Friday, February 13, 2009

Public Transportation: On the Move to Save the Big Bucks

Std-Ex: Public transportation could leave Utah riders thousands of dollars richer

To kick off today's discussion, we'll direct our readers' attention to a most tantalizing Standard-Examiner front page story, which touts research-verified cost savings data in major metropolitan areas, for commuters who rely on public transit, Here's the lede:
LAYTON — As Top of Utah residents look for ways to get the most out of their budgets during tough economic times, public transportation may be a viable option. The average American can save $8,481 per year by taking public transportation instead of driving, according to a recent report from the American Public Transportation Association. The APTA calculated the average cost of taking public transit using the average price of monthly passes of local transit agencies across the country. The information is based on the annual APTA fare collection survey and is weighted based on ridership. Operating under the assumption that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase a monthly pass on the local transit agency, APTA’s report calculates the monthly savings for public-transit users at $707 per month. The APTA compared the average monthly transit fare to the 2008 American Automobile Association’s average-cost-of- driving formula. The formula is based on both variable and fixed costs, including gas prices, maintenance, tires, insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges. The report used a figure based on the Feb. 5 gas price of $1.90 as reported by AAA. Gas prices are up 22 cents from January, but are still $1.06 lower than last year.
Among other useful information provided in this morning's story is the web address of the American Public Transportation Association, which features a handy online Transit Savings Calculator, with which you can quickly calculate how much you might be able to save by taking public transportation instead of driving.

As we polish up business after another work-week, we thought it might be interesting if some of our readers were to run their own calculations, and then report back with their individual findings. We believe this could provide fodder for some interesting reader discussion over the weekend; so we accordingly invite our readers to take the online calculator for a test drive, and let us know how it all shakes out. Why not? Heavens knows that we spend plenty of time on this blog pursuing matters that are far more trivial. What's more important than saving the big bucks, after all?

Who will be the first to comment?


Unknown said...

I noticed the article did not mention TAXPAYER costs in their comparison.

RudiZink said...

Good point, The. It's difficult to determine any individual's true bottom line without factoring in the taxpayer's costs in the public infrastructure (roads, buses, rails, etc.

Still, that really isn't really the point here, is it. The object is to merely compare the costs of public transit and driving, for the individual who commutes, in the already existing tax environment.

Anonymous said...

SL Trib had an interesting piece on this topic a couple of days ago. They assigned a reporter to live for an entire week without using his car, public transit only. Every case is different, of course, but the results were interesting. He discovered it was (a)one big hassle (b) took much more time than driving (c) was more of a problem for after work activities than for reaching work (d) cost him more out of pocket than did driving, though not if he factored in other costs of maintaining a care [ regular servicing, insurance, repairs, etc.] The story can be found here.

However, there are other advantages to subsidized public mass transit. In the Salt Lake Valley, pollution reduction is not a trivial one. Nor is providing access to work for people who cannot afford cars.

From my own family's experience, there's an added benefit to public transit: it may take longer than driving, but the time can be put to much better use. When our family moved out of Brooklyn to Long Island when I was growing up, my dad tried driving to work in Manhattan and back each day. The experiment lasted about two weeks. He then began commuting via Long Island Rail Road and the NY city subways. Took longer [except when the Long Island Expressway turned into the world's longest parking lot, as it periodically did], but he could... and did... read on the trains both ways. He spent an hour and a half commuting in and the same coming back, but he read all the ways. Morning paper going in; afternoon paper coming out. Histories. Biographies. Current affairs. That's about 15 hours of reading a week, and he loved it. You couldn't have gotten him to give up the rail commute with a crow bar once he started. Nor could you have put a price on all the time he now had, by himself, to read. I don't commute to SLC for work, but when I do go down, if I can reach my destination via Frontrunner and TRAX and a walk, no way I drive. That's two hours reading time [one each way] for taking the train. Can't beat that with a stick.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Curmudgeon

Too bad readers are a dying breed, going the way of the long knives every day.

I suppose there might be some "mass" in the mass transit equation and your "reading" motive if the "reading" part were changed to "infernal personal electronic devises".

It is actually pretty astounding to read the statistics on the number of young people in the western world that don't read. There is a whole lost generation of people that don't know nothin in the wings!

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