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Published on January 15th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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Individuals Save $9,242 Annually Riding Transit (List of Top 20 Cities)

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January 15th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
 

Mass transit is often associated with limitations. People have to plan when they leave based on when their bus, streetcar, light-rail, or commuter rail line leaves. They don’t have the ‘pleasure’ of circling around a parking lot trying to find the spot closest to the front door. They can’t easily stop off at McDonald’s for a healthy bite to eat. And so on.

Well, those things may provide a little bit of limitation, but there are other factors that can give you more freedom as well.

For example, the average transit rider in the US now saves $9,242 a year by riding transit (approximately $770 a month). I could think of at least a few things to do with $9,242! Things I couldn’t do without it.

In New York, you can actually save about $1,147 a month or $13,765 a year. The top 20 US cities in average savings are listed below.

But there are more benefits to riding transit, too.

Other Savings — Real Time and Travel Time

Time costs are often discussed in economics, but they are something people often forget about or miscalculate in real life. You may think that riding in transit wastes your time because it takes longer. This may be true (depends on your situation), but something to remember is that a lot of people (perhaps you) could use that time to work, read, catch up on emails, or do something else useful while you are sitting in transit. When you are driving, doing something like that is much more difficult or possibly dangerous.

Perhaps this is one reason why the US dumped 4 million cars last year.

Aside from these hidden time costs, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) actually found that public transit does save people in travel time as well — it saved Americans approximately 650 million hours in travel time in 2007. Remember, it takes a lot less space to move a bus full of people (or even half-full) than the same number of people driving alone in cars. There’s another reason to love transit, whether you ride it or not!

If we want to reduce our dependence on oil from unsafe and anti-American foreign countries or if we want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, getting in transit is one easy step. From that same report by TTI, public transit saved 398 million gallons of fuel in 2007.

Top 20 Cities — Transit Savings Report

As the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports, the best savings based on data* as recent as this week are in these cities (monthly savings first, then annual savings):

1 New York: $1,147, $13,765

2 Boston: $1,030, $12,362

3 San Francisco: $1,013, $12,156

4 Chicago: $946, $11,357

5 Seattle: $932, $11,185

6 Philadelphia: $927, $11,121

7 Honolulu: $887, $10,639

8 Los Angeles: $838, $10,052

9 San Diego: $824, $9,894

10 Minneapolis: $824, $9,884

11 Cleveland: $803, $9,639

12 Portland: $798, $9,581

13 Denver: $795, $9,539

14 Baltimore: $782, $9,383

15 Miami: $752, $9,022

16 Washington, DC: $751, $9,015

17 Dallas: $730, $8,756

18 Atlanta: $722, $8,658

19 Las Vegas: $716, $8,591

20 Pittsburgh: $680, $8,162

*Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on 1/11/10.

Related Stories:

  1. Transit Use Boom, but in Some Surprising Cities
  2. Transportation in 2010
  3. Thank Public Transit for Your Quick(er) Trip Home: Public Transit Saves Us Hundreds of Millions of Hours a Year
  4. North Carolina and Virginia Ask for $5 Billion for High-Speed Rail (but Not the Only Ones)

Image Credit 1: Thomas Hawk via flickr under a CC license
Image Credit 2: moriza via flickr under a CC license
Image Credit 3: Jason Michael via flickr under a CC license

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Sam Morris

    The thing is, the more people you get to take mass transit, the fewer ‘limitations’ apply, and that doesn’t just apply to service frequencies, etc.

    Take the inability to stop for a burger on the way home cited in the article. I live in London; commuting on public transport (the London Underground) I could go to half a dozen places to get a burger on the way home, including at least two branches of MacDonalds. MacDonalds didn’t build these outlets conveniently for public transport users because they were told to; they built them deliberately at those locations because in a city reliant on public transport like London that’s where the market is.

    There’s no reason why that couldn’t occur in other cities, but it does need to be kick-started – London did it largely by accident of history, not through any great anti-car movement.

  • Sam Morris

    The thing is, the more people you get to take mass transit, the fewer ‘limitations’ apply, and that doesn’t just apply to service frequencies, etc.

    Take the inability to stop for a burger on the way home cited in the article. I live in London; commuting on public transport (the London Underground) I could go to half a dozen places to get a burger on the way home, including at least two branches of MacDonalds. MacDonalds didn’t build these outlets conveniently for public transport users because they were told to; they built them deliberately at those locations because in a city reliant on public transport like London that’s where the market is.

    There’s no reason why that couldn’t occur in other cities, but it does need to be kick-started – London did it largely by accident of history, not through any great anti-car movement.

  • Zachary Shahan

    yes, it looks like they do — “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.”

  • krissy

    But did the study take into account the $80+ monthly metrocard in NY?

  • krissy

    But did the study take into account the $80+ monthly metrocard in NY?

  • Zachary Shahan

    link is in the article now, too

  • Zachary Shahan

    sorry, the link was supposed to be in there: http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2010/Pages/100112_Transit_Savings.aspx

    and here is the summary of their methodology (& looks like you can calculate your own individual savings on their site!):

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

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

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

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

  • Frank Hanlan

    I would really like to see how they calculated these costs just so I could better understand the methodology and relate it to my city.

    Imagine how much it would cost us in terms of roadways, interchanges, bridges, etc. if these people didn’t take public transportation.

  • Frank Hanlan

    I would really like to see how they calculated these costs just so I could better understand the methodology and relate it to my city.

    Imagine how much it would cost us in terms of roadways, interchanges, bridges, etc. if these people didn’t take public transportation.

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