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Transportation The Almighty Buck News

Your Commuting Costs By Car Vs. Train? 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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Your Commuting Costs By Car Vs. Train?

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  • depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsalmark ( 1265778 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:56PM (#27867909) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chabo ( 880571 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:59PM (#27867971) Homepage Journal

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Zondar ( 32904 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#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.

        • Re:depends (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:26PM (#27868493)

          No shit.

          I could "use public transportation." I'd still drive 5 miles roundtrip to the station every day. And of course, the station is only available 6:30am-8am and return trip 4pm-7pm. So if I need to stay late at work I need my car. If I need to go help a friend after work, or pick up kids, I need my car. If I want to go somewhere after work, or during lunch hour, I need my car.

          In other words, if all I did was ever go to work exactly on time, and come back to home exactly on time, I could do it. But my life isn't predictable like that. Imagine you're a normal family now, mom, dad, 2.5 kids, possibly older parents to take care of. On any given day something could happen and you need a car to go help someone out.

          If public transportation were ubiquitous, hey, no problem. But it's not. Municipalities run it "as a business" rather than admitting it's a service, a public utility, and admitting that hey, we need to put in enough tax money to make it cover enough areas. It may mean some nights, an empty bus is going up and down the street, but the alternative is people NOT riding in the morning because they're afraid of not being able to get a bus in the evening.

          • Re:depends (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:29PM (#27868557)

            Almost forgot to add:

            - it takes me 25 minutes to reach work in the car.
            - it would take 1:30 to get there via public transportation.

            • Re:depends (Score:5, Insightful)

              by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:18PM (#27869475)

              Just because public transit takes longer doesn't mean it's automatically a waste of time. I used to work a job where my choice was a 40 minute drive (in bad traffic, it could double, but that was fairly uncommon) or a 120 minute bus/subway commute (never varied by more than 10 minutes). While public transit took longer, I never considered those 120 minutes to be wasted. I read a novel a day for months.

              I view it as wasting 80 minutes a day doing nothing but driving, vs. using every second "productively".

              • Re:depends (Score:4, Interesting)

                by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:18AM (#27874933) Journal

                >>>While public transit took longer, I never considered those 120 minutes to be wasted. I read a novel a day for months.

                You can "read" novels while driving too, or college lectures, or just the radio. I've done this for years, first on cassette and now on my cheap MP3 player, and therefore the 40 minute car drive is still the better choice (IMHO) than the 2 hour metro.


                If I got rid of my gas-guzzling car, and traded it in for a 70mpg Honda Insight, or the new 240mpg 2-seater from Volkswagen, those options would be a lot cheaper than public transport. And more flexible (leave home when you want; come home when you want; do errands on the side like grocery shopping).

            • Re:depends (Score:5, Interesting)

              by nutrock69 ( 446385 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:59PM (#27870131)

              It all depends on where you are and what your commute is like.

              I live near Philadelphia - near being described as "between Philly and Lancaster/Harrisburg". Went job hunting this winter (not by choice) and landed a good job in downtown Philly. I drove to work my first three days. I've taken the train ever since.

              Why? Because I did my math. 50-some miles each way is a typical "local" commute for people in my area. Nobody thinks twice about it. 100+ miles a day, plus traffic, had me filling my tank after 2.5 days, or twice a week, to the tune of about $50/week - or $10/day - just for the gas. 21.5 working days average a month makes the gas to $215/month. Best price I could find for reliable parking is also $10/day, so my total per month given that my car is paid for is roughly $430/month.

              That doesn't count wear and tear on my car, wear and tear on my sanity or blood pressure. Nor does it count the fact that the average drive time was 2 hours each way, and (as someone else also mentioned) those 2 hours were spent doing nothing BUT driving and screaming obscenities at the other cars.

              SEPTA's costs? $181 for the monthly anytime pass, a buck a day to park, and a single tank of gas = ~$227.50/month. The trip is less than an hour each way, and I've been catching up on old tv shows, reading books, and playing games on an ipod. Certainly less wasted than driving, and my sanity has never been better - if it could've been called that in the first place, that is... :)

              Other people might not be so clear cut, so maybe it's not for them, but for me this was a no-brainer. Aside from the occasional delay once in a while, there's no reason for me to think otherwise.

