• Jan 20th 2010 at 7:57AM
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In some place (New York City, we're thinking of you), taking public transportation is just the most sensible way to get around most of the time. In others (West Oklahoma, say) it can't even be considered. Still, if there is a bus or rail line near your home and work, taking advantage of it isn't just a deal for the environment, it's also way easy on your pocketbook.

According to a new study by the American Public Transportation Association (which, yes, has an interest in the results), the average public transportation rider can save $9,242 a year by ditching a car. How did the APTA come up with this number? By creating a pretend person who shifts from car ownership to public transit and is "a person in a two-person household [who] lives with one less car." First, APTA comes up with the costs associated with that as calculated by AAA – which includes insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc. – and adds in the cost of parking. This year, the APTA used an average price of $2.75 for each gallon of fuel and figured an annual driving distance of 15,000 miles. Then, APTA calculated the cost of 12 monthly public transit passes in a city. Using all of that data, the APTA listed the top 20 cities with the highest transit ridership and figured out that New Yorkers can save the most – up to $13,765 – and even residents of Pittsburgh (No. 20 on the list) can save $8,162 a year. Pretty good.

A car-sharing option was not included in the APTA model, but it's easy enough to see that going by bus and rail most days and using the savings to rent a car when needed certainly puts one ahead financially, if public transit is a viable option. To find out how much you could save, check out the APTA's calculator here.

[Source: American Public Transportation Association via Treehugger | Image: leedsyorkshire - C.C. License 2.0]


Riding Public Transit Saves Individuals $9,242 Annually

Transit riders now save $600 more per year compared to last year at this time

as the cost of gas has increased nearly $1 per gallon

Washington, DC – Individuals who ride public transportation can save on average $9,242 annually based on the January 11, 2010 national average gas price and the national unreserved monthly parking rate. Compared to last year at this time, the average cost per gallon of gas was $1.79 which is nearly $1 less than the current price of gas at $2.75 per gallon. This increase in cost equates to an additional $600 in savings per year for transit commuters as compared to last year's savings amount at this same time.

"The Transit Savings Report" released monthly by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) calculates the average annual and monthly savings for public transit users. The report examines how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car.

Transit riders can save on average $770 per month. The savings amount is based on the cost of the national averages for parking and driving, as well as the January 11 national average gas price of $2.75 per gallon for self-serve regular gasoline as reported by AAA.

Taking public transportation provides a safe and affordable way for individuals and families to cut costs, according to APTA. In addition, local public transit offers a travel option that has an immediate positive impact in reducing an individual's overall carbon footprint while helping reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $154.23, according to the 2009 Colliers International Parking Rate Study. Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,850.

The top 20 cities with the highest transit ridership are ranked in order of their transit savings based on the purchase of a monthly public transit pass and factoring in local gas prices for January 11, 2010 and the local monthly unreserved parking rate.*

Top Twenty Cities – Transit Savings Report
City Monthly Savings Annual Savings
1 New York $ 1,147 $ 13,765
2 Boston $ 1,030 $ 12,362
3 San Francisco $ 1,013 $ 12,156
4 Chicago $ 946 $ 11,357
5 Seattle $ 932 $ 11,185
6 Philadelphia $ 927 $ 11,121
7 Honolulu $ 887 $ 10,639
8 Los Angeles $ 838 $ 10,052
9 San Diego $ 824 $ 9,894
10 Minneapolis $ 824 $ 9,884
11 Cleveland $ 803 $ 9,639
12 Portland $ 798 $ 9,581
13 Denver $ 795 $ 9,539
14 Baltimore $ 782 $ 9,383
15 Miami $ 752 $ 9,022
16 Washington, DC $ 751 $ 9,015
17 Dallas $730 $ 8,756
18 Atlanta $722 $ 8,658
19 Las Vegas $716 $ 8,591
20 Pittsburgh $ 680 $ 8,162
*Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on 1/11/10.

Profile of a transit commuter saving money

Louisville, Kentucky resident Carolyn Hagan has been riding Transit Authority of River City (TARC) buses for nearly six years.

"Louisville/Jefferson County Metro government offers a transit benefit so I can ride the bus for free," said Hagan. "Other employers should give their employees the benefit of riding TARC. They get to work stress free and they can do a better job."

Thanks to her employee transit benefit, Hagan says that she doesn't put a lot of mileage on her car and only has to gas up once a month. In addition, she doesn't have to pay to park – another savings!

It's just really a great benefit for me and helps me save money," said Hagan, who encourages co-workers to try public transportation.

