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Your Commuting Costs By Car Vs. Train?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the part-of-the-world-time-of-day-round-trip-distance dept.

Transportation 1137

grepdisc writes "Newspapers in Boston are fawning over a report by the American Public Transportation Association that taking public transportation saves money over driving. How can one possibly save $12,600 per year, when the inflated estimates of 15,000 miles per year at only 23.4 miles and $2.039 per gallon costs only $1,310, and a high parking rate of $460 per month results in under $5600. Is the discrepancy made up of tolls, repairs, the cost of buying a car and ignoring train station parking fees?" Everyone's situation is different — and it's easy to have a chip on one's shoulder while estimating prices. But for those of you with the option, what kind of savings do you find (or would you expect) from taking one form of transport to work over another?

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depends (5, Interesting)

tsalmark (1265778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867909)

If I continue to own my car then it costs more to take public transit, but not by much. If I sell my car and take public transit I save a few grand a year, assuming I rent a car one weekend a month.

Re:depends (4, Insightful)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867971)

My car's old enough that I wouldn't get enough for it to cover public transit costs.

Plus I live near Sacramento, which has the useless Light Rail system. The stops are nowhere near where they need to be to be useful, unless you work right downtown.

Re:depends (5, Insightful)

Zondar (32904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868137)

This is the problem with rail in most places. Most urban/suburban areas are so poorly laid out that rail is only able to service a very few number of people from "near door" to "near work". This is made several times worse if they are only able to put the rail 'where people will let them', which usually means the rail doesn't service many people along the route - because it's in the boonies.

Big savings are when you need fewer cars (4, Insightful)

wsanders (114993) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868135)

In my neighborhood families own three, four, even more cars. The big savings come when you can reduce the number of cars you own.

WTF do you need three or more cars for in a 2-person household?

I suppose they assumed, in a two-earner household, that you could reduce the number of cars by one if one person was a transit rider.

Re:Big savings are when you need fewer cars (2, Interesting)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868181)

My parents currently have 5 people in their household, and own 8 vehicles. That's not so bad, considering they also run a small farm.

I don't understand why people make poor financial choices though, by owning more than they can afford. I also don't understand how people think they have the right to enforce their own judgement over people's finances.

Re:Big savings are when you need fewer cars (1, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868371)

WTF do you need three or more cars for in a 2-person household?

For a few reasons, one would be in case a car got totaled, broke down with something too expensive to repair, or you needed to lend a car to friends/family for a while. I can see owning an older SUV for when you need to transport many people, but keeping two cars to go to work in and for general driving.

Re:depends (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868151)

Do you include in your calculations is the resale value of your car, or what remains of it after you're done with it? New cars drop in resale value dramatically quickly.

Re:depends (5, Interesting)

g-to-the-o-to-the-g (705721) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868173)

I've gone car free in the last year or so, and it's saved me a pile of money. Around $7k/year for fuel, plus insurance and car payments add up to more than $20k/year. I use my bicycle most of the time, but when I need to go longer distances I can combine biking and public transit (though I almost never actually do this). I love the freedom of being on a bicycle, as you have all the rights and privileges of both motorists and pedestrians. Travelling through heavy traffic is much faster by bicycle. And then there are the positive health effects.

Re:depends (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868265)

That just bizarre. I won't argue your figures, because they're yours; but I can't image how that $20k figure is anywhere close to normal. That's close to 50% of a normal person's income, more than most people pay for the house they live in.

Re:depends (1)

smithmc (451373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868399)

I'm guessing you don't live in the US. Either that, or you used to own a Ferrari.

huh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27867911)

huh? b;'

"Everyone's situation is different" (4, Interesting)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867913)

I'll say. Here in southern California, I'd have to drive my car to any form of mass transit, and I'd have to drive farther than it is to work.

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (5, Insightful)

ctmzeus (232628) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868051)

For sure - plus, even if you're saving on distance, taking a bus trip from Pasadena to Glendale (neighboring LA cities, about 10 minutes apart) is a 3-hour trek involving taking one bus downtown from Pasadena, another bus across downtown (leaving after a 40-minute wait), and a third bus back up to Glendale. San Diego is similar - occasionally you find a bus that goes from where you live to where you work, but in most cases you're talking about substantial personal cost to get TO the transit, and travel time that takes an average of four times as long.

So, for one thing, the surveys should include "lost productivity" hours or something, since those four hours I lose every day by choosing to use mass transit could be worth more to me than what I spend on the difference.

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868323)

Try MTA Line 180/181

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (4, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868327)

Yeah, there really is no "one size fits all" solution. In the SF Bay Area, there are plenty of lost productivity hours in driving one's self. Hit the wrong traffic patch and it can take you 2 hours to get 15 miles. My wife and I used to work in neighboring office buildings, and we got our wires crossed one day that she had driven in to work, and so she left without me. I called her on the cell phone, found out where she was, and without her pulling over, I was able to jog up to meet her before she got on the bridge, even though she was four blocks ahead of me.

One other solution that's really great--which I used in Oakland/SF commute--was the casual carpool. Cut through most of the traffic, ride in comfort (usually), no extra stops, and one direction is free. I wonder how many cities have that these days.

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (1)

Sensible Clod (771142) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868063)

Exactly. The figures presented in the summary assume that gas stays at around $2/gallon, and that everyone just drives 15,000 miles/year.

In the first 12 months I owned my present car--and I got laid off in early November--I put about 21,000 miles on it, and for a good chunk of that year gas was $4/gallon.