          • Re:depends (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mrbene ( 1380531 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:59PM (#27869155)

            Location, location, location.

            I've not owned a commuter car for the last 10 years. In that time I've biked, walked, and taken public transit to work, depending on the city, job, and distance. Currently, my commute is by bus, which runs at 15 minute intervals at peak and at 30 minute intervals off peak.

            Throughout this time I've selected my residence based on public transit and other service availability. It just becomes another attribute to house/apartment selection. "Must have garage" becomes "Must have grocery store within 5 blocks".

            Yes, if you choose to live away from public transit, there'll still be a cost of car ownership to get to the station. But if you choose to live close to the transit (just like a car owner generally chooses to live near roads), this is not so much an issue.

            I think that the mindset of "transportation services must come to me" needs to be updated on a societal level. However, until the rest of you catch up, I'll be taking advantage of my lower monetary cost, lower stress lifestyle.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nine-times ( 778537 )

            Municipalities run it "as a business" rather than admitting it's a service, a public utility, and admitting that hey, we need to put in enough tax money to make it cover enough areas.

            Of course, the problem there is that there's a horrible political stigma attached to public transportation. Anything "public" has for decades been considered "communist" and therefore "evil". We can't, as a people, pool our resources or share anything because "sharing" is for hippies. However, once you say, "we're pooling our resources in order to run a cut-throat business that will profit through amoral methods," well... that's ok then. Just make sure no morals creep in there.

            I mean, I hate commies an

        • Re:depends (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bandman ( 86149 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `namdnab'> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:37PM (#27868715) Homepage

          The real problem is population density.

          Places (NYC is the poster child) that have a high population density get effective mass transit, meaning subways or good light rail service. Other places get ineffective light rail and/or buses.

          In a highly populated area, a single stop can serve thousands of people, where as most places in America measure thousands of people per square mile. It just doesn't work out for mass transit in places like that. What service is available is universally slow and underfunded, usually with heavy subsidization by the local government.

          You can thank the suburbs and the 1940/50s dream of everyone owning their own home. The "American Dream", a 60 year old invention that caused the massive economic build up of Detroit and the eventual collapse. It also helped out the environment a lot. Nevermind, I'm digressing.

          It's the population density.

          • Re:depends (Score:4, Insightful)

            by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:33PM (#27869717)

            New York is tiny. I drive two miles to get groceries in my little piece of suburbia. That's like going from Union Square to Central Park in New York...which is the cosmic equivalent of Earth to Mars. On my two mile drive, if I cut through all the little side streets, I'll probably pass 1000 people. Between Union Square and Central park in a straight shot up 5th avenue...more like 200,000 people.

            The car gave us freedom. If you want efficiency move to the city.

    • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#27868135) Homepage

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lwsimon ( 724555 )

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by GameMaster ( 148118 )

        Which would be a disingenuous thing to add to such a cost estimate because the extra cars are, obviously, a luxury that the owner has decided to pay for above-and-beyond their commuting costs. An apples-to-apples comparison should assume only the cost of maintaining/operating one car vs. the cost of one person commuting by mass transit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        My car, her car, track car. Of course, the track car hasn't been bought, gets awful mileage (5), and gets driven 2000 miles each year. Oh, and I just got a 500cc motorcycle - 60mpg and good for commuting. Wonder how that compares to the bus.
    • Re:depends (Score:5, Interesting)

      by g-to-the-o-to-the-g ( 705721 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:11PM (#27868173) Homepage Journal
      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.
    • by AIXadmin ( 10544 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:25PM (#27868455) Homepage

      Google Maps will help you calculate the cost of public transit vs. driving. After you map out your commute. Just click on the public transit button. About half way down it will show you a public transit vs. driving comparison.

