While writing up my last post, I remembered something that really bugs me on Metrolink’s website.

The fare calculator tries to make the train cost look more appealing by showing you how much you’d spend driving the same trip, using a factor of 54.1 cents per mile from AAA’s driving cost formula.

Two problems:

1. They’re using the average value of all the cars on the road. Drive a gas-guzzling Hummer? A fuel-efficient Prius? Same cost estimate.

2. They’re using the formula wrong. It’s not intended to answer the question of “How much does this trip cost?” but “How much am I spending overall to use this car?” So in addition to fuel and maintenance, it also includes static costs of owning a car, like registration, insurance, interest payments, etc. Things that you’ll be paying whether you drive it today or not.

So unless you own an average car and plan on getting rid of it entirely, the comparison doesn’t actually tell you anything useful. But it does make Metrolink’s ticket prices look cheaper.

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the fact that, in response to soaring gas prices, smaller cars are outselling light trucks (which include SUVs, pickups, and minivans) in the US for the first time since 1996. Last night I was going through old magazines that we’d just tossed in a bag before moving. I found the September 2006 issue of Westways (the California Auto Club’s magazine), with a cover story about the new breed of small cars, wondering when the market would shift in response to the high prices. Now there’s timing.

On a related note, 9 months of driving a Prius has given me a somewhat different perspective on “good” and “bad” mileage. When I see averages of 38–48 MPG over the course of a tank of gas, and can get up to 60 MPG on straight, flat stretches of freeway, advertisements touting 25–30 MPG just don’t sound that enticing.

WWW, while convenient to type, is rather unwieldy when spoken (at least in English). “Double-U double-U double-U dot some site dot com” takes a while to say. It’s not like, say, AAA, which can be easily spoken as “Triple-A.” Fortunately, these days most major sites have their servers configured to return the same web with or without the www. prefix, so you sometimes hear a website described with just its domain name.

This morning I caught the end of an interview on NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report, and the announcer explained that the full version of the interview was available on their website, “dub dub dub dot marketplace dot org.”