Updated on 05.28.10

Is It Really Cheaper to Ride the Bus?

Trent Hamm

Aaron writes in:

I love your cost breakdowns when you calculate the real truth behind some financial choice. I’ve got one for you. Is it really cheaper to ride public transportation to work? I have a bus stop about a block from my house. For about $2 each way, I can use public transportation to get to work, which is about fifteen miles away. But I have a car that gets about 28 miles per gallon and gas is about $3, so I’m breaking even to make the commute and I have a lot more flexibility. I just don’t see how the numbers add up.

In the numbers you give above, you’re neglecting a whole bunch of factors.

First of all, your car costs a lot more than you think. Gas is just the start. You also have maintenance, tires, insurance, license, registration, taxes, depreciation, and finance charges (if you have a car loan). According to AAA’s estimates on driving costs, if you drive a medium sedan 10,000 miles per year, the cost per mile figuring in all of those factors is 70.2 cents per mile.

So, your commute is 30 miles long, round trip. Your cost for that commute in a medium sedan that you drive 10,000 miles in a year (a guess based on the info you provided) is $21.

This, of course, doesn’t include things like parking costs, traffic tickets, and so on.

Of course, if you’re going to own a car anyway, the cost per mile for a medium sedan goes down to $0.39 (according to those AAA statistics, adding together maintenance and depreciation per mile). Your round trip in this case is about $12 in depreciation and fuel costs, with the other $9 coming in as costs related to the fact that you own a car, regardless of how much you drive it.

Another factor to consider is the savings of buying a public transportation pass. I’ll use San Francisco’s BART as an example. If you commute every day for a month (let’s assume 24 days), you’ll spend $2 each way on a commute if you don’t buy a pass, totaling $96. Alternately, you can get a monthly pass costing only $60, saving you $36 a month.

If you commute each day in your car, one that you would own anyway, your depreciation and maintenance costs would be roughly $288 ($12 per day over 24 days). If you only have a car for commuting, the total cost over that month is $504 ($21 per day over 24 days).

The case for saving money on public transportation is pretty clear, in my book. The big argument against it, of course, is speed and convenience, which is what you’re really paying for if you own a car in a large city with good public transportation.

If I lived in a large city, my family would own one car at most (and possibly no cars at all). We would use public transportation as much as possible and, if it worked out, we would simply rent a car for the rare occasions we needed one. If you only actually need a car a couple times a year and can use public transportation the rest of the time, it is far cheaper to go that route.

Remember, that extra cost per month for driving yourself to work is all about the flexibility and a bit of time-saving. How valuable is that to you? A few hundred dollars a month?

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  1. Elizabeth Howell says:

    I’ve lived in places (cold places) where the bus comes by only every half-hour or every hour in spots outside of the city core.

    It certainly is cheaper to take the bus, and I do so far more often than driving (which I do about once every week or two). But as Trent points out, more rural locations will not have as good service.

    It comes down to whether you’re willing to invest the extra time for the commute on public transit, which can sometimes double or triple the equivalent time in a car.

  2. Aerin says:

    I went from living in Toronto and not owning a car to living in a small city and driving everywhere. I miss public transportation! I used to have 45 minutes every morning on the streetcar to read a book. On the ride home I travelled with a co-worker and we chatted for the whole trip – she is still one of my best friends. Sometimes it was frustrating – subway delays, waiting for the bus or streetcar in bad weather – but I vastly prefer it to driving.

  3. Kate says:

    I think there’s also something to be said here about the notion of a “car culture” and how it impacts costs.

    The cost of driving to work is seriously reduced if you live and work somewhere that encourages driving, say by providing ample and free or low cost parking spaces.

    At my workplace, driving isn’t even really an option. There are parking spots for only 2% of employees, and they’re allocated by seniority. Paid parking is available about a 20 minute walk away at 15 bucks a day. Street parking isn’t available.

    It’s annoying as heck, but it really encourages public transport, walking or cycling! I imagine areas like Manhattan are similar.

  4. Eric says:

    One quick note on your example: the monthly pass you linked to is only valid for local service. I can’t think of any 15-mile commute that it would cover.

  5. Conversely, if you live somewhere where there is no public transportation culture, that twenty-minute car trip takes 1 1/2 hours on public transit. If you’re working a nine-hour day, that time factor suddenly becomes much more important.