To see Carolyn Hagan's video, go to http://www.ridetarc.org/employerprograms.asp?mid=4


APTA calculates the average cost of taking public transit by determining the average monthly transit pass of local public transit agencies across the country. This information is based on the annual APTA fare collection survey and is weighted based on ridership (unlinked passenger trips). The assumption is that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase an unlimited pass on the local transit agency, typically available on a monthly basis.

APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving. The cost of driving is calculated using the 2009 AAA average cost of driving formula. AAA cost of driving formula is based on variable costs and fixed costs. The variable costs include the cost of gas, maintenance and tires. The fixed costs include insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges. The comparison also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.4 miles per gallon and the price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline as recorded by AAA on January 11 at $2.75 per gallon. The analysis also assumes that a person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year. The savings assume a person in a two-person household lives with one less car.

In determining the cost of parking, APTA uses the data from the 2009 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.

To calculate your individual savings with or without car ownership, go to www.publictransportation.org.

# # # # #

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of over 1,500 public and private member organizations, engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne passengers services, and high-speed rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products. More than 90 percent of the people using public transportation in the United States and Canada are served by APTA member systems

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      A very logical, intuitive concept, however numbers are numbers, and can tell many different stories.

      The one spending $400/month and driving 15000 MILES per year will obviously save money,however owning a used Corolla or Civic, ie a reliable vehicle, with low ownership costs and insurance, and driving a reasonable distance/year, such as 8000 miles, these "cost savings" disappear pretty quickly.

      I'd love to see someone actually sit on a bus for 15000 Miles per year. Good luck.
        • 8 Months Ago
        My car was paid off eight years ago. Forget that $400/mo. It's $0/mo. Lower insurance cost too.
        • 8 Months Ago
        @nrb: Yes, and how long will it be before you need a new clutch? Or an alternator? Or muffler and/or headers? I'd estimate that time in weeks. ;)

        Something they don't mention in the analysis is maintenance costs, although they skip right over that by assuming that your car is new. They're also rarely expected, so you get to deal with the fact that right when you need to start your car on a cold Tuesday morning, it doesn't. Or for that matter, suddenly have to come up with an extra $800 because you just realized your tires are getting to the point where they *need* to be replaced.

        It's also worth pointing out that at 15,000 miles a year, the cost of gas alone is more than the transit pass. And that's damn cheap gas too, not the $4.40 a gallon we're paying here.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Maintenance cost will absolutely be higher on a used car. No where near $400/mo though. In my case, it doesn't even make up for the difference in insurance cost. So far, a break job has been my largest expense (damn reliable domestic car). Compared to a new car, a used car is money in the bank.
        • 8 Months Ago
        My numbers would be low as well. I have only needed a new alternator and battery in the last 5 years. I also only drive 5,000 miles a year @ ~ 30mpg = $~500 gas. Insurance is only $240 for the year. I'll throw in ~$260 for oil changes, tires, muffler and unknown expenses and it is under $1000 for my 15 year old Saturn.

        It has a plastic body that still looks brand new, and I have prevented rust or replaced bolts with stainless steel, so it will last a long time. That is how you save money.

        I am going to start working on converting an electric truck this year though.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Over half of all cars in the U.S. are over seven years old, so using AAA's new car costs seems a bit disingenuous. At least weight it or something.
      • 8 Months Ago
      In one hand, I can see the savings of using Public Transportation. In cities like Boston, NYC, Washington DC and Chicago, their respective public transportation options are very appealing and work for the majority of commuters. However, many other cities (like Baltimore) have a hodge-podge public transportation system that is inefficient routes structure at best and can be downright dangerous (feel free to google Baltimore public transportation attacks). Factor in the lost time (that many people really do not have) and potential safety concerns, and I am perfectly comfortable driving my efficient (payed for)commuter car when I need to enter the city.

      Public Transportation works for some people, but in my case there is no direct and/or convenient way for my to commute using this system. I have a 20minute commute (mostly freeway averaging 35mpg), off normal business hours.
      • 8 Months Ago
      15000 miles is a ridiculous assumption, in a two car family when you replace one car.

      That would need to be close to 15000/240 60 mile daily commute, since if you gave up one car, most everything else will simply shift to the remaining car. That means almost all those miles would be job commuting. Good luck on that 60 mile bus commute.

      I had this discussion with a woman at work who was car-less, transit passes, taxis and occasional rentals. My car was paid off, so my annuals were actually cheaper. Though once you amortize the original $20K I paid for my car it swings back.

      I would like to see this figured out with the most basic econobox ($10000) on the road and keeping it for a bout 10 years and driving a more average 12000/year, and do it for someone who has no car and needs occasional taxis and rentals. You still save, but unless you are on the edge financially, it isn't worth it to me. Commuting to work usually isn't a big deal if you chose a decent place to live, but it is everything else that becomes a PITA. Meeting friends to go out, groceries, going a little out of town to ski/canoe etc...