Articles like this are best used to examine one's particular circumstances.

Oh, and the nearest public transit I could have taken to work is almost 30 minutes away, and my car gets 40 miles per gallon, and I carpooled 90% of the time I was working at that job.

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (2)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868435)

Let me check your math:

"about 21,000 miles"
"carpooled 90% of the time"

so 21k miles is 10% of 210k miles

210k miles divided by ~260 work days a year

My god you commute 400 miles to work one way or 800 miles round trip? Daily?

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868283)

Sure, but in fairness that's because you don't have much of a public transportation system to speak of. It's not quite a fair argument to say, "investing in public transportation isn't worthwhile because the public transportation in my area is so underfunded and underdeveloped as to be virtually useless."

Re:"Everyone's situation is different" (1, Insightful)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868393)

You are correct. The reason to not invest in public transportaion in southern California isn't because it already sucks, it's because it doesn't work, and can't be made to work in less than a generation (and likely more than that). Nearly all of southern California has been built up around the idea of everyone having their own personal vehicles. LA grew out instead of up. That means much lower population densities. And that makes that there aren't concentrations of people living in a relatively small area, who go to places where there are concentrations of jobs in a small area. And that means that public transportation doesn't work very well, because it's damned inconvenient. The other guy who mentioned three hours to make (what would be in a car) a ten minute trip wasn't exaggerating at all. It really is that bad, and will remain so, because public mass transportation is only worthwhile when populations and jobs are fairly concentrated.

Insurance? Duh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27867917)

I can see it being that much for some drivers easily.

Some More Numbers (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867921)

Well, from their calculator [] , they do include parking costs and they have a table for Maintenance (4.67 cents per mile on a medium car) and Tires (0.85 cents per mile on a medium car).

And I think they're banking on things like if you are married and one of you drives and one rides the train or bus, you can cut down to one vehicle maybe:

If you can live with one less vehicle in your household, you would save an additional $5,576 in car ownership cost (full-coverage insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation and finance charge).

I like public transportation but in DC, the metro rail sucks. It sucks something fierce. The stops in DC are so so limited. I still end up taking taxis for most of the places I want to go ... or plan for an hour walk. I go to NYC and it's like heaven--I do not care of the condition of the train. DC rails shut down at midnight on a weeknight ... and sometimes you wait 15+ minutes for the next train. Transferring is almost out of the question. Wish it worked for me for my job but it doesn't. It barely works for me on my drinking expeditions.

Re:Some More Numbers (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868083)

I have to rely on half-hourly and hourly bus routes that shut down closer to 8-10pm depending on the route and even earlier on weekends (where most also switch to being hourly).

It takes me almost 2 hours to get to school, which is only about ~7 miles away from me.

Re:Some More Numbers (3, Informative)

horigath (649078) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868353)

Buy a bicycle. It will take you less than half an hour. Heck, you might be able to walk that far in two hours if you are fit.

Re:Some More Numbers (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868377)

It takes me almost 2 hours to get to school, which is only about ~7 miles away from me.

What's the terrain like? You could probably walk that far in 2 hours, certainly ride a bike, as long as the weather is nice. And think of what great shape you'd be in!

Re:Some More Numbers (1)

GrifterCC (673360) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868219)

DC Metrorail is such a mixed bag. On the one hand, the stations drive development above them, so everything at U Street is close. But then you have Adams Morgan.

I live in Ballston and work in Dupont, and it saves me an hour in commute time every day to drive to work instead of Metroing. I just wish parking didn't cost $240 a month.

Re:Some More Numbers (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868229)

And they don't even include car insurance, moving violations, accident repair, traffic school, or reupholstering to clean up spilled alcohol. That adds up too, believe me.

Re:Some More Numbers (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868329)

Yeah, I think when I was in DC, it was that the bars shut down at 2am but the public transportation shut down at 11pm. (something like that)

I always thought, "Are they trying to get people to drive drunk?"

Re:Some More Numbers (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868441)

In DC, the metro is very reliable and it even tells you when the next train is coming via electronic display signs.

On the weekends the trains run until 3:00 AM.

I have no idea what you mean by "Transferring is almost out of the question" Where are you trying to transfer to? The moon?

I think you should get your facts straight.

The NYC subways station has the longest track length in the country at ~225 miles of track. But DC is in a three way tie for second with the bart and the CTA. All three have about ~100 to ~110 miles of track. All three systems, do a very good job of covering the terrain. NYC subway is an exception, probably because it is the oldest in the country.

My biggest complaint with DC transport is that the metro is expensive. But there are many reasons for that. I also wish bus service would be improved. IMHO, CTA's bus lines are very good and I wish DC was at that level.

Would you like some cheese while you wait 15 minutes for the next metro?

What about time? (2, Interesting)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867941)

For most people time is money and if it takes longer to get somewhere by car, find a place to put said car, take the car for maintenance once in a while, get it fixed for scratches and other damage magically appearing on parking lots, the cost in time alone can amount to something quite high.

Think about it, if you're paid $20 an hour and your car needs to be taken in for repairs, which let's say loses you a whole day of work, that's $160 right there. Money wasted just through time, then there's also the time needed for the repairs themselves and ...

Also don't forget to take into account the money lost through the car's devaluement over time. With trains the operator takes all of that cost, with cars the owner - you, does.

Re:What about time? (1)

Chabo (880571) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868025)

With trains the operator takes all of that cost

Don't forget where that money comes from... in most cities, it's from you, even if you don't take the train.

