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Thread: Cost of a car vs. public transit/walking-biking

  1. #1
         
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    Cost of a car vs. public transit/walking-biking

    I'm thinking of doing a project for my econ class about the comparitive costs of owning a car and using it to drive to work every day vs. using public transit as much as possible and some fill ins. I'd like to put a monetary cost on both, in terms of one month of usage. Here I have divided up the costs by name, and it could be done to a specific metro area:

    Costs of Automobile/month:
    Insurance
    Car Payment
    Cost of Gas (distance traveled on average divided by city gas mileage of car times cost of gallong of gas for the month)
    1/6 of 6 month tune up (takes into account the fact that all cars need repair at some point, even if you don't do it every six months)
    Environmental Costs (how to quantify?)
    Social Costs (isolation and what not, how to quantify?)

    Cost of Public Transit and walking/month
    monthly pass or months worth of riding
    bike
    car borrow program membership for odd long trips.
    being on someone elses schedule
    **Benefit:More walking=healtier you, so less some healthcare costs?


    Anyone have any other costs that can be quantified or ways to quantify the ones i have listed?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Have you taken a look at Jane Holtz Kay's Asphalt Nation:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052...Fencoding=UTF8\

    This book should basically answer your questions and then some. You'll also want to look at parking costs, government fees/taxes, maintenance (caar wash). From the societal stand point it would be prudent to consider the amount of money spent on infrastructure for the car, money spent subsidizing cheap oil, money spent on regulation of traffic, etc.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983
    Have you taken a look at Jane Holtz Kay's Asphalt Nation:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/052...Fencoding=UTF8\

    This book should basically answer your questions and then some. You'll also want to look at parking costs, government fees/taxes, maintenance (caar wash). From the societal stand point it would be prudent to consider the amount of money spent on infrastructure for the car, money spent subsidizing cheap oil, money spent on regulation of traffic, etc.
    From the societal standpoint, then, you have to subtract from costs the benefits: taxes paid on cars and gas, jobs created (all the way up the supply chain and in oil, etc.)
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    I would add a few more:

    Car: hidden coast of free parking at work, home, school, etc.
    Transit: occasional taxi ride and or car rental
    Last edited by jmello; 16 Jun 2006 at 9:38 AM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Good Cartoon by Andy Singer "No Exit" dated 06/08/06

    Car or Bike Which is Better ?
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Random Traffic Guy's avatar
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    Isolation, LOL, that's a benefit not a cost...


    Around here, based on years of riding the train (DART light rail), transit costs include an extra 1/2 to 1 hour per day spent in travel time, and that's for origins and destinations that are directly on the rail line. Bus transfers would be still more. Yes, you can sometimes get things done on the train[1], but the time away from home sure adds up.

    [1] - as a guy I usually end up standing the whole way anyways, yay.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    This comparison is rife with a potential for agenda-driven assumptions. All rhetorical: How do you value covenience, time savings, increased job opportunities with the car. What assumumptions do you makre re: kinds of transit (urban subway/metro vs. commuter rail/bus? How do you included the "cost" of a metro rail car for instance.

    Sorry for being frank but can we all assume you are trying to "prove" cars are more costly?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    This comparison is rife with a potential for agenda-driven assumptions.

    Sorry for being frank but can we all assume you are trying to "prove" cars are more costly?
    Ease up Gkmo62u this is a class assignment economics paper; not an article for Time magazine. If it keeps you interested in the material, have a little bit of an agenda... it's no different than fitting the paper to match the ideas of a professor that you know feels a certain way. It's just college.

    Besides learning how to write with an agenda sets you up for a job in the Real world... good positions are always open in politics on think tanks and doing PR for private developers.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by burnham follower
    I'm thinking of doing a project for my econ class about the comparitive costs of owning a car and using it to drive to work every day vs. using public transit as much as possible and some fill ins. I'd like to put a monetary cost on both, in terms of one month of usage. Here I have divided up the costs by name, and it could be done to a specific metro area:

    Costs of Automobile/month:
    Insurance
    Car Payment
    Cost of Gas (distance traveled on average divided by city gas mileage of car times cost of gallong of gas for the month)
    1/6 of 6 month tune up (takes into account the fact that all cars need repair at some point, even if you don't do it every six months)
    Environmental Costs (how to quantify?)
    Social Costs (isolation and what not, how to quantify?)

    Cost of Public Transit and walking/month
    monthly pass or months worth of riding
    bike
    car borrow program membership for odd long trips.
    being on someone elses schedule
    **Benefit:More walking=healtier you, so less some healthcare costs?


    Anyone have any other costs that can be quantified or ways to quantify the ones i have listed?

    On the car side you forgot the cost of depreciation of the vehicle over time. there are social benefits to cars as well. for example they do get people around independantly and in a timely matter. Environmental costs would be difficult to quantify on a car by car basis, as cars are drasticaly different in their impacts, and the impact of the car itself is not as great as the impact of the landscape (pavement for driving and parking) changes to the impervious surfaces. On the air quality side, all cars are showing to have decreasing emmissions when looked at wholitically and over time. I would be hard pressed to argue that this is a bad thing.