  6. VirginiaBob says:

    I highly disagree with the AAA numbers, but maybe I am atypical. Summary of my costs:

    1. Paid $6500 for a used car, expect around 60,000 miles out of it, so that right there is about 10 cents per mile, assuming I get absolutely nothing when I sell it.

    2. Gas is $2.50 per gallon and I’m averaging 20mpg. So 12.5 cents per mile.

    3. Insurance runs me about $500/year and i drive 10,000 per year. So 5 cents per mile.

    4. Maintenance has cost me approximately 5 cents per mile.

    5. License, tax, and registration about $200 a year on average, so 2 cents per mile.

    So I’m at 37.5 cents per mile including everything, not 72 cents per mile.

    I’m at $6.75 per round trip. Still more than the bus and higher than I would have thought, but saves me at least an hour.

  7. leah says:

    Another thing to consider is carpooling. Brings your costs down to he same or less than the bus. Keep in mind that carpooling costs you time and convenience, but not as much as the bus.

  8. sir jorge says:

    i lived in seattle for three years, and found that it was cheaper to walk 5 miles a day, everyday, than to pay for the bus, since there was no parking anywhere near my work.

    now i live in a place that has NO public transportation

    case in point, walk, just walk

  9. JB says:

    Love the site!

    But, there is no monthly BART pass. BART is Bay Area Transit; the pass shown is for San Francisco transit (aka MUNI). I buy a $70 MUNI pass that allows me to ride BART within SF city limits in addition to MUNI. Other than this, BART is pay as you go. My coworkers who commute from the outer reaches of BART (South Bay, East Bay) pay up to $5-6 per way. The reason this is still economical is because of bridge tolls ($5) and parking costs downtown ($200+/month; my building is $500/month)

    Much cheaper than driving that car I hope to never own.

  10. sophiabrooks says:

    Very much depends on where you live. I have no car and live in a small upstate NY city. I take the bus from my house (which is very near a bus stop) to my work (which is a major employer, and has many bus stops. I pay $56 a month for an unlimited pass.

    Now, the limitations, being in such a city are: An afforable apartment in a low-crime area means that my bus ride takes about an hour. That is, if I catch the correct bus. If anything is even a little bt off (because I have to transfer) I can end up waiting 20 minutes in three different places, bringing my commute to 2 hours. There are many places I cannot get to without seriously long commutes. I can get to one grocery store easily, but if I go after work, I may not be home until 7 or 8 pm. I can get to one mall, Sam’s Club, etc, but it takes about an hour and a half. There are certain friends that I cannot get to at all, they are off bus routes. I cannot get to my doctor’s office easily, or rather, I can’t get from work to my doctors office (about 3 miles) without a 2 hour ride/wait). I actually walk unless I am really sick, but there are no sidewalks on that route, so in the winter it is a bit difficult.

    This is all worth it to me, as a single person with no family obligations, but I cannot imagine having kids and no car. certainly people do it, but they don’t have time to work! Plus, taking a stroller on the bus is quite difficult.

  11. JenJen says:

    In a large city, 15 miles can be local service. I ride the bus every day and it’s about 15 miles from my home to my workplace, all within city limits. (Yay Southern California sprawl!) It’s about an hour each way, but it’s an hour of relaxation time, not nervous freeway driving. The money I “saved” not owning a car let me buy an iPad which makes the ride a lot more fun!

  12. Shane says:

    Check out this great info-graphic on the subject from AAA data.


  13. thisisbeth says:

    I road the bus to work for nearly 12 years. Because my insurance company knew this, my car was listed by them as “pleasure only” and the insurance was significantly cheaper. There were plenty of times I was frustrated by the convenience factor (having to stick to the bus schedule for appointments), but to balance it out, I didn’t deal with the stress of traffic, and could come to work relatively stress-free.

  14. I think it is kind of silly to factor in depreciation costs. It really inflates the numbers. A car is a tool. It is not an investment. You don’t factor in depreciation costs of a hammer everytime you pound a nail. I think we should change our perspective of what are assets and what is not. Sure, a car has intrinsic worth but at the end of the day, it is a tool to do a job, not an investment and therefore depreciation should be a moot point.