Re:What about time? (2, Insightful)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868107)

And if I'm already paying for the train anyway, that's just one more reason to also use it!

Re:What about time? (1)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868163)

Which would mean that you're not saving any money by NOT taking public transit. I believe NYC has a privately owned transportation system, don't they? I'd like to see that more places.

Re:What about time? (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868305)

Its public, and the MTA is broke... so instead of putting all the burden on the riders in forms of big fare increases, they are making the taxpayers (many of which may never use the train/bus as they are well outside of NYC) pay for the MTA's mis-management of funding and only hiking the fare a little bit for its users.

It would be interesting to see the numbers in this study if mass transit fares were NOT subsidized by taxpayers but instead the true cost paid directly by the users in the form of fares.

Well time means I drive myself (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868245)

because my time is more valuable than finding a bus, getting to it without having to wait too long for the next, and doing what I need to during the day; I tend to consolidate most of my shopping to my lunch hour so I don't have to go out shopping after getting home.

My time is valuable to me. Using public transportation means losing hours per week I'd rather not. It also means losing flexibility. I guess if I had a guaranteed day it might work out... but even then after riding some of the available public transportation here in Atlanta I won't do except to get to the game.

The throw in the weather... well it quickly goes to hell.

Using your example of $20 an hour. I would hope they had a used car which reduces their depreciation cost from the get go.

As for damage and other mysterious things... well I haven't racked up many, let alone a hundred dollars in ten years that I can recall. I tend to favor cars that are reliable so my out of pocket expenses are normal maintenance. If I need to get it fixed I get a lift, if its long term then I rent. Big deal, the freedom is worth it.

I am not saying anything is wrong with public transportation, but from listening to the news I am safer where I live by not being accessible to people who use public transportation. I can leave my doors unlocked at night; done it before by accident to include leaving garage open. I hear only my dogs breathing when I take them out in the morning. Nothing I can save money wise compensates for that peace. I will do my drive (26 miles no interstate one way) and rest easy.

For those for whom it works, more power to them. However don't try to measure dollars versus quality of life. It doesn't add up in the favor of public transportation in my book

Re:What about time? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868269)

What about time is correct. Taking public transit takes much longer then driving. Walk to the bus station, wait for the bus, wait while the bus makes all of its stops, and drives surface streets instead of the highway. Transfer from the first bus to the second bus. Finally walk from the station to my building. I'm exhasted and I havn't even started work yet. To boot, Do this in reverse at the end of the day!

This easily wastes hours of my day, every day. I get paid around $40 per hour for my time. This equates to a LOSS of over $20,000 every year.

Re:What about time? (2, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868291)

Exactly: time is money. My commute is 25-30 minutes each way, every day (about 25 miles). But by bus, I'm probably looking at 2-4 hours each way. No matter how much I make, a bus ride is really out of the question.

As for maintenance, I don't take my car in to some monkey for repairs, I do them myself. That alone saves lots of time, as I can change my oil in 20 minutes in my garage at any time that's convenient for me, even if it's 11PM or on a weekend.

Car's devaluement (I think you mean depreciation)? Not a problem. Buy a used Japanese car and keep it 10+ years. My car is 15 years old and still works just fine. The interior is even in excellent shape (except for spills on the carpet, which are my fault), unlike my cow-orkers who complain about the interiors in their American cars falling apart in 5 years.

And trains are totally out of the question, unless you happen to live in a city that was laid out in a straight line. Modern cities are laid out in two dimensions, not one, with lots of sprawl, making rail transport pretty much infeasible.

Re:What about time? (2, Funny)

Swizec (978239) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868447)

Exactly: time is money. My commute is 25-30 minutes each way, every day (about 25 miles). But by bus, I'm probably looking at 2-4 hours each way. No matter how much I make, a bus ride is really out of the question.

That's very interesting, my daily commute is 10 minutes by foot, whereas by car it's 10 minutes+10 minutes for finding a place to park. Guess the difference is I live in the city and you're suburbia?

Re:What about time? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868325)

I value my time at more than $20/hour. That time is wasted driving to and from work. I can read or use a laptop on a train.

Re:What about time? (2, Informative)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868397)

And if a train or bicycle take an extra hour every day, every day... that's the equivalent of a few thousand dollars wasted every year.

The biggest problem I've seen with these sorts of studies is that they really don't consider realistic decisions from the perspective of the consumer. Even if I bicycle to work 75% of the time, I NEED a car for the occasional long trip, and foul weather. Maybe I need a SECOND car for my wife, for the exact same reason. Now I have a sunk cost of the car, maintenance, and insurance. Suddenly, public transportation is only saving me the marginal cost of fuel, which really isn't much in the big picture.

Re:What about time? (2, Interesting)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868437)

what about the time the trains/busses waste?

- Time waiting for the damned thing to arrive
- Time waiting for the really-really important cargo train to have the right-of-way on the track you're on
- Time traveling to or from train/bus stations
- Time spent traveling really slowly on inclement weather days

I find it amusing an ironic that this report comes from 'Boston; where the notorious MBTA (Most Broken Trains Anywhere) is so horribly ineffective, it's not even funny. I guess if they compare it to rush hour on the Mass Pike, they may have a case.

How much does a car cost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27867963)

That's how much I save by taking the train every day. I don't have to front that cost, or the hundreds of dollars I'd have to shell out for payments each month. Plus, I don't have to pay for gas, parking, repairs, insurance, etc. Sure the commute is a bit longer, but not by much given the traffic situation here in Chicago and that I get to avoid all of that by taking the train.

