Dear NJ Transit: You get an F in Math

I’m a little bit pissed – no, a lot pissed – at NJ Transit for their recent fare hikes. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they increased their standard peak adult fares by 25%, they eliminated the off-peak fares entirely. My $20 ticket RT ticket to visit my mother on the weekend has now leapt to $30. That’s fifty-freaking-percent! And I’m talking about commuter routes, not intercity Amtrak-type stuff, which prices itself to balance between bus fares and airfares.

Let me tell you how this has affected me personally… My mother’s 60th birthday is next week, and I suggested a slumber party for 6 at my place as a Plan B if the Hershey Park idea (hers, not ours!) doesn’t pan out for whatever reason. She said, “that’s $150 in train fares for us to come in, that seems kind of stupid.” She’s totally right.

If NJ Transit was looking for a justification for cutting off-peak services, then this was a really smart move – the natural atrophy of their customer base. However, if they were thinking “if they pay $20, they’ll pay $30”, well, I doubt my little family unit is the only one changing their mass transit habits.

Tell me if I’m wrong … I always thought of public transportation as being economical, efficient, ecological, and really damn practical. In fact, I enjoy learning my way around the systems in other countries, even ones with alphabets I don’t know. It’s supposed to cost less and take less time than driving. Now, to drive round-trip from where my mom is in NJ ($14 gas), pay for the tunnel ($8 toll), and cough up for 8-12 hours in a parking garage ($22)… that’s $34. To take the train and the subway is… $34. That math also applies to commuters. A zero sum game like that is going to completely defeat the purpose of having a mass transit system.

So, NJ Transit, you fail some pretty basic math. And you also fail in serving the purpose for your existence.

Rant over.

Big Professional Step + Karmic Justice

Hey, remember last year, when I was exiled from that massage school in NJ that ran an approved-but-not-prestigious course in Rolf Structural Integration? Quick recap: I wanted to take a weekend intro course in Rolfing and then the full program, but no one answered my weekly emails/voicemails, which around #4 became exasperated and mildly snarky. In the last one, I said something like “No one returns my calls, does this school even exist??”  They changed the entrance requirements so they could reject me, and then the instructor (my Rolfer) brought me as his demo model and she screamed at him for 20 minutes behind closed doors, telling him to get rid of me. Because I was rude to her… well, to the answering machine that does a really bad job playing receptionist, but she felt personally affronted, and she’s the Big Cheese.

I expressed disdain for her business practices, both in terms of inadequate admin and her inability to see me as a viable, lucrative customer. Well, surprise surprise, the school is out of business.

I’ve finally got a few spare bucks in my wallet, and I went to get Rolfed last night to head off a monster pain problem (could feel it building). In fact, I’ve got enough “spare” cash to go to the Rolf Institute! My Secret Job is bringing in a consistent, decent income that will only get better as I become more established. But even if it doesn’t, I can live anywhere but the most expensive cities in the country and not have a problem meeting my expenses, obligations AND tuition … which is about $17K, divided into six payments over the course of a year. So I’m assembling the application materials and hope to be part of their January intake. As much as I’d love to start in October, and that course is actually very well-timed for my lease and my other Colorado obligations (school is in Boulder, sister’s wedding is 10 days before that in Aspen, and lease is up 4 days before the course starts), I just don’t think I’ll have the funds to pull that off because of that whole life policy premium due in August.

Know what’s really sweet? I’ve had so many offers to be a temporary roommate from my cyber-coworkers (whom I’ve met, so it’s not that weird) and my BFF who’s local here in NY. Also, both the admissions counselor and my Rolfer said it’s not uncommon to get moved along more quickly than the official “must wait a minimum of 3 months between segments”, because they’d rather fill the next class completely if at all possible. And he’s pretty sure it’ll be possible.

Next post will be about all of the changes looming in 7 months…

A Family-Financed Wedding for Littlest Sister

So my littlest sister, Starfish, is getting married this September on a pretty strict budget. She just got her first ever credit card – at age 30! – with that elusive 0% interest for a year in order to “finance” it. I think she’s capable of adhering to that plan, but those are untested waters with her. She was a teenager under the same roof as my parents and grandmother through the worst of their spending habits, and I’m not sure what she learned.

She’s planning for about 65 guests, outdoor ceremony in a small outdoor amphitheater in the Rockies. The reception will be a few miles away (but definitely taxi distance, so no provision of transportation necessary) and will feature gourmet pizza, wine & beer, karaoke, iPod music, and a cash bar. She’s wonderfully creative and will make things very attractive and unusual, but it sounds kinda cheesy -sensible for her budget, but the prospect of no hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar isn’t sitting too well with us.

I stepped up with a $500 pre-wedding gift immediately – now that I’ve got two jobs on the go and am doing rather well at the new one, I can do that fairly painlessly. My mother said she’s hoping to put in $1000, but I don’t think that’ll happen because she just got a crapload of dental work. I let my brother know what I was doing because he likes to do the right thing, it’s just a matter of knowing what the right thing is.

The part I find awkward is that, with my dad gone, my mom is planning to approach her godfather (his youngest brother) for a contribution to the wedding costs. To be fair, he sort of offered with the other sister last year, but my mom said they were fine and didn’t need it. However, Starfish and her wonderful fiance (really decent, big-hearted guy who loves our entire family) could really use the help. Starfish has no real problem accepting big gifts and is very gracious about it, and I know my future brother-in-law will be floored.

So tell me, what few readers I have left after not blogging for 5 weeks…

Do you have any first- or second-hand experience of a “family financed” wedding? How did you (or the couple) feel about it?