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With gas prices rising, transit riders to save $10,000 this year

The American Public Transportation Association says making the switch from cars to trains or buses becomes more lucrative as gas prices climb.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributor on

With oil prices hovering about $90 a barrel at this time, the savings incurred by switching from driving to public transportation for daily commutes may soar close to $10,000 this year. New Yorkers and Bostonians may save way more than that.

That's the latest estimate, at least, from the American Public Transportation Association, which notes that riding public transportation saves individuals, on average $9,656 annually, and up to $805 per month -- based on the January 5, 2011 average national gas price ($3.08 per gallon-reported by AAA) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate.

APTA notes that gas prices are at their highest level since October 2008, and 32 cents higher than the same time last year, providing riders an additional annual savings of more than $400.

Not clear from the APTA estimates is the impact of higher gas and oil prices on local transit authority operations -- it's likely that additional costs would either be covered by taking away from other services, passed on to taxpayers, or passed on to riders through new fare hikes. Also, these savings are in denser metro areas with good transit coverage -- many Americans live in suburban or exurban areas that are underserved or not served at all, and the car is the only option.

APTA releases its monthly “Transit Savings Report” to examine how an individual in a two-person household can save money by taking public transportation and living with one less car. 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, based on the cost of insurance, license registration, depreciation, finance charges, gas, maintenance and tires.

The national average for a monthly unreserved parking space in a downtown business district is $161.56, according to the 2010 Colliers International Parking Rate Study.  Over the course of a year, parking costs for a vehicle can amount to an average of $1,939.

APTA also provides annual savings estimates for commuters in the top 20 cities with the highest transit ridership:

  1. New York         $14,159
  2. Boston             $12,993
  3. San Francisco  $12,738
  4. Chicago           $11,660
  5. Seattle             $11,427
  6. Philadelphia    $11,305
  7. Honolulu          $11,063
  8. Los Angeles    $10,395
  9. Minneapolis     $10,180
  10. San Diego        $10,074

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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