    • Re:depends (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:45PM (#27868879) Homepage Journal

      When I first moved to NYC from New Jersey about 5 years ago, my friends were freaking out about the fact that I was paying about 20% more in rent. Once I did the math, I was able to show that I was saving significantly more money by not having a car between gas, maintenance, tolls, parking, insurance, etc. I get an unlimited metrocard for the same cost that I was spending on gas every month (this is in 2004, so I was spending about $60-70/month).

      When I moved back to jerz, I opted to not get a car. I still worked in the city and would walk about a mile to the train station every day and take the train in... the monthly train pass was around $250, and I could avoid getting a metrocard since I could walk to work from the train station. Although the monthly cost of a car would probably be under $250, the up-front cost of the car just didn't make me want to get one.

      Now that I'm living in NY again, I just take the subway everywhere. I really wish there was better public transportation outside of major metropolitan areas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drsquare ( 530038 )

      That's all assuming you don't need a car to get to the train station in the first place. Then you have the cost of taxis to get to anywhere that isn't in your local public transport network.

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:56PM (#27867913) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by ctmzeus ( 232628 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:03PM (#27868051) Homepage

      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.

      • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:19PM (#27868327) Homepage
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dave562 ( 969951 )
      It depends on what part of SoCal you live in. I live in Long Beach and work in downtown LA. I drive my car to the train station and take the train into work. I basically skip the 710/5/101 commute. My boss used to live in Orange County (Santa Ana). He would pick up the Amtrak train at Anaheim Stadium and take it into Union Station. His commute was actually faster than if he drove. Mine is about 20 minutes longer than if I drove all the way. I could take the bus to the train station and completely sk
  • Some More Numbers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:56PM (#27867921) Journal
    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.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:19PM (#27868329) Homepage

      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?"

    • Most of the costs to drive are hidden. Gas is cheap, even at three bux/gallon. You have to consider:

      1) Purchase of the car! Or did you ever stop to think about the 400
      or more/month you pay? And even when you aren't paying this, you are probably paying more on:

      2) Cost of repairs. Tires, brakes, transmissions...

      3) Insurance and accidents. Neither are cheap, one partially covers the cost of the other.

      4) Police action. I'm a good driver, with zero serios accidents in 20 years of driving, and two fender benders.

  • What about time? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Swizec ( 978239 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:58PM (#27867941) Homepage
    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

      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)?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Swizec ( 978239 )

        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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Toonol ( 1057698 )
      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, an
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sun.Jedi ( 1280674 )

      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

  • by joebok ( 457904 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @05:59PM (#27867975) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by cshay ( 79326 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:00PM (#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.
    • by triffid_98 ( 899609 ) * on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:13PM (#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.

    • by Burdell ( 228580 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:16PM (#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.

  • Insurance? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by saforrest ( 184929 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:00PM (#27867987) Journal

    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.

  • by ScottyB ( 13347 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:01PM (#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.

  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:01PM (#27868019) Homepage
    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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bennomatic ( 691188 )
      Like I said above [], I'm not sure I buy into the depreciation logic. I bought my car in 1997, paid it off by mid-2000, and I plan to drive it until it stops. Should I be doing some sort of GAAP accounting that indicates that I am getting some sort of unusual profit from my vehicle? To me, it's worth exactly what it was worth when I first bought it, because I'm not planning to sell the darn thing, and it still gets me exactly where I want to go.

      Depreciation is only an issue if you've gotta always have a
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:02PM (#27868035) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by strangeattraction ( 1058568 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:03PM (#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?
  • Doesn't pan out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:05PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cmowire ( 254489 )

      Well, I know that this is not something a good chunk of the slashdot crowd would have experience with, but a lot of people are living together or married.

      One car per family starts to become practical.

    • by thoglette ( 74419 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:29PM (#27869659)

      Where I live public transportation to most of the places I go simply doesn't exist.

      And there in lies the problem. Somehow, we are entitled to 6 lane freeways and highways but urban, suburburban and interstate rail is, wooo, scary socialist stuff that "loses money". Do that for six decades and you get a serious problem. Like Dallas

  • What about TIME? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:07PM (#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!