    For Walking/Public Transportation/Biking
    you need to consider that some of these modes are not yet all intermodal (though many busses afford you the chance to put your bike on the bus).
    You also need to consider the addition wear and tear on a good walking shoe and the maintenance of the bicycle.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Ease up Gkmo62u this is a class assignment economics paper; not an article for Time magazine. If it keeps you interested in the material, have a little bit of an agenda... it's no different than fitting the paper to match the ideas of a professor that you know feels a certain way. It's just college.

    Besides learning how to write with an agenda sets you up for a job in the Real world... good positions are always open in politics on think tanks and doing PR for private developers.
    My only point is that you don't really want to do a comparison of the costs of car travel versus transit/walking. You want to establish that car travel is more costly than the alternative. Just say that, have a hypothesis, then prove it.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    This comparison is rife with a potential for agenda-driven assumptions. All rhetorical: How do you value covenience, time savings, increased job opportunities with the car. What assumumptions do you makre re: kinds of transit (urban subway/metro vs. commuter rail/bus? How do you included the "cost" of a metro rail car for instance.

    Sorry for being frank but can we all assume you are trying to "prove" cars are more costly?
    It's fairly evident that cars are more costly. The reason people use cars is that they offer more benefits. I don't think there's any point in doing a comparison based on costs alone. If you were comparing two identical models of cars, then you could reasonably claim that they offer the same benefits and then a cost comparison would be useful.

    Competition based on quality is just as important competition based on cost. Cars are winning that.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    I agree jaws. but the thread started wants to do this sort of comparison.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Fuel source costs:

    Cars (inefficient but very fast) - A fast burn through millenia of ancient slow cooked dead vegetation with every trip.

    Walking (efficient but slow) - A slow burn through a full stomach.

    Bicycle (very efficient and fast) - Makes use of the wheel yet entirely powered by human exertion.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  14. #14
         
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    Quote Originally posted by gkmo62u
    This comparison is rife with a potential for agenda-driven assumptions. All rhetorical: How do you value covenience, time savings, increased job opportunities with the car. What assumumptions do you makre re: kinds of transit (urban subway/metro vs. commuter rail/bus? How do you included the "cost" of a metro rail car for instance.

    Sorry for being frank but can we all assume you are trying to "prove" cars are more costly?
    Not to keep attacking that post but no, i don't have an agenda really though I from my own beleifs are biased. If there are more costs to Public transit (I did just think the cost of the land the rails run on, though then I have to add the cost of the land roads are on too) then please tell me. I was also wondering if anyone had ideas about valueing things like convienence because quantifieing things thats are often considered "unquantifiable" is an interest of mine that i know impresses my prof. So and idea's?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by burnham follower
    Not to keep attacking that post but no, i don't have an agenda really though I from my own beleifs are biased. If there are more costs to Public transit (I did just think the cost of the land the rails run on, though then I have to add the cost of the land roads are on too) then please tell me. I was also wondering if anyone had ideas about valueing things like convienence because quantifieing things thats are often considered "unquantifiable" is an interest of mine that i know impresses my prof. So and idea's?
    The Victoria Transport Policy Institute seems to have done some good research on some of the harder-to-quantify costs of transportation - try browsing around on their website.

    And put a little more polish on that paper than you did on this post!

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    How about car maintenance

    Quote Originally posted by burnham follower
    I'm thinking of doing a project for my econ class about the comparitive costs of owning a car and using it to drive to work every day vs. using public transit as much as possible and some fill ins. I'd like to put a monetary cost on both, in terms of one month of usage. Here I have divided up the costs by name, and it could be done to a specific metro area:

    Costs of Automobile/month:
    Insurance
    Car Payment
    Cost of Gas (distance traveled on average divided by city gas mileage of car times cost of gallong of gas for the month)
    1/6 of 6 month tune up (takes into account the fact that all cars need repair at some point, even if you don't do it every six months)
    Environmental Costs (how to quantify?)
    Social Costs (isolation and what not, how to quantify?)

    Cost of Public Transit and walking/month
    monthly pass or months worth of riding
    bike
    car borrow program membership for odd long trips.
    being on someone elses schedule
    **Benefit:More walking=healtier you, so less some healthcare costs?


    Anyone have any other costs that can be quantified or ways to quantify the ones i have listed?
    I would add in more than just the tune up cost. The more you drive the more maintenance you will have. If you put six thousand miles a year that means two oil changes and probably not much else for the year. You put on 20 thousand miles that seven oil changes, tune up and at least some brake work minimum. The company where I work figures 0.445 cents per mile to account for gas and wear and tear. I own two cars, a 1987 Honda accord and a 2003 Honda Odyssey. I figure between maintenance, gas and insurance Iím in it for about $7,160 per year. We just got the Odyssey so maintenance is not a big issue yet. Oh, and thatís the other thing, maintenance is closely attached to the age of the vehicle and the type. Letís face it, your maintenance costs are going to be a lot less for a Honda than a Porsche or a GM.