  15. cv says:

    As Eric (comment #2) noted, the pass you liked to is for local bus service within the city. It’s also valid on BART trips within the city limits, but they generally run $1.75/ride, not $2. BART fares vary based on which stops you’re getting on and off at, and so a 15-mile commute is more likely to be $3 or $4 each way. Like the DC metro, there’s no monthly discount on BART – you can get a card that stores money to make the trip easier, but it won’t save you anything.

    I’m a huge public transit fan (I take it to work daily in the car-heavy bay area, south of San Francisco), but BART isn’t necessarily the best example.

    One thing you didn’t mention is that a lot of urban and larger employers offer transit discounts as a benefit, usually through pre-tax transportation flexible spending accounts. Universities often have discounted passes available for students, as well.

  16. Ginger says:

    I lived in San Jose and commuted more than 15 mi each way to school all within the same bus system. It depends on the size of your city.

  17. DeeBee says:

    In some cities, buying the monthly transit passes also qualify you for lots of restaurants, museum, event, and merchant discounts that may make it worth your while.

    In my city, Philadelphia, I can also take my train pass that is limited to a specific zone during the week, and ride it anywhere on any zone on the weekend. So, for trips to Newark NJ to connect to NJ transit and go into New York City, I would pay zero for the SEPTA portion of the ride on weekends.

    One part of the original question that is neglected is parking cost at the job. Not every employers has a free parking lots, especially in major cities. The primary reason I get the pass is because parking for work would cost me $12 per day at a minimum, and the cost of parking alone exceeds the transit pass cost.

    One major downside is weekend travel. Some cities cut back on schedules on weekends, and that can make public transit travel much less convenient if there are fewer or no buses and trains to your area on the weekend.


  18. Garett says:

    If you can live without a car or only use it for recreation and occasional use, do it.

    When you add up all the costs associated with vehicle ownership, it becomes very clear that most people are light years ahead if they can take the bus, cycle, or walk. Depreciation costs of a vehicle should be factored in, because if you sell the car and get another it costs real money.

    I have a female friend that never worked full time, but made the decision as a teenager to be car free. She invested her money with the savings and retired a millionaire before 30. She still prefers to use public transit as she can relax and meet people, read books, listen to her iPod and chat on her cellphone while someone else drives for her.

    The costs of vehicle ownership are comparable to home ownership. If you can avoid the 4 wheeled cash gobbling monster, and invest those savings, you can build tremendous wealth quickly, even with a modest income.

  19. Steve says:

    You left out another major cost – the risk of accidents and liability. That is a major factor when I consider taking public transport vs. car. If public transport gets an accident, I have no liability and a bus is typically safer in an accident than a car. If I drive, my risk of injury increases and if anything happens it could cost me hundreds to thousands of dollars. The risk cost is another cost that favors public transportation.

  20. William says:

    Just chiming in as a current SF Bay Area resident. Your example of BART isn’t exactly the best to use; there is no “monthly pass” per se in the BART system. The best you can get is a discount on buying high-value tickets, currently $60 for a $64 ticket or $45 for a $48 ticket. I used to take BART to work every day, and racked up about $200 monthly expenses with fares and parking fees. I now live within walking distance of work.

    A better example is actually the Los Angeles Metro system, which I used for several months during an internship in LA. Current prices for a monthly pass is $62. That gets you unlimited rides during the month on all Metro buses and trains. The public transit system in Los Angeles gets a lot of flak from people who don’t know any better, but I’ve actually found it to be much cheaper and more well-run (and on-time) than the systems around San Francisco.

  21. Diane says:

    I think there is another huge advantage to taking public transportation, even if it is not financial.

    If I’m not driving, I can be doing other things while I get to school or work. As a student, I did my required reading on the bus, and outlined essays I’d write later. If I didn’t have any school work to do, I could use the time to read a novel. Uninterrrupted reading time is hard to come by. You just have to look up periodically to make sure you aren’t close to your stop.

  22. Popply says:

    For me this is an easy choice: The public transport is faster, and the fee for a parking lot is higher than the expenses for public transport. By not owning a car I save much money. Note that my rent is reasonable so I do not trade cheap public transport for expensive rent.