Not to mention the healthcare costs I'll save over the long-term with the extra 2 miles I walk every day.

It's Time, not Money (5, Insightful)

joebok (457904) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867975)

For me it is simply a question of time - time spent behind the wheel of a car is wasted time as far as I'm concerned. On transit I can sleep, read, email/browse on the blackberry, even get out a laptop. I've made it a point the last couple times I've moved to make sure I have good access to transit options.

Re:It's Time, not Money (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868191)

When I had 1-hour bus ride to and from work, I found that I could work on my laptop just fine on the way to work, with a clear head - but homewards, I would just get nausea.

The article doesn't seem to include depreciation (3, Interesting)

cshay (79326) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867983)

Your average new car costs very roughly $3000 a year in depreciation. It may be less if you have a cheap japanese model, and much more if you have a American SUV. A car is very expensive compared to taking trains when you factor in depreciation and insurance.

Re:The article doesn't seem to include depreciatio (4, Insightful)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868225)

Your average new car costs very roughly $3000 a year in depreciation. It may be less if you have a cheap japanese model, and much more if you have a American SUV. A car is very expensive compared to taking trains when you factor in depreciation and insurance

That's a false assumption. Some people buy used cars, which pretty much stop depreciating after a while. You may pay a bit more in maintenance, but you'll make up that just in the cheaper insurance rates.

I'll occasionally take the train, but it just doesn't go where I need to go most of the time. Ergo I need a car, and I need insurance, so the only savings are gas + wear and tear. It would be great if we lived in Europe where mass transit was functional, but in many parts of the USA it just isn't.

Re:The article doesn't seem to include depreciatio (4, Insightful)

Burdell (228580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868289)

That doesn't go on forever though. If you buy a $15,000 car, it can't depreciate $3000/year for more than 5 years (and it doesn't do that anyway). My first new car was a $20,000 Honda CR-V. After 10 years, I sold it for $6000; that's an average of only $1400 per year. If you buy a new car every year, you may see a hit of $3000/year, but you don't have to buy a new car every year either.

Re:The article doesn't seem to include depreciatio (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868419)

Don't be silly. Ever heard of a "used car"? If you're buying a new car, it's because you're choosing to pay a lot of extra money in depreciation in exchange for the luxury of owning a new car (for a short very time, until it becomes used, by you).

You can buy very nice used cars for a fraction of new-car prices; get a quality car (like most Japanese makes) and it'll easily last you 10-20 years.

Insurance? (3, Insightful)

saforrest (184929) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867987)

Is the discrepancy made up of tolls, repairs, the cost of buying a car and ignoring train station parking fees?

I think you're making one rather unjustified assumption: that anyone who takes the train will still own a car.

If you live sufficiently close to the train station or can bike/take public transit to it, you can validly ignore parking fees, car maintenance, and importantly insurance.

Walk (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27867991)

Walking 10 miles each way uphill both ways in the snow year-round is cheaper than gas, even after factoring in the costs of shoes.

I'm on salary, the incremental value of my time is $0.

I might walk on the 14th; it's "bike to work" day. (1)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868169)

I already bike to work just about all the time, so I need something different on "bike to work" day. Maybe if I can borrow a horse. Or I could rent the most fuel-inefficient SUV I can find...

Re:Walk (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868223)

I walk to work - my expenses run to $70 a year for a new pair of walking shoes.

Err, forgetting some things much? (3, Informative)

ScottyB (13347) | more than 5 years ago | (#27867999)

Owning a car costs far more than just your monthly loan payment. I had an old piece of junk which cost me just $1000 a year in insurance since I did not need comprehensive. My guess is that you're looking at least at $2000-3000 a year in insurance alone for a standard newish car (banks require comprehensive for anything they have a loan out for). Add to that a monthly payment for the car of say $300-400, which gives a total of $4000-5000 a year, and you're easily at the $12,600 estimate.

Re:Err, forgetting some things much? (4, Insightful)

Burdell (228580) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868389)

How bad is your driving record (or everybody else's where you live)? I have a 2 year old car that costs me under $700/year, and that is good coverage with State Farm (not some no-name insurance company that doesn't actually back up the claim).

Obama came (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868005)

But Boston didn't swallow.

People often ignore depreciation (3, Insightful)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868019)

It's mainly the cost of buying a car. The value of a car goes down the more you drive it. Drive it 200,000 miles and the car you might have bought new for $22K is now worth $2K. That's ten cents per mile. If you don't drive your car into the ground, and buy a new one after five years or so, then you probably lost value equivalent to 20 cents per mile. And then there's the cost of insurance. To get the big savings, you'd have to be able to do without a car, or if you're in a couple, share one car instead of having two.

100 miles to the nearest commuter train, (3, Interesting)

JesseL (107722) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868035)

Let's see; I've got a 4 mile round trip, on a motorcycle that gets 35MPG, with free parking, plus $75/year insurance and $12/year registration, say $200/year for maintenance... I'm looking at $350 per year in in commuting costs.

Re:100 miles to the nearest commuter train, (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868293)

20 km round trip by bicycle for me. Thats 12.5 miles according to my slipstick. Costs:
  • $80 for tyres every 5000km.
  • $60 for brake pads every 3000km
  • $40 for a new chain every 2000km
  • $40 for a new cluster every 4000km
  • $1500 up front cost for the vehicle. Expected life 20000km

Thats about 3000 bucks over the 20000km. I ride 4800km/year so the yearly cost is about 750 per year. Australian dollars, though an AU dollar is worth about the same to me as a US dollar to a resident of the US. I could believe 1000 dollars per year once stuff like clothing, batteries and lubricants are added to the calculation.

