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Commuting costs pile up over time

March 25, 2015

Citizens in and around the River Falls community commute to their jobs on a daily basis, and while the task seems easy there are underlying costs that commuters budget into their daily lives.

With the economy always changing, commuters deal with the cost of keeping their cars on the road to get them where they need to go.

The daily cost of gasoline is a major factor for commuters, especially ones that are on a tight budget. Christine Ross commutes to the Twin Cities every weekday and feels the pressure on her checkbook when gas prices get higher.

“I have a 35 mile commute one way, so 70 miles a day,” Ross said. “I also fill my gas tank every five days, and can go six in the summer.”

Ross also said that she watches the on-board gas monitor and typically fills her tank when she has about 50 miles before her tank is empty.

“Things were tight when gas prices were close to $4 a gallon, but I commute for the benefits of my job,” Ross said.

Not only do people from the community leave River Falls, according to the statistics from UW-River Falls, 53 percent of undergraduate students commute to campus everyday. UWRF student Britta Kadrlik said that she has to budget her money for her commute to school.

“I have about a 25-minute commute to campus everyday,” said Kadrlik in an email. “I fill my gas tank once or twice a week.”

Kadrlik mentioned that she has a tight budget and with gas prices fluctuating it doesn’t take long for her checkbook to dwindle down.

Along with the prices of gasoline changing, commuters also have to keep their vehicles up to par and in good running condition. This includes oil changes, rotating tires, filling the windshield washer fluid, and other vehicle maintenance. With oil changes varying anywhere from $25 to $40, commuters are changing their oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

Ross typically changes her oil every two and half to three months, and goes over the 3,000-mile mark easily.

“I just look up at the sticker in my window that tells me to change the oil and I change it,” Ross said.

Ross also said that while she has an oil change she has the mechanic check over everything to make sure that it is running good for the daily commute.

Budgeting for the daily commute is something that Ross says she is used to, and doesn’t have a specific plan for setting aside money.

“I typically get my vehicle checked over really well when I go in for an oil change,” Kadrlik said. “I normally change oil every 5,000 miles, because I put so many on it’s normally once every two months.”

Kadrlik mentioned that she did get a flat tire on her way home from River Falls once, and replacing that tire wasn’t cheap. She had to pay over $100 for a new tire, and working part-time is tough when car troubles ensue.

Kadrlik doesn’t have a budget when it comes to commuting, because she said that it is something that she has to do and just tries to watch her other spending.

Ross says that she doesn’t necessarily enjoy the commute, but she does like her job along with other reasons why she doesn’t move closer to her job.

“I was born and raised here,” Ross said. “This is my home and I have all my friends and family here.”

The Student Voice will be running 12 commuting stories over the next several weeks in an effort to discover how commuting affects the campus and the community.

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