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Theoretical question on which way to commute

Hello all. I just joined the group here and have an interesting question I’d like some feedback upon.

I drive boys to elementary school each morning before continuing on to work. We recently “discovered” a new way to get to school, and in the interest of science I have calculated some statistics about each of the routes we have available to us. The research was conducted while driving our '05 Acura TL, and you’ll see below why I have a question on which way to go.

The normal route is all on paved roads. It involves a wait in a line of cars which backs up for about a mile at a stop light at the end of our county road. This wait lasts for about 10 minutes. The total distance of this route is 7.2 miles. My car estimates the fuel efficiency at 20 MPG, our average speed at 20 MPH, and the elapsed time at 21 minutes to make this trip.

The alternate route is just a shade longer at 7.7 miles. It involves quite a bit more hill climbing and descending, and includes 2 miles on unpaved roads of normal, Arkansas quality (not the greatest.) But there is no waiting time, and the car estimates the fuel efficiency at 21 MPG, our average speed at 28 MPH, and the elapsed time at 16 minutes.

Based on my calculations the total fuel consumption of either route is nearly identical–within .0067 of a gallon. So the question is which route would you think to be better, and why?

I can see arguments for the rural route when it comes to being in motion the entire time, and thus the fuel consumed is actually propelling the vehicle as opposed to idling slowly down the road. It is also less time in the vehicle, and who couldn’t use 5 extra minutes every day? But on the minus side, the two miles on dirt roads could be hard on the car, plus in wet weather it will make the car very dirty (my white car will become a dirty shade of red!)

Finally, to complicate matters just a bit, 3 days a week we actually drive our '07 Tahoe to school, as we have the youngest of our clan with us. The drive is much more fun in the Tahoe, of course, but I am assuming the differences in fuel consumption will be the same.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to read through and consider this question. It’s a bit of a curiosity to me, but it also has real-world implications in the realm of relative fuel efficiency versus absolute consumption, vehicle wear and tear, etc. Any and all thoughts welcome!



You Don’t Give The Age Range Of The Students.

You could be missing a real-life “teachable moment”. Your children’s teachers would possibly be interested in this discussion at their school. This could be done at home if need be. Let the kids try-out their solution.

I can see a solution that includes weather forecasts, emissions, writing letters to the road commission, car expenses, etcetera, also.

The boys are in first and third grades. You are right–perhaps the teachers would be interested in this subject.

Personaly, I would choose the route with the least waiting time / less overall trip time. This type of driving will also yield to you a greater peace of mind over the frustration of traffic tie ups. ‘Road rage’ builds gradually in one’s sub-conscious and manifests itself in other areas of day-to-day life and every time you can select a smoother, more peaceful action ( not just driving ) take the phsycological advantage when you can get it.

Which would you rather wear out first, your suspension or your engine?

If you take the back roads, you will accelerate wear to your suspension. If you take the normal route, you spend the most time idling. It seems to be a six in one, half dozen in the other preposition.

I would take the normal route most of the time but I would take the back roads when running late. I don’t see the harm in mixing it up.

I Should Have Added Something.

These boys are fortunate to have intelligent “thinking” parents. That is refreshing. I’m sure they will be successful. So much of what is learned, can’t be taught in school.

Do You Have School Bus Service Available?

Perhaps you go right by the school, anyhow. Because the bus carries so many more passengers, you could compare it with a car. Also, we had our kids ride the bus (a really long ride) most of the time. We didn’t want them too spoiled. The bus has its own “real-world implications”.

I expected the school bus question. It has been a topic of much discussion in our house.

We have a few reasons for operating the way we do (note that both my wife and I rode the bus for a long time each day, so we take our experiences into account in the discussion.) First, the bus arrives at our house at about 7 AM each morning, which is 30 minutes earlier than we have to leave if I take them. We find this 30 minutes to be valuable time where we are able to eat breakfast together, not be so rushed in the morning, etc. Second, three days a week I am taking my 3 year old to his mother’s day out program, so there has to be a trip “to town” to drop him off (and to pick him up.) Third, since my office is fairly close to the school, it doesn’t add much to my commute to take them to school, and we feel it’s worth it given the other points above.

Two days a week, the boys ride the bus home from school, as there is no reason for my wife to make the trip to town to pick them up (no 3 year old to pick up.) So she runs her errands on MWF.

In the grand scheme, I have decided that our “net impact” of taking them to school versus riding the bus each way each day, is probably positive. Most of the time I enjoy the time with them in the car in the mornings, and it also gives me the discipline to get around on a schedule in the morning, since otherwise my schedule can be pretty flexible.

Thanks for raising the question, CSA.

Understood. That’s Good That They Have The Experience Two Times A Week, In My Opinion.

You are choosing wisely to spend valuable time with the kids.

I have a similar situation, and prefer the time savings over any gas savings. I like to keep moving as I do on the longer route and hate the stop and wait on the shorter route. Taking the longer route has really reduced my stress level in the a.m. and that is worth more than money and quicker!.