  23. Julie says:

    I always find it funny when people say they would love to live in a city with great public transport so they can go sans car. Yeah, tell me that after you’ve had to trek it home back from the grocery store, loaded down with groceries in the middle of summer. Sucks. Having said that, I LOVED living in a city with great public transport. I would love to only have one car. But, I do feel a car is necessary to most in most cities, especially with children. I also have to point out that getting a weekly or monthly bus/water ferry pass in the city I lived in did NOT provide any sort of discount. A longer pass on the train did, but definitely not the savings in your example. The cost of having to park in the city however, was ridiculous, causing public transport to be a much better deal.

    And I read far less now that I have to drive. I loved reading on the bus/ferry/train and used to read about a book a week that way.

    Definitely a toss up though between time vs money in terms of savings though. You spend a lot more time doing stuff/getting places when you don’t have a car.

  24. J. O. says:

    Coming from a small town where there is no public transport, I wanted to ask all of you who do have it and do use it: how DO you manage getting groceries or other bulky purchases home? Julie, above, just touches on this, but could I hear from others also?

  25. jim says:

    70 cents a mile is pretty inflated if you ask me. Its assuming a brand new car financed. They are using $3400 a year in depreciation which is assuming a very high depreciation rate. They are also assuming $570 a year in taxes, license & fees. Maybe thats average but I pay about 10% of that myself in fees. You can do a lot better than 70 cents a mile.

    autos.yahoo.com puts total cost of ownership for a Prius at 45 cents. Edmunds has it at 38 cents.

    Used cars would be even cheaper.

  26. Kevin WIlson says:

    Getting groceries home: there are lots of options, including – shop more often and carry less each time; have several people to share the load; use a pull-along shopping basket (I used to load this up with a week’s food and shlep it on and off the bus!); use cargo baskets or a trailer on your bike; shop less frequently and get a cab home (or share a cab with a friend doing the same thing); grow food at home so you don’t have to carry it home; buy basics and cook at home instead of processed food.

    Really bulk purchases, like drywall or furniture, I would either get it delivered, rent a car, or borrow a friend’s vehicle.

    Another saving of public transit over a car is time, counter-intuitive though it may seem: you don’t have to fill a car with gas, change the oil, take it to the shop for repairs or maintenance (or do the maintenance yourself), etc. If you count the time you don’t have to spend to earn the money to pay for the car, it’s even better.

    One non-time and non-$$ benefit is less stress – I found I really liked not watching gas prices like a hawk to try and buy when they were lower (or in horror as they spiraled higher and higher and I wondered how I would afford to fill the tank at all).

  27. Paige says:

    I don’t have to make bulky purchases often. My weekly groceries are usually very manageable for either walking or public transportation. Larger purchases require a car, of course. Last year I lived a 10-15minute walk from a grocery store and did just fine walking once a week; occasionally I recruited my boyfriend to help carry. This year my roommate and I drive once a week to do our shopping, but when she’s away (it’s her car) I manage just fine taking the metro train.

  28. Rasmus says:

    Flexibility is worth a lot. Much more than a couple of hundred bucks per month. Unless you work in an office that you never leave during work time and live in a home that you never leave save going to work, I’d say the freedom of a car is near invaluable.
    This is coming from someone has lived almost all his life without a car and hating it.

  29. This just depends on the city that you live in and the price of gas

  30. jerry says:

    Car culture has always struck me as a little… odd. I’m 27 years old and have never owned a car. I don’t even have a license.

    Upon discovering this little “quirk,” I’m usually greeted with disbelief from other people. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has pretty decent public transportation. So I’m a little puzzled that I meet this way of thinking more often than not. Maybe I just hang out with the wrong crowd ;)

    My co-worker drives an Audi, and paid $70,000 for it. It certainly looks nice, but in my mind, I’m thinking, “Wow. This could have paid my college education 7 times over” (I went to UC Berkeley).

    I did buy a car for my financially challenged parents, so I know how much a car costs (and yes, I do find it very odd that you can buy a car without a license). Some people tout the convenience of having a car. However, this car has been the biggest financial inconvenience I’ve had so far.

    It is certainly faster than walking. So, yes to speed. The convenience factor is a hard sell for me. Parking is a crisis near my workplace. I think the nearest parking structure is almost $30 per day.

    Here’s a thought: want something that will improve your health, help the environment, and save you money? Most people will say yes. When I tell them that that “something” is a bicycle, I get… interesting reactions ;)

    Oh, and for BART. You get a 6.25% discount if you buy tickets in increments of $45 or $60. My company (and other bay area companies) also does Commuter Checks, which is a program that allows you to buy tickets with your pre-tax dollars (a 30% savings for me!).