It can add up (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868045)

Vehicle Depreciation/Cost
Renting out my car spot

I did some calculations once and it certainly seemed like public transport would be cheaper than owning and running a car, even allowing for a reasonable number of taxi trips.

It would, however, be somewhat less convenient.

Re:It can add up (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868433)

I've done the same.. worked out the car is about 4 times the cost of just getting the train into work each day - but the train takes 2 hours vs. 20 minutes, and is a nightmare in winter.

There's more consideration than cost - it's a lifestyle choice to pay more for a better life.

Driving is much better... (3, Funny)

strangeattraction (1058568) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868053)

Muni cost $40 dollars per month pre-tax money. Car $9 per day parking + aggravation + gas + maintenance. Let me see. If I could only do math... Of course driving is better because I get to cut other drivers off, flip them the bird and bang on my steering wheel. What more could you want from life?

Insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868057)

Insurance will probably cost you at least 1.5-2k a year. And maintaining a car, including washes, new tires, changing the oil, etc., can easily add up to multiple thousands per year. And that's not even getting into repairs...

no fukken text (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868065)

420 ride transit every day

Doesn't pan out (5, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868077)

The problem with these sorts of studies is they lump in the fixed and variable costs for car ownership. The only way you get rid of the fixed costs (like insurance and registration) is to get rid of the car altogether, and there aren't too many areas in the US where that's a feasible option. Where I live public transportation to most of the places I go simply doesn't exist. I can take the train to work (though I'd have to ride my bike to the train station), but if I get called up for jury duty, say, without my car I'm taking a taxi for as long as the trial lasts.

So when I take public transportation I'm reducing variable costs - depreciation, gas, maintenance. But there's no way I can come out ahead this way, since I'm still paying insurance and registration on the car that's sitting at home.

Re:Doesn't pan out (1)

base3 (539820) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868165)

And even if you get rid of the car, if you don't want to get ass-raped into the assigned risk pool as someone who is currently uninsured if you decide you want one again, you'll at least need to keep a non-owner auto liability policy in force.

Did the submitter Read the Friendly Report? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868099)

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 savings assume a household gives up one car.

It's in the article (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868101)

If you simply look at the bottom of the page you will find that it assumes that a family had 2 cars and will give up one of them. Given that, the savings seem quite reasonable. It costs a lot to own a car once you take into account depreciation, interest, repairs, scheduled maintenance, registration, insurance, etc.

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 as recorded by AAA on May 5 at $2.079 per gallon. The analysis also assumes that a person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year. The savings assume a household gives up one car.

Re:It's in the article (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868277)

In our case, we don't purchase an unlimited pass; it's actually cheaper for us to pay per ride. But otherwise, the calculations are correct for us. We sold a car six years ago and have been a one-car family ever since. We're likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future... Possibly until our almost-five-year-old gets his license and we have THREE drivers in the house.

What about TIME? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868125)

If I were to commute using public transportation, I would add 45 to 60 min to each direction of the commute.

At my salary, ($41 per hour) this equates to a loss of over $20K per year.

I'll drive my car thank you very much!

Re:What about TIME? (3, Insightful)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868251)

You get paid for your car commute?

Granted, time not spent at work is valuable too, and I make choices that allow me to spend more time with my kids and stuff.... but your $41/hour equivalent may be exaggeration.

Finally, I can read, talk on the phone, etc. while I'm on the bus or walking. Can't do that in the car. The time I spend driving may be shorter, but that time is spent accumulating stress, not relaxing and regenerating.

Gothenburg, Sweden (4, Informative)

pipatron (966506) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868139)

I pay about 500 USD per year for free public transport 24/7 in my city. According to this Swedish checklist [] , the yearly cost for purchasing and owning a 10 year old tiny car would be about 3750 USD, thus, I save 3250 USD. If I would get a new car, the savings would be around 7100 USD.

(since I don't have or need a car, I will of course have to take the purchasing price into account.)

I think it's worth it. (3, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868141)

Taking the train instead of driving would allow me to save thousands of dollars in gas, car payments, tolls, parking frees, tickets, maintenance, and etc. Maybe not five figures, but still a lot of money. There are non-financial indirect benifits to taking the train too.

On the train, I feel safer knowing an accident probably won't happen and that if it does, it probably won't kill me. I also don't have the headache of police stops and tickets. Additionally, I get to spend the commuting time reading, coding, sleeping, etc. It's much less stressful and allows me to be more productive. I know that my carbon footprint is lower and I'm doing less to support despotic oil regimes. I get exercise walking between public transport stops. Unfortunately, I live too far out in the suburbs to make commuting by train to work in the city practical. It just takes too long (frankly driving takes too long as well). I can only take public transport on the weekends and for personal travel. I'm currently looking for work in the Chicago area, and will strongly considering moving to take advantage of the city's train system.

I live just outside Boston (3, Informative)

Enry (630) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868143)

and I have to commute in every day. Here's a breakdown, as I did each for two years apiece:

- Drive to local T stop: $5/day parking plus ~$60 for T pass, plus gas.

- Drive and park at work: $240/mo plus gas. I would drive about 15k/yr (work plus other driving)

- Drive 1 mi to bus stop: donation to local church to park in their lot (few hundred/yr), $64 for T/bus pass. In the 2.5 years I've been taking the bus, I've driven about 15,000 mi.