      • 8 Months Ago
      This is such a dumb argument for a good idea, that the ridicule starts before the point of the argument is understood.
      • 8 Months Ago
      It also doesn't factor in the cost of time. For example, I live in the Albany, NY area, but on the east side of the Hudson. I'm constantly needing to cross the Hudson for meetings, errands, etc. Any trip across automatically adds a minimum 45 one-way to my trip on the bus. A 10 minute trip becomes a 55 minute trip. I can't afford that. Time is money, and that much time stretched over my schedule would put me in the poor-house quickly indeed.

      I love public transportation done well. If I could have a system like that of London in the US, I'd gladly sell my car. Heck, I'd settle for the public transportation I experienced central Russia. The buses weren't pretty, but the system worked better than ours (we have nice buses, but no workable schedules). But the truth is, we aren't there, and people can't afford to commit to the bus and hope it gets better...so we're stuck in our cars.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I was about to say the same thing. Time is money, and public transit is anything but fast.
        • 8 Months Ago
        That's similar to my problem. I'd still need a car to get to the train station. I suppose it could be a city car. I also need a car for errands. For trips, I guess I could rent.

        I'm still not sure how I'd get from the bus station to work (in rain, snow, ice).

        I love the idea of using public transit if it's convenient. Right now, I'd have to drive to the train station, wait for a train, ride (slowly) downtown, transfer to a bus, ride to another suburb, walk over a mile to work. Total time easily triples vs driving. That's far from convenient.
      • 8 Months Ago
      A bicycle still wins. It is cheaper than public transit and faster than both private autos and public transit during rush hour. Most importantly it is year-round FUN!!!
        • 8 Months Ago
        When you live in the right kind of place, perhaps. No way I (or even you) will be biking around the slush and snow covered roads in suburban Boston this month. Year-round fun... ha.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Actually, I did just that last year, and much more often in my 20's when I lived in a small town with lots of snow and little transit to speak of.

        Doing this reminded me of a quote by some scotsman back in the day: "There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes".

        I have some light nylon bike pants that are built to be quite waterproof. And a jacket that is the same. All I had to do was make sure I show up 15 minutes early for work so I could change and put my hair back together, and I was perfectly presentable. Inattentive SUV drivers are also easily avoided by not riding on major thoroughfares. In my town, they have streets with special provisions (albeit not separate lanes or anything) for bikes all throughout town. It's generally safe to ride on these routes due to the fact that they're very low traffic.
        • 8 Months Ago
        None of the icebikers looked to be regular commuters to me. Wintertime biking is a different story with indifferently cleared road surfaces, shoulder-hugging cell-phone- distracted SUV drivers and a boss who expects me to be at work on time, as well as neat, clean and ready to work.

        Bicycles are a great way to get around, and need to be factored into all-round transportation solutions. But they have distinct limitations for many commuters.
        • 8 Months Ago
        ebow wrote: "No way I (or even you) will be biking around the slush and snow covered roads in suburban Boston this month."

        Some people do: http://icebike.com/
      • 8 Months Ago
      I've been using public transportation for years, and now I am in the works of trying to get a car. Saving money sounds great in theory, until you realize all that you give up in the process. For instance, where I live we have buses and light rail but the system is still very inefficient. Most buses run every 40-60 minutes, often running even less after 7pm (and completely done by 11pm). It is impossible to make connections because of poor department planning. And the people on the bus tend to annoy and/or make you sick literally and figuratively. During the winter months, waiting for the bus can be a hellish experience even if you are dressed properly. Oh and then there is the little issue of getting up way earlier than you normally would just to ensure that you are getting to your location on time. So yeah, public transportation may be cheaper and greener but it only works in places like NY and Chicago. In cities like St. Louis the transportation system needs to vastly improve before it can be taken serious.
      • 8 Months Ago
      unfortunately the cost only apply in places like New York that accomodate public transit, and even then the incredible cost of housing has to be added in New York and similar places have a) shopping and entertainment, including sports facilities like tennis courts and swimming pools, even golf for New York accessible from most places usually be walking a short distance or at worse within a 45 minute max ride on public transport that runs all the time b) Businesses like grocery stores etc deliver, so that you dont need a car trunk to carry things around I have lived in other places where commuting is feasible but the rest is not. So you need the car, and therefore using public transport is an additional cost not saving. Overall it is cheaper and certainly a saving in time to drive your self. Buy the cheapest moving vehicle you can and when it dies buy a new one
      • 8 Months Ago
      I realize they are promoting public transportation but this line makes no sense.