    Anyway, to each his/her own!

  31. Thomas Arbs says:

    Nothing in your discussion that we cannot join in living in old Europe. The $$s may not match exactly, but they are certainly similar.

    With my wife and 2 small kids I live in a city with a working public transport. My wife rides a bike to work, 15 kms each way. I use a bike with a trailer to drag the kids and groceries around. We have a/one public transport ticket that is not tied to a single person, so whoever needs it can take it, plus it is valid for all four of us on weekends and evenings, really a convenience.

    Carless life is fun most of the time. It isn’t really in deepest winter, or pouring rain, but then driving a car isn’t fun 100% of the time either. Sometimes taking the bus or the bike really does flex time a bit, but in rush hour I can race my mum in her Honda to 5 minutes across the city. Calculating the cost of ownership of cars as time (there are examples of that on the web), the bus usually wins, the bike always does. (Yes, there are times when a scheduled bus connection simply doesn’t show up and you’re f***ed in a stall beside the road a mere 3 kms from home so you end up walking, swearing a lot.)

    Then there are health benefits. And costs, though I agree with some that shouldn’t be stretched too far, a used car can be a lot cheaper, relatively economic and, if you’re lucky, damn reliable. On the other hand we afford bike hardware that is clearly not free either, and there is a certain, err, increased wear on wardrobe that should not be underestimated, a business suit doesn’t like biking at all, and also a plain jeans tends to last shorter down there between the legs…

  32. Jess says:

    Seconding the infrequent trips or using a taxi idea. Really the only inconveniences I had with public transit when I lived in Boston were getting around after midnight or 1am, getting to the airport with luggage for an extended stay when my taxi didn’t show up, and bringing home a computer I had planned to buy the following day (they cut me a deal on the display model). I didn’t drive until moving to the South.

    If you want the flexibility and freedom of your own schedule but you don’t want the expense or hassle of a car, get a scooter. I love mine. I get 90-something miles per gallon, tank holds a bit over a gallon. I fill up for 3 bucks or less and go very far on my pocket change.

    There are plenty of storage options available (top cases/trunks, saddlebags, backpacks etc.), you can park almost anywhere, it’s a fun ride, and you can gear up well for maybe $250-300 (good helmet, riding jacket, maybe some boots, gloves or jeans – you’ll probably have those 3 already).

    Used scooters during the off-season are a steal (usually a few hundred) and new scooters are pretty affordable (just above 2000 for a new Honda scooter). In most states you don’t need a motorcycle licence for a 49-50cc – insurance, if you choose to get it (many states don’t require insurance) is pretty cheap, and most importantly, riding a scooter is happiness on the cheap.

    Only downside is taking my cats to the vet – those I do need to get a rental car, a cab, or a friend for.

  33. Joe says:

    Public transportation forces inefficiencies in many other areas that should have an associated opportunity cost. Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for the environment), parking and the total cost of the vehicle may end up tipping the balance in favor of public transport. You really have to build a strong case for car transport, unless you’re fulling willing to accept the “luxury tax” (and many of us are willing).

    Carpooling with 1 or 2 additional individuals who share both gas and parking fees would certainly help build a better case for driving.

    Note: I lived in the Bay Area and took the CalTrain to San Francisco for work. I despised that experience, and gladly paid the additional out of pocket expenses for a vehicle.

    Many in our office avoided parking fees by parking on the sidewalk (our office was in an alley like side street). We would move our cars when someone would spot the traffic officer coming through and re-park after they left. A ticket was roughly equal to 6 days of parking fees. The longer we could avoid tickets, the more we reduced our parking expenses. The more vigilant among us did very well.

    Zipping down the 100 highway in my own comfortable car was much preferred to shaking about on the CalTrain with stop after stop, and then walking 3 miles to get to work after getting off.

    I strongly dislike time that is spent either inefficiently or uncomfortably – and for me public transportation has never cut it.

    The difference in perspective from city raised and rural raised people is clear. Where I grew up, you could not survive without a car. And this ingrained attachment certainly biases my perspective as an adult.

