How to Spend 0.6 Tons!
Friday afternoon I had the distinct pleasure of plopping down £1,208 (or about 0.6 US tons – who knows how many metric tonnes!) in one go. What did I buy, you might ask? An all-expenses-paid, week-long luxurious vacation in the fabulous island paradise of your choice? Two round-trip flights from New York to Sydney, Australia?
NO! I bought an annual season ticket for public transport in London. That’s right, for just £1,208 (or $1,820), I now have unlimited travel for the next year on all transport in Zones 1 through 3 in Greater London. I was a bit surprised that you can buy this high-end ticket at any ticket window at any station. Originally I said I wanted to get a new Oyster card to go with it, but the clerk stopped me to warn me that it would cost £3 for the Oyster deposit – as if £3 on top of a £1,208 bill would stop me (of course, it did – every £ counts!). Apparently the really clever blokes (and birds, of course) purchase their annual season ticket in late December, to lock in the price for a year right before the guaranteed fare increase on 1 January.
This might seem like a lot, of course, but keep in mind first that the monthly ticket is £116, so this is actually 13% off 12 individual months. Also, the one-way fare between our flat and my office is £3.70 during rush hours, so £7.40 per work day times an estimated 210 actual work days per year is £1,554. Also, this includes all transport services within the area – London Underground (tube), National Rail/suburban trains, etc. – plus buses and trams in all of Greater London.
The annual season ticket (or annual pass, in more normal terms) is not available in the US – the most we offer in footloose and fancy-free America is a monthly committment. It does seem like a lot, not only in terms of cash to lay out but also in permanence – you have to be sure you aren’t moving either your home or your job in the following year, for example. Just to compare, a year’s worth of monthly MetroCards currently is about $1,068, or £709. For a European comparison, an annual pass for the whole Paris metro (as well as other services within the same area) is just €575, or £512.
The only other thing to say about it is that my employer has advanced me an interest-free loan for the purchase price – taking the money out of my paycheck in 10 installments over the next year (so I can essentially get the discount of the annual and still pay monthly). Of course, I’m missing my free transit that I had in New York right about now!