Now taking the bus takes a bit longer, but my employer is nice enough to allow me to work from home one day a week, and I often fall asleep or do work while on the bus, as opposed to getting peeved at the traffic around me.

YMMV. As for me, I'll keep taking the bus.

Left out some numbers... (1)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868153)

What about the time wasted in traffic? That time definitely has value.

On a train, I could enjoy a nice book or simply rest, versus estimating how high my blood pressure is rising.

In Houston, it's not unusual to have multiple people in a company drive 40+ miles one-way from their homes. After gas prices spiked (and even now), people are clamoring for more public transit, and it's slow in coming.

The one example we have is a light rail system covering only a few miles in central Houston. Ridership is beyond the original estimates, and people are certainly finding it cheaper to drive part way and switch to public transit. It's ridiculously cheaper to do so than attempt to pay hundreds of dollars in additional gas and parking fees in already crowded Downtown or in the Medical Center. Beyond that, paid parking is not always guaranteed and finding a spot can be impossible at the wrong times of day.

Add to that the fact that our highways are congested enough that a single accident (or several accidents spread across town) can result in major delays, and you get the simple fact that a guaranteed train line saves the economy money in the grand scheme of things.

This isn't true just in Houston. Dallas would shut down if their light rail were to suddenly stop. They no longer have the highway capacity to handle the additional commuters. And when gas prices spiked last summer, their system was at its limit during rush hour. It's certainly cheaper for them to pay for the fares than for parking fees downtown, even with relatively low gas prices.

NJ to Manhattan data point (2, Informative)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868155)

I take a bus to and from work. It costs $12.80 per day. The car alternative is a 35 mile drive, $10 to park and $3 in PATH train. So save whatever 70 miles in a car costs. Call that 3 gallons of gas = $6. Times 250 days a year = $1500. 17k miles on a car = ?$2000?
I don't pay for parking at the bus stop.

Re:NJ to Manhattan data point (1)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868193)

By the way, the "parking" I mention is parking in NJ and taking the train across. Don't reply with "please tell me where to park in manhattan for $10 a day".

EU (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868161)

Here in EU we don't have cars, we only use public transport.

Motorcycles... (2, Interesting)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868175)

Not for everyone, but my honda gets 35 + mpg.
I put in 20 bucks a month of gas into it, and about 20 into the car, for taking the kids to school, and stormy days.
Rideable 65-80% of the year in midwest. (Depending on your tolerance for cold.)
My "commute" is only about 7 miles each way.

In Chicago...but other places... (2, Informative)

Suisho (1423259) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868199)

I think it truly depends on where you live- and the biggest thing is time. Currently I'm jobless in Chicago- train and busses really do cut gas costs. This city is metered like NUTS and residential zones have resident only parking zones designated by a specific city sticker.

Downtown is more nuts. Two hour Parking is 3.00- all day can run between 7-20 depending on the place. So- working in downtown, it would save TONS of money.

When I lived in LA - I litterally paid $600 for 8 months of parking. It averages to about 9 dollars a day. Even if you were a patient in the hospital, if you had a car there- it was 9 dollars a day. Ouch. Public transit was the way to go.

But- when I lived in Baton Rouge Louisiana the public transportation was nil. It took hours to get anywhere, and it didn't necessarily travel through the whole city. So- you really HAD to have a car... public transportation was very inconsistent, and it took forever. Just time lost I think makes up for the expenses of a car. Parking was basically free everywhere except a few places. But, there was always some backlot to park in. A 20 minute car ride turning into a 2 hour bus trip that may or may not be on time... its risky at best.

Overall, its really the location. Big metro areas with well established transportation, it can be a wonderful thing. It does save money. But other places, it ends up being way much of a hassle, and time consuming and may not go to the locations that someone needs.

Tax numbers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868201)

IRS is giving 55 cents/mile, so one has to assume that's a generic "operating cost" of a car (gas, depreciation, maintenance).

0.55 * 15000 + 460 * 12 = $13770

So, close enough for government work.

YMMV, of course.

We're a one-car family in Los Angeles (1)

Ironica (124657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868217)

My husband recently ran the numbers on buying a second car. We sold my car in 2003, because we frankly weren't using it. We haven't had an absolute *need* for one since then, though there are times it would be convenient. And at $1.25 each way for bus fare (passes would cost even more with our usage), transit isn't *cheap*.

Turns out, though, if we got an older car for $2,000, spent about $200/year on maintenance, with gas for commuting, it would take almost ten YEARS for us to be ahead on that (and such a car probably wouldn't last that long). Then I reminded him that our insurance went down $100/month when we sold my car. Granted, it was a "sports car," but we'd still pay another $25-50/month to add a car to our insurance.

Meanwhile, we get more exercise, which also lowers our health care costs in the long run. ;-)

We also (due to short commutes; we both work about 4 miles from our house) qualify for a low-mileage discount on our insurance. People who switch a car commute to a transit commute may find themselves also saving some on insurance even if they don't get rid of the car, just by lowering the mileage.

Not everyone has access to transit (3, Informative)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868227)

Don't forget about those of us in rural areas. I carpool with a friend as often as I can, but I live 30 miles from my workplace. No one is going to be running a train from a city of 250 to a city of 10,000, so personal transportation is the only option.

What about time to pay for the car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868253)

From records of my total car expenses per year, I get 7.5 MPH out of my car including work time at takehome of $56/hour to pay for it. A bicycle is faster.

Incomplete calculations (2, Insightful)

diagonti (456119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868263)

This study is comparing apples and oranges.

