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