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For the past 30 years, PNC Wealth Management has put together a tongue-in-cheek price index of Christmas using the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We’ll take a look at the true cost of Christmas and how it compares to the cost of commuting.

The total cost of Christmas for 2014 is $27,673.21, which is 1% higher than 2013. The prices of each item are determined by different businesses specializing in each song item. For instance, a Philadelphia dance company provides the estimates for the salary of the nine “ladies dancing” and the price of a canary at Petco is used for the calling bird.

  • One Partridge in a Pear Tree: $207.68
  • Two Turtle Doves: $125.00
  • Three French Hens: $181.50, or $60.50 per hen. Instead of a hen, you could buy a 20-trip MARTA Breeze Card and still have money left over.
  • Four Calling Birds: $599.96
  • Five Golden Rings: $750.00, or about the amount you would save if you chose to carpool
  • Six Geese-a-Laying: $360.00
  • Seven Swans-a-Swimming: $7,000
  • Eight Maids-a-Milking: $58.00 – for this you could fill up an 11-gallon tank of gas twice, or drink a lot of milk
  • Nine Ladies Dancing: $7,552.84
  • Ten Lords-a-Leaping: $5,348.24
  • Eleven Pipers Piping: $2,635.20 – this is about how much it annually costs the average Metro Atlantan to drive alone to and from work each workday
  • Twelve Drummers Drumming: $2,854.80

You can check out how much your commute is costing you using our nifty Commute Calculator here. No matter what you spend on this holiday season, all of us at Georgia Commute Options wish you a happy one.

Jenny Schultz is a Communications Specialist working on the Georgia Commute Options program. When she's not at work, she spends most of her time baking, dancing, and pretending to paint her house. Jenny has a pretty sweet telework space complete with Ikea furniture, a stability ball, and a fantastic view of her backyard.

I've been carpooling for about eight years and my carpool buddy has a tender heart toward animals. One day we were driving to work; the sun was barely coming up and when I looked ahead, I noticed a goat in the middle of the road. My carpool buddy insisted on stopping to try to get the goat out of the road. When that failed she went knocking door to door trying to find the owner. The owner was found, but too busy trying to get his other animals back in his fence and had a hard time understand us.  He looked completely confused while we were pointing toward the road saying, "Bahhh, bahhh." We realized later we were probably making sheep noises, not goat noises.

Finally, my carpool buddy went back to the road, took off her belt, lightly hit the goat's behind, and miraculously, the goat got off the road. Late for work, I went and told my boss the story. He laughed and said that was the best excuse he ever heard and I would have a hard time topping that story.

You too can have your own adventures on a carpool. To learn how to get started and be rewarded with gas cards, click here.

Donna works at Oglethorpe Power Corporation as the Senior Executive Staff Assistant to the VP of Human Resources. Her carpool partner, Nina, is the Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO of Georgia Transmissions Corporation. They both live in Loganville and have been clean commuting for about eight years.

I don’t own a car. Break out the smelling salts!

Whenever I tell someone that I choose not to drive, the typical response is a what-are-you-smoking kind of look. Or, I hear something like, "I wish I could do that." For my family however, this choice makes the most sense. It suits our budget and we get lots of exercise from walking or cycling. For us, it’s a no-brainer.

We moved back to Atlanta in 2005 after four years in the northwest. While we lived in Washington State, my husband and I developed a routine of cycling, walking or taking transit wherever we went, whether it was the grocery store or to work. On the weekend, we would cycle four miles to the coffee shop to java-nate and play chess (I rarely won, but that’s another story). We were healthier and less stressed. It simply made sense for us to continue that lifestyle in Atlanta.

Our choice of where to live in the metro area had to be in line with ready access to basic amenities, including MARTA. For us, walking (or cycling) a mile or so to get to a train station or bus stop is not an issue. It’s simply what you do. Rain? It’s only water. Pack for it—carry an umbrella or raincoat, wear some rain boots, use a backpack. Too hot outside? Carry another shirt and change at work. Drink lots of water.

My husband cycles to the DeKalb Farmers Market every week, as well as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. He has panniers on the back of his bicycle, as well as a Burley Travoy bike trailer to carry heavier items such as a five pound bag of potatoes, or bottled water. He has perfected the art of squeezing a basket full of groceries into both panniers. People sometimes stop to watch because they don’t believe he can do it.

I commute to Buckhead from Edgewood every weekday. It’s a one-mile trek from home to the station, then west and north on the train. I always have a plan B or C in case there are delays. For example, if the train westbound from Edgewood Candler Park station is delayed, do I take the number 102 bus instead? Or walk to Inman Park station to catch the number 6 bus to Lindbergh? Also, in 2012, I used to ride my bicycle seven miles a day as part of my work commute. I will be getting back into that soon.

