Okay, living car free isn't necessarily possible for me since I drive about 150 km per day going to and from work. Between the price of gas, wanting for a bit more exercise and generally getting sick of the mental *********** that is the 401 highway through Toronto, Ontario, I decided to try using my folding bicycle and making use of the existing mass transit system. That would be GO Transit in Ontario. I have a couple of options available to me. I can bicycle about 12 km from my house to Union Station in downtown Toronto and hop a train to the end of the line and then ride another 5 km to my office. It takes about twice as long to get to work but the trains is almost always quiet and empty and I don't have to swear and wave my fist at the other drivers on the way in to work (generally the high point of my morning). I can also hop a bus from a mall about 7 km from my house and take the 1.5 to 2 hour indirect route to my work for about the same price.
Sunds pretty good so far, right? Well the down side is that GO Transit really shoots themselves in the foot when it comes to making their service useful. Trains departing an hour or more apart (not fun if you just miss one) Bicycle restrictions on the transit system and prices are way too high.
I can purchase a 2 ride ticket for $15.50, if I buy a 10 ride ticket it'd be about $1.25 less per day. My Mustang costs about $16 a day in gasoline, takes less than half the time for me to commute (about 45 minutes door to door rather than 2 hours door to door). My motorcycle costs me between $12 and $13 a day in gasoline and gets me to work in less time than my Mustang.
I have been making an effort to take the GO Transit at least once a week in order to reduce greenhouse emissions and save wear and tear on my vehicles not to mention reducing stress of avoiding another drive in rush hour traffic. If you have no vehicle then the GO Transit makes great sense. You pay about what you would for gasoline, you don't have to insure a car and you don't have to pay for maintenance and government licensing fees.
Unfortunately, for most of us in Ontario, Canada, a car is a necessity. Inclement weather sometimes makes riding unsafe (not that I haven't done any inclement weather riding, but there have been days when I knew it probably wasn't a good idea) If we already have to pay to insure a vehicle the only real (direct and tangible) benefit is the saving wear and tear on your vehicle. The trade off is time, something which is a precious commodity. GO Transit is pricing itself out of usefulness. Think about it, if a gas guzzling Mustang costs as much in fuel as a trip on the mass transit system, few people will choose the latter. Add to that deficient scheduling and some "anti-cyclist" policies and it makes the decision to use mass transit even more difficult to justify.
I'm interested in hearing from anyone else about their experiences with mixed mode commuting. What are your costs of mass transit vs the cost of fuel if you drove it yourself? What are their attitudes toward cyclists? How about your fellow non-cycling mass-trans travellers, what kind of attitude do you usually experience?