      "This year, the APTA used an average price of $2.75 for each gallon of fuel and figured an annual driving distance of 15,000 miles"

      The assumption is the 15,000 miles involves no interstate travel if you are comparing it to travel in and around a city. How many people drive 15k miles per year and never leave the city? Also as a native New Yorker, have the figured in the cost of the odd transit strike?
        • 8 Months Ago
        It also doesn't take into account the extra time it takes to use public transit. If I waste a half hour a day (on a good day with busses) versus taking my own car and I'm worth $15/hour on a conservative estimate that's about $2000 in wasted time.

        Crank up those numbers to what they would really be and suddenly even the most optimistic savings they're predicting vanish.
        • 8 Months Ago
        15,000 miles is assuming total miles driven in that car given an average MPG. It doesnt matter if it is all city or highway, that is why an avg MPG is used. I think 15,000 miles a year is a little high unless one has a wicked commute. This number will fluctuate from person to person. It is easy to figure out for yourself.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I don't own a car, and I take transit everywhere.

        But when I have to travel out of town (not very often at all), I can take Greyhound or fly. Heck, in my town, they even built a rapid transit line right to the airport. But the additional cost is very low compared to that $8-13K, and even if I owned a car there's no way in hell I'll drive all the way across the country to see the rest of the in-laws, so the extra cost isn't even extra.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I know people who drive to work daily in NYC who rack up about 15,000 miles a year so I don't think the numbers are unbelievable.
        Obviously this doesn't apply to people who live in Manhattan, but nobody in their right mind who lives in Manhattan would drive around Manhattan to get to work anyway since it'd take like 10 times as long. We're talking about people driving in from the outer boroughs.
        And even if you drive less miles most of the cost of owning a car in NYC is definitely not the gasoline. It's the sky high car insurance and insane parking costs. A monthly parking pass in Manhattan can easily run $500 a month, which easily dwarfs most people's gas bills.
        Not to mention the depreciation from the car accidents you'll eventually get into if you drive around NYC long enough (someone will find a way to rear end you sooner or later).
        Anyways pretty obvious that an unlimited metrocard is going to be cheaper than a car, although honestly if you live in the outer boroughs it's just more convenient to have a car since you still have to go shopping and frankly it sucks to lug back a ton of stuff on the bus.
        • 8 Months Ago
        ALOT of people drive 15K a year and never leave the state lines or outskirts of a city.

        The average commute in LA is about 22 miles a day per way. That's 11000 miles JUST to work not counting 2 weeks vacation.

        15K isn't hard to achieve at all.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I can only speak for myself but here is my experience in shifting from a car to public transportation in Pittsburgh (trolley).

      Car lease was $375 per month or $4500 a year
      Insurance: $800 per year
      Fuel: 10,000 miles per year given 25mpg @ 2.75 = $1100 per year
      Parking in City = $7 per day X 235 days parked = $1,645 (52 weeks - 5 weeks vacation) x 5 days. = 235 days
      2 oil changes = $80

      Trolley Pass = $80 per month or $960

      Total car expense per year ~$8125
      Less Trolley expense = $7165 in savings

      We have another car that my wife uses for work and we drive on the weekend so it works out well. Maybe have to get a car someday but for now enjoying the savings. Grant-it the savings go way down if you own the car vs payments or leasing.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I lived a carless lifestyle for years. It definitely saved me a fortune and was a lifesaver when I was unemployed / under-employed. But it had huge downsides, primarily in that it took double or triple the time to get anywhere, the frustration of missed connections and bad weather, and shopping and dating were problematic.
        • 8 Months Ago
        40 years ago I lived in Boston and a friend gave up his car simply due to the hassle of ownership in the city. Being an accountant, he carefully tracked his car-less expenses as he had his ownership expenses. As I recall he saved only about 10% compared to ownership. The major reason being that to avoid the problems that Carney has experienced he often took cabs and rented cars. That said, it was his contention that even if being car-less cost more, it was worth it just to avoid the tribulations of urban car ownership.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I appreciate your candid point of view. I do get frustrated with car ownership at times. I don't live in an area with much public transit so this isn't even an option. Similar to you getting frustrated to missing a connection, etc...

        In terms of this report, it really is sort of pointless. If you live in New York, you're going to use the subway (I was there last week -- it's a disgusting system frankly). If you live where there isn't much transit, than you're going to drive a car.

        I wish we had public transit that made sense where I live, but we don't. Even when I lived in the Detroit area public transit didn't work. In Ann Arbor, it did and I used it every day.
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