What about other things like parties, movies or concerts, you may ask? Transit, Netflix, carpool! There’s always a way, if you’re willing to make it happen.
It’s all in the choices we make. I am healthier, less stressed, with time to read or complete a Sudoku puzzle – the evil ones, or course! And My 56 year old husband doesn’t look a day over 40.

Jo-Anne Carlson has worked at the Buckhead CID for over seven years. Added to that, she is a lover of art (and crafts) in all forms, including painting, music, knitting/crocheting, and writing. She lives in Atlanta, GA in the Edgewood neighborhood. Check out her personal website at:

Ever been stuck in traffic? Of course you have. Ever been stuck in traffic in front of that donut shop that you pass by every day and then must convince yourself not to pull in and order a dozen to take home?

After a long work day, all you want to do is go home and relax, right? Well, traffic congestion quickly puts a damper on your plans. Stuck in a gridlock, tired of changing the radio station, it’s hard not to notice a tasty looking burger sign on your right. Suddenly you realize you are hungry. You decide to grab a quick bite to eat while traffic dies down. “Only this one time,” you tell yourself. Better than sitting in the car, or yelling at the person who cut you off in traffic.

Yet traffic is not a one-day scenario, and that restaurant will keep luring you in. It is time to find a solution. Find a carpool buddy or a wingman to talk you out of ordering that large pizza with an order of fries. Or try transit, because even the richest piece of cake cannot slow that train from getting you home.

The benefits to alternative commute methods are endless — from reduced traffic, to cleaner air, to even a healthier diet. Why not improve not only your environment, but also yourself?

Clara is the Administrative Coordinator for Georgia Commute Options. Clara enjoys film, reading and writing, and cute animals. When not looking at funny cat memes (or taking pictures of her own cat), she can be found at Piedmont Park, either playing recreational volleyball or simply enjoying the outdoors. 

Last week, we heard Part One of John Bayalis's story (read it here) about how his life changed once he started riding MARTA. John has been living in Atlanta for about 20 years and his first 10 were spent refusing to ride MARTA. Read on for Part Two of his story.

Upon taking the plunge, I immediately noticed the following in rapid succession:

  • I was no longer dependent on my car.
  • I went from filling my tank up (14 gallons for a 1999 Honda Accord) four times a month to once, meaning I was no longer exclusively dependent on gasoline. The cost of a monthly MARTA pass was, at the time, about the same as one tank of gas, meaning I saved nearly $100 per month.
  • I was no longer dependent on planning my day around traffic patterns for leaving my office to run errands and/or get to and from work.
  • I was no longer having my day impacted by all those drivers that that had my blood boiling by the time I got to and from work.
  • My quality of life improved – I “became less intense” according to several people (and to all of them: I still don’t know what that means, but I’ll take your word for it).
  • I got work done on the train. I got work done on the bus. I read more than I had in 10 years.
  • I napped.
  • I learned about the city.
  • I learned how Atlanta can be walkable if you stop complaining, plan and use your legs for something other than getting in and out of your car.
  • I formed friendships and relationships with people at local businesses I frequented from across the system, giving life to parts of the city I never even knew existed. I welcomed the diversity of ridership.
  • I enjoyed talking to others and finding out what they thought of the system and how it could improve.
  • I began using mass transit in other cities when I would travel for work (which was extensive and for which I received constant ribbing from my fellow colleagues who also traveled). I would now never consider going to Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago or San Francisco again and renting a car or making my way by cab.
  • I felt empathy for the friends and colleagues who lacked the quality of life I now was able to take advantage of.
  • I figured out that the old stand-by that, “MARTA doesn’t go anywhere” is utter hogwash spoken mostly by people who have only ever – if ever at all – set foot on the system to go to the airport or a Braves game.
  • I learned firsthand that not only is it a safe system, MARTA has one of the lowest crime rates of any of the nine largest transit systems in the country – the worst, San Francisco’s BART, has a crime rate substantially higher than MARTA.
  • I discovered programs that reward people for using public transit like Georgia Commute Options.
  • And, finally, I learned of an obscure and oft overlooked “commuter benefit option” made available through my employer via federal law that allowed me to put money away every pay-period, pre-tax, into a transit account, making the already-lower cost of commuting by train even less costly.

Mostly, though, I learned that freeing yourself of the proscribed confines of the standard “cars = freedom” mantra so ingrained in American culture truly opens up the world and expands freedom, both within a person and to the outside world.