    • by Ironica ( 124657 ) <(gro.kcodnoob) (ta) (lexip)> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:14PM (#27868251) Journal

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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.

        Don't know what bus you have been on, but on all the ones I have been on, its been anything but relaxing or regenerating. You sit down next to some person who smells, listen to half a dozen phone conversations, see someone who you just know has every type of communal sickness imaginable, etc.

        On the other hand, in my car I can mostly control the noise level, can choose my route to route around traffic or construction areas, and I don't have to be near annoying people.

        Then again, I've only rode the

  • Gothenburg, Sweden (Score:5, Informative)

    by pipatron ( 966506 ) <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#27868139) Homepage

    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.)

  • by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#27868141) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#27868143) Journal

    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.

  • by LotsOfPhil ( 982823 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:09PM (#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.
  • Motorcycles... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tibor the Hun ( 143056 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:11PM (#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.

  • by lwsimon ( 724555 ) <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:13PM (#27868227) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by iroll ( 717924 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:09PM (#27869323) Homepage

      Exactly! I'm a bush pilot in Alaska, and I think this article is just silly! Sure, ON PAPER public transit in NYC may seem to be cheaper than my float-equipped Cessna, but they're making all sorts of false assumptions! For example, I do my own maintenance--where's THAT in their spreadsheet?


  • by ZipprHead ( 106133 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:19PM (#27868335) Homepage

    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.

  • by technos ( 73414 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:20PM (#27868351) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • Guys, we're geeks! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Simon Brooke ( 45012 ) <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:24PM (#27868443) Homepage Journal

    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).

  • Why go at all? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by exi1ed0ne ( 647852 ) * <> on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:28PM (#27868515) Homepage

    With the technology we have today, there is zero reason to move your biomass to another place unless you have to actually touch something. The whole concept of "going to work" is silly, and a hold over from a bygone era. People seriously need to get behind teleworking with enthusiasm. Can't get much greener/cheaper than that!

  • by liquidsunshine ( 1312821 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:28PM (#27868525) Homepage
    As a college student in Tampa, I've found that bicycling is the best way to go. It's faster (I zoom by stopped cars on the roads during rush hour), it's cheaper (no gas, insurance, very low up-front cost), it's cleaner (the only greenhouse gases are my own breathing), and it's healthier (instead of gaining the "freshman 15," I gained the "freshman -50"). It wouldn't be ideal if you have to commute more than 20 miles, but for anything less than that, especially in town, it's perfect.
  • by squarooticus ( 5092 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:38PM (#27868739) Homepage

    And it didn't work for me. Here's the comparison:

    35 minutes door to door
    $200/mo for parking + $100/mo for gas @ $2.50/gallon = $300/mo
    Have car at my disposal for errands or to go to hockey after work
    Can leave whenever I'm done, and have freedom to stay after work with friends

    Commuter rail:
    1:05 door to door
    $80/mo for parking at the commuter rail station (2 miles away) + $150/mo for the commuter rail pass = $230/mo
    No car after work, which means I have to go home first to do things, wasting even more time
    Have to leave at particular times: if I miss the 7:30 train, for instance, it's 90 minutes until the next one

    I need a car in either case because there's no zipcar anywhere near where I live and I need a car to perform errands and to cart myself to/from hockey. So I'm not factoring the cost of the car itself into either, though there is an additional penalty on driving for added wear and tear on the car.

    So commuter rail is slightly less expensive in dollars per commute, but that doesn't come anywhere close to compensating me for the wasted time and lack of convenience.

    I'll drive, thank you.

  • True Cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:52PM (#27869027)

    Cost of fuel
    Cost of parking
    Cost of maintenance

    Cost of getting to station (and back)
    Cost of fare (round trip)
    Cost of rental/transport to destination (and back)
    Cost of wasted time
    Cost of being a damned loser without a car

    Trains are for freight and densely packed urban areas where traffic and parking is a huge issue.
    This is why you'll see such huge support by the neo-urbanites.

