Monthly Archives: August 2014

My Commute Data Collection

I enjoy data. I like seeing details on the mundane, figures on the minutiae and histogram on the meaningless. I track which songs I listed to on, how many steps I do with FitBit and for the last two and a half years, have been keeping track of when my Sherwood Park transit bus would arrive in the morning and afternoon.

What started as a way for me to become familiar with the frequency of the buses turned in to a habit and each time a 425 or a 401 bus would arrive in my life I would take a screenshot on my phone and mark the date and time of that specific bus in a spreadsheet.

On September 2 the Sherwood Park transit routes are changing and my routine will have to change. All the data I have collected since April 2012 is now useless, but instead of putting that to waste let’s see what information I can pull out of this spreadsheet.

The timing of my morning bus was captured 454 times and my afternoon bus was captured 375 times. This difference is attributed to not starting to capture afternoon bus time until nearly three months later. There are also times where I would take an ETS bus elsewhere to Edmonton, commute on the LRT to ride home with Jenna, or find another way home. There were times I would drive to the transit center and not need the local commuter so on those days I would only record my afternoon numbers.

The morning information was useful to determine when the bus would arrive at home. The afternoon data was used to see when I typically left work. My average work hours could be determined from below, so a typical day to and from work is from 6:49 AM until 4:44 PM, which is closer to eleven hours than ten when you add the time for the commute time home.

Morning commute data:

  • Earliest bus pick up: 6:23 AM
  • Latest bus pick up: 7:11 AM
  • Average pick up: 6:49 AM
  • Mode: 6:56 AM

I spent the first 2/3 of my commute to TELUS going in at 6:56 AM and started to go in 15 minutes earlier catching the 6:40 AM bus in 2014. This explains why the Average is closer to the Mode since the majority of my mornings started at the later, 6:56 AM, time.

Afternoon commute data:

  • Earliest bus pick up: 2:37 PM
  • Latest bus pick up: 6:41 PM
  • Average pick up: 4:44 PM
  • Mode: 4:22 PM

Number of times caught the afternoon bus:

  • …before 4PM: 8
  • …after 5PM: 100
  • …after 6PM: 14

For the first six to eight months at TELUS I typically caught the 4:21 PM bus. As my responsibilities grew so did my time at the office and I ended up catching a 5:00 PM or later bus. I aim to be logging off between 4:30 PM and 5:00 PM, but I found the afternoon bus schedule to be inconsistent so needing to be in the elevator at a certain time to catch a bus didn’t matter because I would need to wait until closer to 5:00 PM to catch a bus anyway. As someone who strived for consistency in data the variance in the afternoon schedule bothered me, but eventually a bus did arrive and I would always get home.

Let’s view this data in graph form!
Morning commute data for the 425:

Afternoon commute data for the 401:

What does all this mean? Very little. My mornings were pretty set and the afternoon was a gamble on when I would leave and when a bus would be there to take me home. I like knowing when my morning bus arrives and plan my routine around that and the afternoon information is purely for entertainment purposes to see what time I leave the office.

I will continue monitoring the bus schedules in September but will start a new worksheet and maybe in a few years time post a similar summary of my data to see if my working hours have changed at all.

My New Ride

In the summer of 2005 I was working at Dell and living at home with Dad. I wasn’t paying any bills and with my first decent paying job I was getting more money than I had made before. With my earnings I was spending carelessly and as I was making plans to purchase a studio microphone and a four track deck to record my jam sessions with friends Dad urged me to consider looking at vehicles instead.

I had been fortunate to always use a family vehicle but never had one myself, but he made a valid point. Within a few days of Dad’s urging we went to Southgate VW and I was signing the paperwork on a new 2006 Jetta TDI. The Jetta was loaded on the inside, upgrades on the outside and came with a monthly payment that would stretch my budget for a few years.

The car may have been outside of my means, but the loan was eventually paid down and I was left with a low mileage vehicle that could run forever. The car was amazing for a lot of things, but what it was best at was gas mileage. I got so used to being about to go 900+ KM on a single tank of gas I thought every vehicle had that kind of mileage. The car was my own, every scratch or repair done on it was under my watch. I grew up in that car, transitioned through some major life events and although I never did try driving to Vancouver in it the car travelled Alberta and ventured to Saskatchewan once.

There were a lot of nice things to like about the car, but there were also some items that were grating. The heated leather seats were a blessing because the heater in the car was abysmal and would take 20 minutes to heat up. In the winter the trunk wouldn’t latch properly so I had to force it down or ignore the interior warning of the door being ajar. The car seated four comfortably and had a huge trunk for cargo, but after being in a house for a while the realization that I needed a truck for garbage runs, hauling tree branches or picking up larger items grew in my mind.

It wasn’t until Jenna suggested we look at a truck in early July that my plan was able to come to fruition. I started looking at small vehicles (Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota) but the long term practicality was missing so when I sat inside a four door Toyota Tacoma a light went on. Just like the Jetta was my ideal first car, a Toyota truck was something I had envied since back in High School.

After a week of looking through the Used section of dealerships and Kijiji, test drives on several trucks, I made my decision and traded in the 2006 Jetta TDI for a 2010 Toyota Tacoma TRD.

The Toyota is rugged but comfortable. The interior is roomy and has clean lines, a comfy bucket seat and some upgrades over my previous car (ie: Bluetooth, standard Auxiliary input, backup camera). The truck sits high but I don’t feel like I am crowding the lines on the road. After adjusting the garage around the truck fits, albeit with a paltry three feet of clearance, but it fits.

I have taken several truck loads to the garbage dump and it recently made a trip to Lac la Biche. The ride was smooth and I didn’t feel sore from the two and a half hour journey. Jenna was comfortable in her spot and the cats in the back were actually the quietest they had been in a vehicle in a long time. I miss the trunk but we put everything in Rubbermaid boxes for the lake so the open air box works just as well for now.

The truck isn’t new and has quirks. As best I can tell the vehicle came from Nova Scotia and had a past life as a fleet vehicle, but yet it has low mileage and not much wear and tear, but enough to show that it is used. The front driver side mudflap is missing, the brake pedal rubber cover is gone, some bed accessories like the plastic cover for the storage compartment or the sliding bedrail cleats are absent; but these can be replaced.

The interior fan has a ticking sound like a cricket when the fan is spinning, and according to others online, this is a common problem and some tightening of screws on the fan blade fixes it. I haven’t been one for doing anything myself in a vehicle, but fixing the fan noise is on my list now. Unlike the VW manual, the Toyota one actually tells you how to remove and inspect items. When I tried to change the Jetta’s battery in 2013 I had to search online for the information before the manual mentioned nothing about how to change it yourself, only the hazards of doing so and ensuring it was an official VW battery.

The benefits of a truck come at a cost: gas mileage. Instead of making multiple trips to the cabin on a single tank I used 3/4 to go there and back. The tank is 80L and thankfully gas is cheaper than diesel, but it does cost a bit to drive. Toyota carries a strong and reliable brand recognition and if I can avoid expensive oil changes or maintenance bills the two may even themselves out over the distance I drive the truck.

All in all having a truck has been fun and it’s been great to put a garbage load in and go, and not have to coordinate borrowing a vehicle. When winter comes the 4×4 feature will provide peace of mind during the really bad days. I miss the Jetta but I am enjoying the Toyota, especially as some have said it looks a little like a Stormtrooper.