Sunday, 26 May 2013

How far have I travelled via SkyTrain?

My girlfriend and I got into an interesting argument: how far have I gone via SkyTrain? I said that it must be in the tens of thousands and she said that it was likely not and probably something like 5,000. I gave her response some thought and agreed but then started to wonder how far I really had gone.

Before you read too far into this, the numbers thrown around are all estimates and really do not signify what I actually have done. Measurements for distances travelled were used by referencing this map from Wikipedia, which gave me the distances between stations and switches in metres. For those unfamiliar with the system, it has 68.6 kilometres of track (with another 10.9 KM on its way), 47 stations, and has the ability to run trains 75 seconds apart.

A lot of educated guesses were made throughout this calculation and I am only sharing it since I actually went and ran the numbers out of sheer curiosity. Take everything you read in this article with a grain of salt.

Determining how far I have gone each year

Now I should admit that I don't keep a travel log of everywhere I go every single day--I barely am able to keep myself up to date with calendar appointments on my phone. However, with some guess work I can determine some constants based on actual day-to-day activities such as going to work, socialising, attending school, and perhaps family events. Knowing this, I decided to break it down using those four groups: work, school, social, and family.

I was born in late 1984, but SkyTrain was not a 'thing' until December of 1985, so I can more or less calculate from January 1986 onward. I never really wandered on to the transit system by myself until I was in my mid-teens due to my life revolving more or less in Surrey, where SkyTrain doesn't travel deep into. With that in mind, I can safely determine that maybe twice a year I would go with someone in my family towards somewhere like BC Place Stadium or that general vicinity. However, 1986 was also the year of Expo 86, which probably meant I visited the world's fair a dozen times--I should confirm this with my parents but actually it won't make much of a difference in the total amount.

My first job where I required the use of transit to get to work was in 2004 and save for two years I required use of SkyTrain to get to and from work. And for class? I was able to get away without taking SkyTrain to make it to class in a lot of cases.

The numbers were all crunched via Excel and some liberties were taken to estimate what I have done in a year. I won't go into super fine details here but I will at least give you the logic behind my math. One thing to keep in mind is that I count to and from as two different trips.

Attending class

Class didn't involve me going via SkyTrain all that much, but there were times where I did in fact use it to get to get to and from. Since I know when I was in school and how often, as well as which stations I would have used, I was able to make this table:

Trips to Class
 TripsKMsAvg. KM
* Denotes a year where I was living out of province.

It should be noted that the above table and any future tables may be a bit off in terms of how the math comes out to, but this has to do with me copying the data out of Excel in the process, but as you can see the kilometres add up quite quickly even though the trips are rather short save for 2009 when I briefly attended BCIT.

However, prior to graduating high school, at least once or twice a year I would be travelling on SkyTrain with my classmates. Some experiences include painting the windows of the main Canada Post building downtown for Christmas, or perhaps going to the CBC building or Science World. Since I can somewhat account for all of these trips, I can safely estimate using the distances how far I have gone for each year (around 52 KM).

When I add up all of these numbers and work it out, it comes out to about 3,800 KM. An extra 100 KM and it would have covered the distance of Vancouver to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Having been to Cabo before, it's quite nice. If SkyTrain were to be able to go non-stop at full speed (80 KM/h) to this part of Mexico, it would take just over two days as opposed to a five-hour flight.

Travelling to work via SkyTrain

Figuring out the numbers on my getting to work was the easiest. For the most part, I knew what my schedule was like from 2005 to present and I was also able to guess what I did work due to days spent in class. Days when I am ill, working from home, travelled by car instead, or were on vacation were accounted for in my counts. Of course like before I made a good guess based on what I could remember.

Trips to Work
 TripsKMsAvg. KM
* Denotes a year where I was not commuting via SkyTrain.

One thing to note: 2007 was a weird year as I had tele-commuted from January into September and was not using SkyTrain.

I left one company for another in 2009 and as a result found myself having to drive to work as opposed to taking transit. This meant that for a whole year I didn't have a reason to take SkyTrain for work purposes simply because the system was nowhere near where I was employed at the time. It was also the first time in four years where I had actually had full-time access to a vehicle (first car I bought myself too) and as a result my entire transit use pattern was changed.

However, in 2011 I had taken a job at a company downtown and found myself having to leave the car at home since it was ineffective for me to commute via it. This worked out for the better as in 2010 I had moved closer to the transit system. One thing of interest here is that when I left the car-dependent job in 2011, I had almost 48,000 KM on the odometer (after 2-years ownership); two-years later and I find that the odometer has only hit 62,000.

2012 also saw the greatest transit use overall where work counted for 8,253 KM (total use that year combined was 8,608 KM). Overall, the total use for commuting to work via the train was 25,909 KM since 2004. Just like how I measured out the school trips taking me to a sunny part of Mexico, that distance could cover almost the round-trip flight distance from Vancouver to Perth, Australia assuming no stop-overs.

I wonder how many zones it would be if it went all the way out there?

Socialising and family

I should point out that since having moved closer to the transit system, I have found that I have never had a reason to take transit to see my family. My parents' home is almost 13 KM from the nearest station and the time it would take using transit as opposed to taking my car is quite significant--it was a huge driving force behind my decision to move to where I am now.

Just like how it was in grade school, I only took SkyTrain with my parents or other family members perhaps a few times a year. I would say that during Expo 86 it was probably a bit more than other years and some other years were a bit more frequent than others, but I worked out that it was probably something like 78-80 trips total between 1985 and 1998, being the last time I recall having to take transit with a family member. Most of the time it was to visit something downtown and the typical station we'd visit would be Stadium. Using that knowledge, I worked it out to be about 2,021 KM.

Seeing friends on the other hand became a real mess to sort out. 1999 to 2002 were car-free periods, so I knew that whenever I did go out, it would have likely been on the train. For that period, I worked out that I'd be on SkyTrain a bit over a dozen times. It increased in 2003 onward but decreased in 2009 when I bought a car. When I moved closer to transit, it levelled out a bit but I still drove more for socialising than I did take the train.

Here's an excerpt of years where I did use transit heavily to see people:

Being Social
 TripsKMsAvg. KM

As you can see in 2010, my estimate didn't change much but my distance covered did due to a change in where I lived.

I worked out that between my family and seeing friends, it worked out to 16,706 KM. A lot less than work, more than school, and the distance can cover a direct one-way flight to Antarctica.

The system does reasonably well in snow all things considered (although it has become majorly delayed as a result of it), but I don't think that it would survive the extremes of the south pole.

Closing and how long did these journeys take?

Overall, I have travelled about 47,000 KM on the SkyTrain system since it came into existence. If I were to start and end a world tour just outside of Quito, Ecuador where the Earth's equator is, I could do one whole round trip (about 40,000 KM) along the equator and still have 7,000 KM to spare, allowing me to fly back to Vancouver with some change leftover.

Since we know the approximate distance that I've managed to cover, we can determine what amount of time that I have spent on the train. Some things like when the system is delayed or down completely are not taken into account, but because it has been stated that the average speed between each station is about 45 KM/h, we could divide that 47,000 by that average speed and come out to 1,044.44 hours, or 43 days, 12 hours, and 29 minutes. Americans on average spend about 540 hours in their car per year, so my total time spent on the train isn't that bad. Last year, it is likely that I just spent 183 hours on the train just getting myself to and from work, so I shouldn't complain.

Regarding the total number of trips (as opposed to distance covered), the number worked out to just over 3,400. I have to wonder as the system continues to grow and how my patterns change, how much higher this will grow? I guess with a few more years of data I could answer this, but I am done with this question.

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