Switch to public transit from car and save $958 per month

Chicago commuters who switch from driving to riding public transportation can save, on average, $958 dollars per month, and $11,494 annually.   These savings are based on the cost of buying a monthly transit pass and factoring in local gas prices for Nov. 18  and the local monthly unreserved parking rate.

I gave up my car just over two years and have never regretted the decision. I rent an I-Go about once a month to run errands, and am fortunate to have a great little grocery store just a block from my home.

Chicago ranks sixth in cost savings among the top 20 cities with the highest transit ridership, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)  November Transit Savings Report.

Here are details on the methodology to calculate savings:

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 2011 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 18, 2011 at $3.38 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 2011 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.


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  • APTA's nationwide figures probably don't mean much in Chicago.

    Driving is probably more expensive than indicated given this area's high gas prices and whether one parks downtown and thus is exposed to the high parking garage rates and taxes, the latter of which is going up.

    On the other hand, any CTA rider has to weigh in the intangibles of having your iProduct snatched, assault, moochers standing in front of the fare card machines, and the cattle car conditions.

  • In reply to jack:

    Jack, APTA takes into consideration the area's high gas prices and prices of garage parking downtown. Granted, the figures are current, so in the future if you switch to CTA from car you stand to save more.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Apparently didn't calculate what I mentioned in the third paragraph, though. A stay at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, or what is mentioned in the Overcrowded Buses thread on chicagobus.org,* priceless.

    *Apparently, sw's last name isn't Burke or Mell, like those of some writers here who claim different results from customer service.

  • In reply to jack:

    BTW, you didn't read below the spreadsheet,* where it says:

    "APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving. The cost of driving is calculated using the 2011 AAA average cost of driving formula. ... 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 18, 2011 at $3.38 per gallon.** ...

    So, they did use averages, not the cost of gasoline in Chicago. You tell us where one can get gasoline for $3.38 per gallon or less in Chicago. Maybe occasionally in Lake County, but not Cook.
    *Which I did yesterday before posting.

    **The AAA site indicates that the $3.38 is a national average. http://fuelgaugereport.aaa.com/?redirectto=http://fuelgaugereport.opisnet.com/index.asp

  • I ALWAYS take the CTA. I have no other option. How do I collect the $958?

  • In reply to bizkid888:

    HA HA! Think of it as money not spent.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    Most transit books say that walking is often an option.

    Again, the fine print says APTA used the average price of a monthly pass. A CTA pass is more, but since you always ride the CTA, that's $86 a month. Let's say you buy shoes at a BOGO place (buy one get one free), maybe you spend an extra $86 a year. So, that's another $946 you can save, thus doubling your return.

    Intangibly, you have to figure out the difference between your walking speed and the time it takes to commute with transfer layovers, broken down and overloaded equipment and the like, and the odds that you would be shot on the street vs. knocked out on an L platform. The odds of being run over by a bus are probably the same either way.

  • In reply to jack:

    Sorry, I got per month and per year confused. However, a 10% increase in return isn't that bad.

  • In reply to jack:

    You could always walk to work in your bare feet, thus saving the extra $86 you would spend on shoes.

  • In reply to eBob:

    But then you would have to figure in what a podiatrist would cost. At least with shoes, once can economize by using Dr. Scholl's insoles.*

    But then, you probably also have to use a podiatrist if you ride CTA, I remember one trip on the L when my feet almost froze with the blinker doors opening every three blocks (and I was wearing boots). Still hurts when it is cold.

    *Apparently his college has moved from the Near North to North Chicago.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, if you're going to do all that, you should also figure the decrease in medical costs seen by public transit users: http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2010/Pages/100811_Public%20Health%20Benefits.aspx

  • In reply to ksv57:

    One of their statements was:

    "One solution is smart growth communities, according to Litman, who cited a 2003 study finding that urban residents had significantly lower violent death rates, whether from vehicle accidents or other causes."

    You tell us if that applies to Chicago. There was a story last night about Derrick Rose having a CTA map in his endorsed sneakers, but no one has said that violence has been eliminated from Englewood, even though it has a CTA terminal. There is a big CTA station at 79th and State, but apparently a lot of violence in Auburn Gresham.

    All that is is propaganda from an interested organization painting a broad brush.

  • I hate driving to work!! I would love to save all that money!

    I work downtown from 5 to 12:30 a.m.

    How can I take public transportation home from work when the 2nd bus I am required to take on my journey home stops running before midnight?

  • In reply to Trishie:

    Trishie, there's no question the service cuts certainly limit commuting choices for late-night workers and partiers alike.

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