Bu$ vs. car? Public transit can save riders an average of $9,200 a year

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.

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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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