    If you want to add in:
    Cost of car
    Cost of registration
    Cost of insurance

    You need to also add in:
    Cost of not being able to get out in case of emergency
    Cost of having to hire movers anytime you buy a piece of furniture

  • by jg ( 16880 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @06:59PM (#27869165) Homepage

    I live about 22 miles outside of Cambridge, where I have often worked. So that is 44 miles/day@ $.5 per mile (U.S. government reimbursement). Your actual costs will vary; but the government rate isn't far from reality. Parking is about $20/day in Cambridge; sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the lot.

    $5500 - Mileage
    $5000 - Parking

    Round numbers for automobile commute: $10,500

    Note that there are hidden costs of road maintenance, etc.

    Additionally, it is my time; on the commuter rail, at least I get (at least) an hour of my time back.

    $2400/year - Commuter rail ticket (also covers unlimited subway use)
    $1500/year - Mileage to train station.

    Commuter rail commute is therefore about $3900, before any tax breaks (or lower auto insurance rate, due to less mileage and lower theft rates).

    Savings for me (excluding tax break and insurance break) was about $6-7K/year.

  • Comparison (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:15PM (#27869437) Journal

    White River Junction, VT to Stamford, CT:
    Amtrak: $59
    gas for car: $19

  • I live one mile... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:21PM (#27869527)
    from where I work. I have a car and a motorcycle. During bad weather I use the car (sporty car so still not great in snow despite being FWD) but when I can I use the motorcycle. I just recently moved here in February but I was only 10 minutes (7 miles) away before with the same job. I'd ride a bike to work if I could but I'd have to traverse a 2 lane US Route that converts to 4 lanes half way to work. It would be too dangerous and that is assuming I'd be allowed to have the bicycle on the road because there is no shoulder. If I lived in Florida instead of WV it would be easier to enjoy the motorcycle nearly all year round but alas that isn't possible in the nice winters here in WV. My 17.7 gallon tank in my car lasts about 3 weeks which includes about 40 miles of travel on weekends; more than 3 weeks if I use the motorcycle a lot to get to work. Because I still take trips I can't get rid of the car and the motorcycle is a toy (and paid off).
  • my Math, in Toronto (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:27PM (#27869639) Journal
    Me vs. wife. I insist on public, she insists on driving.

    Public: TTC, $2.75 each way. I can get a monthly pass for $105. Assume worst: $2.75 each way, 7 days a week.

    Car: 2002 Honda Civic, bought used, $10,000, to be paid over 5 years ($2120 yr) or $5.80 day.

    Car insurance: We're old, so we only pay about $500 year, about $1.36 a day.

    Car Maintenance averages $800 year (tires, brakes, etc. etc.) about $2.19 a day

    distance: 6 miles each way.

    Gas mileage on car: in city, 24 mpg.

    Gas price: $0.85 per liter, roughly = $3.25 gallon, so Cost in gas to drive downtown each day: ~$1.66

    Parking downtown = $8 day. (She has a good lot)

    So, per day: Car loan: $5.80
    Insurance: $1.36
    Maintain: $2.19
    Cost Gas: $1.66
    Parking: $8.00
    total per day: 19.01 per day.
    x 365 = $6938.65 total cost per year for commuting.

    total cost per year for TTC: 365 x (2 x 2.75)= $2007.50

    Difference? Almost $5000.


  • by GameMaster ( 148118 ) on Thursday May 07, 2009 @07:48PM (#27869981)

    The problem here isn't that these newspapers are fawning over this report. The problem is that the point of the report has been mangled by incompetent journalists. The original report is about replacing your car with public transportation, not just your work commute. That's why they end up using 15000 miles (which is absurdly high for an average commute but much more reasonable for a total year of family driving).

    I do find the parking rate high but, then again, my commute is the reverse (from the city into the suburbs) and my company has free parking. Even if it would be more reasonable to assume for a lower parking cost, $2.039 is absurdly low for gas (here in the Chicago area, things are up to around $2.50 from a previous low of about $2.19 at the cheapest gas stations).

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.