Life is, inevitably, about choices. Many of us ignore options that are available simply because we feel we have no choice and so remain anchored to unfounded assumptions and the voices of others who operate with limited vision and information. That is unfortunate because hard choices, life-changing choices, require a leap of faith and a suspension of long-held assumptions. I’m glad I had someone prod me to consider the options, and I am especially grateful to the 2006 version of me for listening.

Give mass transit a try. Expand your freedom.

John Bayalis has more than 10 years of experience in public affairs management, grassroots mobilization, issues advocacy and lobbying. He joined MARTA in April as Director of Government Relations after 5 years with international public relations firm Allison+Partners.

There used to be a game-show on television hosted by the late, great Dick Clark named $25,000 Pyramid. Contestants would be paired off with celebrities into teams of two and chose from a list of categories. The object of the game was for the one teammate to describe words that fit into a chosen category, and, based on those clues, for the other teammate to then correctly guess the words being described. For example, if the category was “Fruit” and the first word was lime, I might say to the guesser “small, roundish, sour, green”.

To win $25,000, the team making the final “winner’s circle” had to actually guess the categories words came from – so a little harder, but actually a lot more fun. I thought we could pretend as if we’re a team and we’ve just made the winner’s circle and we’re playing for $25K. I’ll provide some words, and you, my teammate, will have to correctly guess the category.

Here are my clues:

  • Congestion
  • Rude people
  • Life-threatening situations
  • Regular automobile maintenance required to avoid thousands of dollars in car repairs
  • Anger
  • Impatience
  • Thousands of hours in productive time wasted per year
  • Exhaustion
  • Gridlock
  • Excessive monthly motor-fuel costs
  • Chained to your car
  • Sitting at traffic signals for hours on end
  • No end in sight
  • Easily avoided by using mass transit

If you guessed “things associated with commuting by car in Atlanta,” or some derivation thereof, you and I would have just won $25,000! That’s right, you and I would each be $12,500 wealthier, but unfortunately, not wealthy enough to quit our day jobs or, more importantly, quit our commuting. Fortunately, there is an alternative to commuting by car for the sensible Atlantan…

I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly 20 years, and for the first 10, I shared a relatively similar view to the many people I talk to now that refuse to use MARTA. The most common complaints are that it’s a limited system that “goes nowhere”, is a bad steward of public funds rife with service problems and crime and ultimately creates a bigger headache than Atlanta traffic does for daily commuters.

Then a funny thing happened. At the suggestion of my then-girlfriend/now-wife, I decided to look into this MARTA thing and see if all the anti-hype was accurate. At the time she lived near of the Edgewood-Candler Park Station, and I lived close to the Arts Center Station. “You’re always miserable at the end of the day when you drive over here and you always loathe driving back in the morning,” she would say at the time. “Why don’t you just take the train?” And despite pushing back initially for fear of the unknown, I decided that she was right and gave it a whirl.

Stay tuned for Part Two of John's blog in the coming days to see how trying out transit changed his life.

John Bayalis has more than 10 years of experience in public affairs management, grassroots mobilization, issues advocacy and lobbying. He joined MARTA in April as Director of Government Relations after 5 years with international public relations firm Allison+Partners.

I recently read a summary of a research study that concluded that walking even part of your commute could result in a happier you. As I read, I thought of my doctor who, at each of my visits to her office, would ask if I was walking more. She would always recite a long list of benefits for my walking as a part of a regular daily exercise routine. “Walking 10 to 20 minutes three of four times a week will make a world of difference in the way you feel!” she would always conclude. I’m sure that if she reads this article, she will include the benefit on her list at my next visit.

Being an advocate for green commutes and a “wannabe” good patient, I thought I would share the article and encourage you to join me and give it a try by adding a walk to your green commute.

So, what is a green commute? A green commute is almost any alternative to driving alone in your car to and from work. Typical green commutes include carpools, vanpools, riding transit, bicycling, telework, compressed work week, flexible work schedules and of course walking. Go ahead take a walk! Add walking to your green commute and let me know if it makes you a “happier You”!

If you are looking for ideas for how you can add a walk to your green commute, here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Carpool/Vanpool Drivers: Park the vehicle in the parking space farthest from the entry to your building. This will work for commuters working compressed work weeks and flex hours.
  • Carpool/Vanpool Riders: Get dropped off and picked up a block or two from your workplace
  • Transit Riders: Walk to the second or third closest bus stop 
  • Teleworkers: Take a break during your work day and take a 10 or 15 minute walk around your neighborhood. You can also get a nice walk in by walking your dog or go out and track down your cat!
  • Bicycle Riders: Umm, me? I would likely walk my bike instead of riding my bike up an incline. But of course you get a walking pass if you stay on your bike up those hills!
  • Walkers: Good for you! You’re already the Happy Commuter!