    I wonder if one could figure out the emotional cost of owning and relying on a car. When my wife and I honeymooned in London we didnít rent a car and relied, instead, on public transportation; I have never felt so liberated not having to worry about parking and traffic and all the other fun stuff that goes along with owning a car.

  17. #17
         
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    Quote Originally posted by Tobinn
    I wonder if one could figure out the emotional cost of owning and relying on a car. When my wife and I honeymooned in London we didnít rent a car and relied, instead, on public transportation; I have never felt so liberated not having to worry about parking and traffic and all the other fun stuff that goes along with owning a car.
    I considered that but i wonder if it's worth it when it may almost be equaled out by the emotional cost of being on someone elses schedule on public transit

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by burnham follower
    I was also wondering if anyone had ideas about valueing things like convienence because quantifieing things thats are often considered "unquantifiable" is an interest of mine that i know impresses my prof. So and idea's?
    There are ways to place a dollar value on all kinds of things which are not directly quantifiable. I had an environmental economics class where we did just that.

    Consider "opportunity cost" -- ie what do you potentially give up because of the extra time spent commuting? Do you give up a social life? Do you give up cooking from scratch? (A lot of people do and the fast food craze that is often blamed for the obesity of so many Americans could more rightly be blamed on Time Lock -- and there is a book by that name.) Do you give up job opportunities? (Yes, actually -- especially if the local bus system only runs until 6pm ...or whatever.)

    So one thing you could look for is any studies which have already quantified the medical costs associated with obesity and attributed to fast food diets.

    Another thing you could look for is the dampening effect on career -- see if there are any studies concerning such things (a la studies that show how much more college graduates make on average than high school drop outs).

    If you care to peruse it, here are some of the sources I used to look at valuing environmental impacts: linky

  19. #19
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
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    The relative costs don't just depend on which urban area, but where within the urban area, and this in turn depends on the spatial development pattern of the urban area, and at which points one starts and ends a particular trip. Obviously the benefits of the private automobile outweight the cost savings of using transit on a trip from, say, Mesa to Chandler, Arizona - the Phoenix metro area as a whole is certainly automobile oriented. But in many urban areas, like the New York City tri-state region, it depends completely on the origin and destination. A trip between Midtown to Lower Manhattan in peak hours is best served by the subway. A trip between Greenwich, CT to Tarrytown, NY is best done by car (unless MTA or some other outfit runs an obscure commuter bus I've never heard of). I guess my point is that all of the variables in considering the 'true cost' of driving and transit seem moot without considering where you are and where you're going, how far the trip is, what type of trip it is, and the development patterns and available transit service at both the origin and destination points. Without extensive government regulation or some environmental crisis dictating otherwise, only the economics of oil prices will determine whether the proportion of Americans driving alone in gas guzzlers on 'suburb-to-suburb' commutes will stop growing. So far, gas prices have dented the sale of guzzlers some, but they're not nearly high enough for people to actually ditch their cars, be they Range Rovers or Priuses.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ChevyChaseDC
    A trip between Greenwich, CT to Tarrytown, NY is best done by car (unless MTA or some other outfit runs an obscure commuter bus I've never heard of).
    There is such a bus. The I-Bus runs from Stamford/Greenwich to White Plains with an easy transfer to the Bee-Line 1W, 13 or TZX buses to Tarrytown.

    http://www.cttransit.com/content/pdf...ibus_sched.pdf

  21. #21
    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Here's a link to a group developing a methodology.

    http://www.brookings.edu/metro/umi/U...ilityIndex.pdf

  22. #22
    Cyburbian permaplanjuneau's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ChevyChaseDC
    The relative costs don't just depend on which urban area, but where within the urban area, and this in turn depends on the spatial development pattern of the urban area, and at which points one starts and ends a particular trip. .
    My thoughts exactly. I currently live a whopping eight blocks from my office, and never drive (why would I? I'd just end up parked four blocks from home and work and would walk past the car in both directions anyway). The cost savings and health benefits of walking clearly outweigh the cost and inconvenience of driving, or even riding a bus or bike.

    When I lived in Salt Lake City, I used a combination of bike/bus/rail/walking to get everywhere, with the mode(s) depending on my origin and destination--except when I wanted to go skiing, and then I either drove or hitchiked (or caught the bus).

    That said, I think that the really interesting part of the comparison is not the difference between walking and driving a car, but the difference between living in an urban or mixed-use area and living in suburbs miles and miles from work, shopping, entertainment, etc.

    I can't even begin to guess how much money I've saved since I realized that paying a little extra for an urban apartment reduces the amount I pay for gas (and parking)(I still own a car that I almost never use, so I still have to pay for insurance, but park for "free")--a good pair of walking shoes costs about as much as a tire, and never needs an oil change.

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