Friday, March 13, 2009

It must be Friday the 13th


I'm working on a blog entry about a fun project I've been working hard on the last couple of weeks. I was hoping to finish it up for y'all tonight. But, instead, I've had to be on the phone with police, make auto repair appointments, and worry about transportation two days before I leave town for two weeks.

I take the bus to work 90% of the time. I live about 12 miles from campus, traffic during rush hour in Austin is horrible, and campus parking is expensive. Riding the bus is free for University employees and students, it is not much slower than driving, and not having to fight the traffic relieves a lot of stress. So, I drive a couple of miles to a park and ride and take the bus. I save about 20 gallons of gas a month this way, and probably save $5 or $6 a day in fuel and parking costs.

But, today when I got off the bus at the park and ride, I found that my car had been broken in to. For the second time in six months. Right in front of a security camera. Last time, they took my car stereo (a bottom-of-the-line Best Buy replacement for my car's manufacturer's stereo, which was busted). This time, they didn't take anything, presumably because I have started taking the stereo faceplate with me. But it is still $175 to replace the window.

The first time my car was burglarized, several cars were hit at the same time. The police officer thinks it was a professional thief, because the stereos were taken with tools and wires clipped to avoid reducing the value of the product. They probably got $20 fencing my stereo, and cost me and my insurance company $300. Which the insurance company is now recouping by raising my rates. (I'm not filing a claim this time!)

After that incident, I started parking in a more heavily-trafficked part of the parking lot, right near an obvious security camera. Fat lot of deterrence that proved to be.

My car is nothing special, just a boring 2000 sedan. The stereo is not special. I don't have custom speakers, just the crappy manufacturer's speakers. I don't have anything else of value in the car. So I don't think my vehicle should be attracting any attention, other then that it is parked all day long, along with dozens of other vehicles.

An online search found that this park and ride has 60 reported vehicle burglaries in the last 18 months, most being multiple break-ins on a single day. 60. 60!! And yet the bus company doesn't feel the need to post a permanent security guard, because it costs too much money, and we all park "at your own risk." Hey, how about grabbing some of that stimulus money that our governor doesn't want, and hiring a security guard for each of the park and rides? It'd reduce unemployment and crime. Or maybe Texas is hoping that the stolen goods market will revive the economy.

Here I am, trying to do the right thing by riding the bus, reducing my carbon footprint, reducing traffic on the roads, saving money. The reasons the bus company says we should take the bus. But after two burglaries, I don't think I can take the bus anymore. Clearly there's somebody who's figured out the bus schedules, knows that there will be nobody in the parking lot at certain portions of the hour, and takes advantage of that. Yet the city and bus people expect me to just swallow the costs and smile and be happy about it.

Now the city is about to start an expensive light rail service (which I support!), but it will involve more cars being parked and unattended for hours at a time. And they'll be even easier targets for thieves, because the trains will only run during rush hour, so burglars will know that they can grab 80 car stereos, have a leisurely lunch, grab another 80 and go home before a single train rolls into the station.

Forget that. I'm fixing my window, buying a parking pass, and driving in to work from now on. I'll find some legitimate way of offsetting the carbon usage. But where's the monetary savings if I have to replace a car window every 6 months? Where's the peace of mind if I have to worry about if my car will even be there 10 hours later?

Here I was just trying to Do The Right Thing. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.


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