Cars Metro in DC average savings from riding transit instead of driving

Published on June 23rd, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Save $9,330 a Year by Riding Transit

June 23rd, 2010 by  

Metro in DC average savings from riding transit instead of driving

Back in January, I wrote that the average transit rider in the US saved about $9,242 a year (or approximately $770 a month) by riding transit instead of driving. The figures have been updated and the savings have increased.

The average transit rider in the US now saves $9,330 a year riding transit.

Of course, savings are based on a lot of factors, and you could save more or less than the average. One such factor, as the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) clearly shows, is the city you live in and the costs of driving there. Below are, according to APTA, the 20 cities where you save the most by riding transit instead of driving.

It is also important to point out that these numbers are not for a person who gives up their car. Rather, the savings are only based on the costs of using, maintaining and insuring a car (plus the cost of riding transit). You can make more money if you sell your car altogether.

If you want to calculate your own savings, visit Otherwise, here are the average savings from riding transit instead of driving for 20 major cities in the US.

Top Twenty Cities – Transit Savings Report

Rank City Monthly Savings Annual Savings
1 New York $1,159 $13,906
2 Boston $1,040 $12,481
3 San Francisco $1,026 $12,309
4 Chicago $955 $11,463
5 Seattle $946 $11,346
6 Philadelphia $934 $11,203
7 Honolulu $902 $10,824
8 Los Angeles $847 $10,163
9 San Diego $834 $10,009
10 Minneapolis $828 $9,938
11 Portland $811 $9,736
12 Denver $811 $9,727
13 Cleveland $808 $9,701
14 Baltimore $789 $9,465
15 Washington, DC $759 $9,107
16 Miami $756 $9,067
17 Dallas $736 $8,834
18 Las Vegas $726 $8,712
19 Atlanta $725 $8,694
20 Pittsburgh $685 $8,218

*Based on gasoline prices as reported by AAA on 6/16/10.

The methodology APTA used to come up with these numbers is as follows:

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 2010 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 June 16 at $2.70 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.

There are numerous environmental benefits to riding transit as well. “Taking transit… is something we all can do in response to the BP oil disaster,” says Ann Mesnikoff, the Sierra Club’s Green Transportation Campaign Director. “Public transportation is key to ending our dependence on oil and reducing our global warming pollution.”

Image Credit: Dsade via flickr/CC license

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is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • MD

    Sure that works if you live in big city… there is no transit for most of us outside big cities, and quite frankly I do not want to live in a big city. To me, living in a big city is akin to stuffing a pile of rats into a cardboard box… no thanks.

  • Steve from Boulder CO

    I certainly appreciate the benefits of transit, but this method of comparison is way too simplistic.

    Just to start with, most transit systems are heavily subsidized by general taxes. For example, in the Denver Metro area, revenues other than farebox and passes account for about 80% of transit revenues.

    On the other side, much of road costs are tax subsidized, and clearly our oil habit is subsidized by military spending, tax breaks, etc.

    And there is the environmental issue — in our particular area, other than Boulder-Denver regional buses, the average passenger miles per gallon is in the low 20’s — about what single occupant car mileage is.

    So the analysis needs a LOT more work to be useful. Perhaps the one clear benefit is that there is usually unused capacity, so that areas with transit can slightly more cheaply absorb population growth. But of course, that brings its own set of costs that are typically passed on to the general taxpayer as explicit or implicit subsidies — stretched water supplies, traffic congestion, overused social services, inadequate parks, etc.

    • Well, Steve, no doubt there are several broader costs that should be taken into account if you want to evaluate the savings that would occur if many people made the switch. But that wasn’t really the point of this article. The point here is, for once, not to look at the macro but to look at the micro. If an INDIVIDUAL decides, all by themself, to switch from driving to riding transit, THEY will will probably save thousands of dollars.

      Of course, if a lot of people switch, over time the distribution of tax money (for roads, transit, wars, oil spill clean-ups, etc) will be different and then health and environmental externalities of our transportation choices will be different.

      But, in the short term, the point is that you can start saving considerable money for yourself TODAY by riding transit (“you” being the average person).

  • Maguire

    It is very disturbing to think of how much I actually spend a month on transportation since I no longer live in NYC. It really makes me angry sometimes, on those days when you really just don’t want to drive, but would rather zone out and read a book or listen to music and people watch, like I used to on the subway.

    Those are some pretty remarkable savings for riding public transportation. I really never thought that they were that significant.

    I would like to recommend an interview series on Alternative Energies and encourage you to leave feed back or to write in.

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