/workday for an entire year, excl. [email protected],22 euro/km: 538.56 EUR

This gives me a total of 2320.56 EUR/year I save and earn.

And this doesn’t include the money I save by not getting a (salary or personal) car. The benefits are even greater if I include the additional costs saved by not having to pay car costs.

Public transport rules

In the end, I stick to everything but the car to reach my workplace. Why wouldn’t I, after all:

  • I can do other things while commuting, such as sleeping (protip: never forget a timer!)
  • It saves me money, by not having to pay for my transportation and by not spending it on a car
  • I earn ~45 EUR per month biking, to and from the station

With the above summary, I have concluded my daily struggle with Belgian public transport.
It won’t be the last post, especially if I ever do decide to switch to a car but that’ll do for now.

This was my story but what about you? Please leave a comment telling how your daily commute is like. Or do you live close to your office not needing public transport? Maybe your home is your office? Do you have a financial incentive to ditch the car and take public transport?

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Mr. FightToFIRE

Writer at Fight To FIRE
I'm the owner and the main writer of FightToFIRE, a personal finance blog focussing on Financial Independence and Retiring Early. During the regular working hours, I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium. During my off-hours, I write. do some weight lifting and other stuff to keep me healthy and fit.
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