The study assumes you are getting rid of your car to use public transit. There are so many things that are not public transit accessible that still require a car that they are not putting any replacement cost in for.

In Boston, a rental car for a weekend with insurance is ~$300. I use my car 3 weekends a month to travel outside of public transit range. Adding in the cost of getting a rental each weekend and suddenly 12.6k I'm saving is reduced by 7.8k (plus fuel costs and a lot of overhead dealing with rentals). The study is assuming depreciation of the car -- which likely means its assuming a purchase of new car. The cost conscious folks are either purchasing used cars or driving cars for far longer than a normal depreciation period.

And this doesn't even count the opportunity cost of travel time. I live in a near suburb (Arlington) and work in Cambridge. I can walk/bus to the T, and take the T to work. It takes about 1.25 hours each way. It takes me 20 minutes each way driving. I value the ~2 hours per day I save by driving pretty highly. Admittedly, if I have to drive during rush hours, my commute goes to 45-50 minutes each way and public transit becomes much more attractive.

Offset higher rent (1)

qdaku (729578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868285)

I live downtown in Vancouver, which is notorious for high prices (to own). Rent seems comparable to other major cities. No car. Decent transit system ($1200 / year for me, if work was a few blocks closer it would be $600, stupid 2 zone).

I figure the money I save by not having a car more than makes up for the amount I pay for increased rent (living downtown close to work) with the added benefit of living downtown in a major city. It's not a setup for life, but isn't a bad place to be in your twenties. Walking distance to great shops, restaurants, beach. Transit to local mountains / whistler is pretty cheap (easy to hitch a ride off of someone you know going as well).

It's actually cheaper for me to live in Vancouver, than to live in some other major cities in Canada due to placement of offices for my line work --I would need to own a car and the amount of money I save in rent is nothing compared to the price of a car + insurance + gas.

It all depends where you live though.

Cost of car use vs. cost of time (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868319)

It takes me about 15 minutes longer to ride my bike to work than to drive, and about 30 minutes longer home at night (because of geography and prevailing winds.)
It directly saves me $4/day in gas (at $2/gallon, 40 km each way) and probably saves another $1 or so in wear and other consumables.
I can't really factor in depreciation because I've already bought the car and it's not going to depreciate much more slowly with 80 km/day less wear on it.
So in the end it comes down to a time vs. money tradeoff. In my case I'd be doing about an hour and a half of bike riding a day *anyway*, so doing that (and then another half hour) using the same time I'd be sitting in my car comes across as a big win, but that's not true for most people.

it isn't just the numbers (3, Insightful)

ZipprHead (106133) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868335)

I live in San Francisco and walk/train/bus everyplace. (I do not have a bike) When needed I have access to car via a car sharing program. For 50$ a month I get a pass that gets me anyplace (within the city) with in a relatively timely manner. I have access to a car sharing program that regularly costs me 50$ a month or so on average. Throw in a rental car every two months for a weekend at 100$.

So it averages out to 150$ a month (gas included) to get me every place I want to go.

But really what gets me is the lifestyle benefits, I never have to worry about parking/oil changes/gas prices/insurance nor drinking and driving. I walk a lot and it keeps me looking good and in great shape. Not to mention walking is very relaxing vs driving, I read and listen to pod casts. So not only do I save a lot of money (vs a 500$ monthly car payment), I've greatly reduced my carbon impact, I have less stress in my life, and I'm in better physical shape. How can you put a price on that?

Yes, everyone's situation is very different, I consider myself very fortunate, but then again I brought about my current situation by actively choosing to create this lifestyle.

I value time (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868345)

It takes me 12 minutes to drive to work. It takes 10 minutes to walk to the bus stop and 30-45 minutes (damn cripples getting on and off) for the bus to get me to work.

Just far enough that I need a car (1)

TheTrooper (85356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868347)

I've been giving public transportation a shot - but I do think it is more expensive than driving. I drive a '99 Honda Civic that gets great gas mileage, has ~ 125k miles on it, and is my 'go to' car for city driving. I drive to the Commuter Rail (about 4 miles - walking is possible, but I'd be a sweaty mess ), pay $4/day to park, then about $4.25 one way on the trip itself... Driving is about ... $40 a month, but that obviously doesn't include insurance, wear and tear, etc. I'm still giving the commuter rail a shot - but the convenience of driving does win occasionally.

Sorry, public transportation.. (2, Interesting)

technos (73414) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868351)

Now here's the problem in the calculation. Car round trip in heavy traffic is about an hour, and depending on the day the bus can take anywhere from 2:30 to 3:15 to cover the same 40 miles.

That's 390-585 hours per year to save $320.

Until the prevailing wage falls to 50 cents an hour, no thanks.

Ran the calculation for my wife as well. If she were able to take a bus instead of driving, she'd waste only 195 hours per year, but public transportation would save her -$18.

External costs of cars as primary transit (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868357)

In addition to the immediate and obvious costs to the individuals who own and drive cars to work, one ought to factor in the price subsequent generations will be forced to pay in harm to the environment (carbon emissions, disposal of metals and plastics, oil and fluids, toxic paints)? Let us not also forget the harm to downtown city cores which are butchered of walking-distance services for the sake of downtown automotive access, the cost to the healthcare system and insurance providers who pay billions of dollars every year to accident victims (and the lost productivity of those victims who are unable to contribute to society by way of employment for the remainder of their life), and the billion of dollars taxpayers dole out every year for roads and bridges that are forced to handle millions of daily commuters.

Food for thought.