Got a story about your Happier Commute? Share it on on Georgia Commute Options Facebook page!

Jean is a passionate supporter of public transit and a compassionate advocate for commuters in general. Jean’s advocacy efforts for commuters is demonstrated in her current position as Outreach Manager with Georgia Commute Options which offers free services to help Georgia commute improve how they get to and from work. Her personal motto is: I have many interests however, one thing I will assure you, once I catch a vision, I will use every bit of my passion to bring it to being!

In 2007, my husband and I moved to Atlanta from Mexico City and settled on Lawrenceville, which is a 25 mile commute trip. When I found out MARTA buses had bike racks and that you can ride the train with your bike, a whole new world opened for me. Mexico City subway does not allow bikes and buses are not equipped for them.

Every morning my husband drops me at the Sugarloaf Mills bus stop, I later transfer to MARTA at Lindbergh Station and then hop a train to Buckhead Station, less than a mile later I’m at work. Reverse route is the same until I arrive back at Sugarloaf Mill. Here is when the “fun” starts and I bike about four miles to get home. During this time, there are no worries. I get some sun. And a sense of freedom that feels just great.

While the bus allows me to take a short nap or work on my cross-stitch project, with zero driving stress. The relief of filling my car’s gas tank just once a week instead of three times per week is priceless.

On top of that, I was able to lose 25 pounds, which helped me become healthier and pregnant. After a short break and now that our baby girl is a little older, I’m back on my wheels. Let me tell you… there is nothing more heartwarming that seeing my baby girl waiting for me to arrive so we can ride a lap around the subdivision. That is now my favorite part of my commute!

I’m really looking forward for the Path400 Trail and add a few miles to my bike ride. Believe me, it may take a bit longer than your actual driving commute but creating a route that works for you and start riding is totally worth it!

Clara commutes from Lawrenceville to GE (Transportation Department) in Buckhead each day. She averages riding 20 miles a week. She also will ride through the Atlanta trails and paths on weekends. Check out how Clara and GE Transportation are doing in the Atlanta Bike Challenge here.

I worked in Copenhagen, Denmark for a year right after college, and while I had biked recreationally before that, cycling soon became my only mode of transportation and way of life. As many people know, cycling is ubiquitous in Denmark -- many families don't have cars, the infrastructure is safe and well-protected, and bike lanes are often plowed and de-iced before the roads in the winter!

Then when I moved to Atlanta for graduate school, it was a serious adjustment to bike culture here. It took me a while to get used to, but I love the freedom of biking to work. I get a little burst of natural energy so I'm awake when I get to the office, get to skip past all the traffic by taking quieter side streets, and save quite a bit of gas and gas money. I try to be a cycling ambassador, since the general public attitude towards cyclists still needs improving (and for the record, some cyclists' attitudes towards drivers also needs improving!). Since I just graduated with my Master's in Public Health, it gives me a great opportunity to practice what I preach and use my commute to improve my health. I'm excited about how popular biking is becoming in Atlanta, and look forward to positive improvements in infrastructure and advocacy!

Erika works for Task Force for Global Health and commutes from Old Fourth Ward to Decatur each day. Between commuting and errands, she bike around 40 miles a week. To see how Erika and her workplace are doing in the Atlanta Bike Challenge, click here.

I started biking to work for a few reasons: extra exercise, reduced wear and tear on my car, and because I simply enjoy the freedom I feel when riding my bike. Atlanta has so many engaging areas to experience, and the joy of riding a bike only adds to the fun. As a native Atlantan, I appreciate the revitalization happening at the core of the city, and am constantly re-discovering beautiful areas that are both old with history and new with purpose. The scenes and sounds of the city as experienced from the level of a bike saddle are so much more vivid than through a car window.

Everyone benefits from folks riding bicycles. Emissions are reduced, roads are less car-congested, and fewer road-raging car commuters are on the road, all of which benefits every one of us. For the cyclists, waistlines are kept in check, moods are heightened, and often we get to make new friends while stopped at a light or intersection. As a resident of southwest Atlanta, an area that is still developing its bicycle-friendly infrastructure and culture, I feel it's all the more important to ride in my neighborhood, and to do so respectfully in order to bring more visibility and awareness to the growing cycling community.

Christy works as a Microbiologist contractor at the CDC commuting from College Park. She bikes 15 to 30 miles a week for commuting or leisure, and gets on her bike even more when she's training for a race. See how Christy and the CDC are doing in the Atlanta Bike Challenge here.