Transit savings in Baltimore put at $9,549 a year
The American Publiic Transit Association estimates that a typical commuter to downtown Baltimore could save $9,549 a year by taking bus or rail to work and jettisoning a car.
Now APTA is a trade group and lobbying arm of the nation's transit agencies, so the fact the organization has come up with a large number for Baltimore and other cities is hardly a surprise. (New York tops that list at $13,962 a year.) But for certain commuters who would like to cut household expenses, the Baltimore number might be worth considering. That's $796 a month, if APTA's calaculations are valid.
Here's APTA's explanation of its methodology:
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 November 8, 2010 at $2.85 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 two-person household lives with one less car.
In determining the cost of parking, APTA uses the data from the 2010 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.
The flawed assumption in this calculation, as I see it, is that a two-car family would be likely to give up one of its cars. There are probably families that do so, especially in urban neighborhoods, but as people get out to the suburbs, the demands for weekend mobility increase. It's a challenge to be a one-car couple in America today.
However, it is no doubt true that many families could save a bundle on parking, gas, maintenance and depreciation by leaving a car home five days a week. Why don't more people take advantage of the transit option? Well, there's inconvenient stops, long waiting times, inconsistencies in staying on schedule, cultural aversion to shared transit, poor customer service and fear of crime among other reasons.
So even with these attractive savings being dangled, transit is still a tough sell. But the numbers point to the potential for working families if agencies like the MTA were to get it right.