'fros7 pist!? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27868363)

free-loving climate - Netcraft ha5 the8e are some

Need to factor in time, but savings are possible (1)

Vaystrem (761) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868365)

I'm fortunate in that there is quite good public transport in my city, Edmonton Alberta Canada.
I live a mere 10 minute bus ride from work so I find it very convenient and Bus Passes run me ~$870 a year, which are also tax deductable.
Assuming a fully paid off car operating it would be $2-5,000 a year in insurance (depending on car/premiums etc.), add gas, regular maintenane, winter tires (its Canada afterall), and any potential repairs and the estimates don't seem unreasonable.

The real issue is that for many people public transit is not convenient or worth their time.
For me, 10 mins to work and I can basically get to anywhere I need to in the city in short order.
This has a lot to do with me carefully planning where I moved so everything is either within walking distance or one bus ride.
This only works because I am able to live in close proximity to almost everything I need.
Many other people simply do not have that that degree of flexibility.

If someone is in the situation where public transportation is significantly more time consuming than driving, or some other mode of transportation, I would completely understand why they would opt out.
I value my time highly and if my bus ride was longer than say 30 minutes each way and a drive was only 5-10 minutes, its possible I would be driving instead.

$400+ a month to park ...? Where? Why? (1)

joe_n_bloe (244407) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868387)

In the San Francisco Bay area, which is not exactly a low cost of living area, a monthly Caltrain parking permit costs $20. This is assuming you use a car to commute to your train, which the majority of commuters do not.

It costs $.30-.50 per mile to drive a car. Really, who thinks that you can own and operate a car for 4 years, in whatever condition, and spend less than $12,000? You have to buy the car, you have to pay for repairs, you have to pay for gas, you have to pay to register it, you have to pay for insurance ....

The train is a great deal, in my case. (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868391)

It's 27 miles from my home to my office.

I own an inexpensive, relatively new car which gets about 35 MPG -- which would be just about 1.5 gallons per day -- $3 at $2/gal, $6 at $4/gal (which is where gas was when I started riding the train). Parking near the office starts at about $8/day.
Insurance is $200/mo (about $9 per business day). My car payment is $300/mo ($13.80 per business day). That puts parking+gas at $10-$14 per day, and cost of ownership at over $23 per business day.

A monthly pass for the train costs $112.75, which works out to $5.20 per business day. When I catch an express, it's just as fast as driving in good traffic (30 min); if I catch the local, it's just about as bad as a the drive during rush hour (60 min).

As long as I keep the car, taking the train is still half the price of driving (a savings of $1,200/year). If I sell the car (negating my insurance and car payments), I'd save $7,200/year.

Divide by 0 (1)

googlesmith123 (1546733) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868407)

They probably divided by 0 somewhere up the line.

My week: Save $38/week by using the train. (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868417)

At the worst: Go up on Monday, stay @ office, back on tuesday .. repeat Thurs/Fri Distance: ~ 2h by car roughly same by train - about ~300 miles Train: 2 round trip tickets $16-$21 so: 10 gallons of gas @2.50 = 25.00 / week parking: $30-ish oil changes: $20 after 5 weeks (3000 miles). $4/week Train: max $21/week Car: min $59/week if gas doesn't go up traffic jams also increase expense, as do traffic tickets. so allow an extra $5 for traffic variability and you're at $64/week for a car that you have to worry about getting stolen or broken into. $38/week * 50 weeks = save about $1900.00 plus I get amtrack rewards points I can use on tickets. (I could go 3 weeks for nothing right now)

Re:My week: Save $38/week by using the train. (1)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868439)

geez - 300 miles one TRIP - so 600 miles a week, gas is actually twice that.... which puts me into the $50-60 saved. arg, MATHs - teh hard!

I live in NYC and commute to the burbs (1)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868423)

to teach. There is a train. I wish I could save money by taking it. I come close.

My car gets 20 mpg (28-30 on the highway, but not in NYC traffic). I have to pay several hundred per academic year for parking (which you'd better buy if you want to actually get to class on time, rather than looking for parking in neighborhoods for half an hour and then walking half a mile). I also have to pay bridge tolls each way, which even with EZPass comes to a lot after I do this every day of the week. The drive is about 25 miles each way. Plus of course there's oil and gas and the fact that my car is 26 years old with nearly 300k miles on it (Volvo) and could give out at any time, so I have to keep an AAA membership (because you don't want to be without AAA's help in NYC if you think you might break down anywhere).

After adding it all up, it came to slightly cheaper than taking the train... Only the train would take an extra two hours a day longer, which I just don't have.

So I drive.

But if the train were to come out cheaper at some point, or if they could reduce the extra time involved, I'd switch in a heartbeat.

Driving into San Francisco costs (1)

AIXadmin (10544) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868425)

My commute by car is 37.9 miles each way to my job in San Francisco. According to Google Maps, it costs me $22.18 to drive into San Francisco each way, not counting the Bay Bridge toll at 4.00, plus parking at 10-20 dollars a day.

This adds up $68.36 round trip to drive to my job in San Francisco per day.

BART takes 20 minutes longer and costs me 10 dollars per round trip. Which one do you think I take?

Guys, we're geeks! (2, Insightful)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 5 years ago | (#27868443)

Last time I looked, what it cost me to ride the Internet to work was £12 per month. That's way cheaper than taking the car... All right, I confess I actually go into work one week in every two. But that still costs a heck of a lot less than commuting every day, and gives me a heck of a lot more time, too.

Oh - and when you do have to go into work, push-bikes come cheaper than cars (and in urban areas are usually faster).

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