    Yet, I still think we’re only scratching the surface on the economic model that represents true costs here. The key is identifying all the areas where a car *unlocks* cost savings that would be otherwise unobtainable without one. There is far more than I think we realize at first glance.

    The ultimate solution, of course, is working at home. Many businesses/people are still too shackled to the mindset that a physical office presence is the only way to create productivity. I would take a pay cut to work at home, and still realize a positive net gain in cash flow.

  34. Phil says:

    It depends when you’re working, on a normal Monday to Friday 9-17 kind of schedule, it would take me about 45 minutes to get to work. On the week-ends though (I’m working on both days) it takes me an average of 6 minutes in car then 2 minutes to walk from paid parking to work, or 10 minutes to walk uphill from free parking, which I find nicer in the summer.
    We also have a bike rental system, for 78$/year you get unlimited half-hour trips on bikes all around the city, if you use over 30, they charge you 1,50$/30mins. There are bike stations every 2 blocks or so. Really nice.
    So on the week-ends I end up taking my car sometimes, and enjoying walking uphill, then since I finish at 23h00, metro’s don’t pass as often, so I still get the convenience of walking and getting home (or wherever I am going) quickly and worry free.
    On the weeks, it’s bus-bike combo in summer, I like being outside.

  35. Esme says:

    To add to what #13 said- its a lot easier to stay in your budget when you know exactly how much you can comfortably schlep home by foot or bus. All those extras that might otherwise wind up in your cart, just don’t make it, cause they’re too much to carry. I grocery shop on foot all the time and yes, it can be difficult, but I see it as a workout, lugging those bags and hiking all that way. Saves me from having to pay for a gym membership as well! :)

  36. AnnJo says:

    Trent’s and AAA’s analysis is worth considering if you’re trying to decide whether to buy a car at all, but I don’t think it’s useful in answering Aaron’s question, which is whether to drive the car he already has.

    Most depreciation is time related, not mileage related, at least if you keep your car as long as possible. On my 12-year old car, if I’d added three 30-mile commutes per week to the 2 I already do, for the whole 12 years, my car would have depreciated an extra $68.75 PER YEAR, or 1.5 cents a mile for the extra miles. Trivial.

    The insurance cost associated with driving a car for a commute is probably less than 15% of the total insurance bill.

    Tires degrade with time, even if their tread is still good; oil has to be changed every few months regardless of how much you drive; corrosion and other time-related damage to your car will happen whether you drive it 5,000 miles a year or 10,000.

    So my take on it is that, aside from the gas, there is virtually no REAL added cost to driving my car. In strictly financial terms, it’s probably a bigger waste of money to buy a car, insure, maintain and allow it to depreciate and NOT use it than the reverse.

    There may be perceived environmental and personal stress-related reasons for using public transportation, and big-city parking fees can add a huge cost to driving, but basically, Aaron’s cost of driving his car to commute is the cost of gas and very little else.

    In my rainy climate, the damage to shoes, the replacement of umbrellas, and the discomfort of waiting for buses in cold, wet weather, not to mention the pickpockets, the foul-mouthed youth, the long-term unbathed, and the over-loud “musical” devices often found on our local buses, make driving my car in rush-hour traffic far less stressful to me than riding the bus.

  37. Garett says:

    Getting groceries and other stuff home is dad easy. As has been mentioned above, all sorts of carry on carts are available. Most grocery stores offer a free home delivery service. If you have to get a cab to haul you and the gear home once in a while, it’s still far less expensive than to own a car.

    Owning and driving a car is vs. parking it, gas is not the only cost difference. Wear and tear and the associated maintenance costs. A vehicle depreciates less if it is used less. I would not want to buy a vehicle form someone that thought that gasoline was the only expense compared to a parked vehicle, as it probably would not be properly maintained.

    I went 100% car free for over two years. It saved me a fortune. If I moved back into a city or other situation where I could ditch the car, I would definitely do it again.

    Living car free makes you very good at planning your excursions, plus the added walking improves your health and fitness significantly.

    Not everyone’s situation will allow them to go 100% car free, but many would be able to benefit from reducing their vehicle use. Using public transportation isn’t always a bed of roses either. There are pluses and minuses to everything. If one is making a conscious decision to go car free, you have to weigh the pros and cons and consider your area and your circumstances.

  38. Peter Murray says:

    I have been without a car for almost 7 years and used public transport instead. Even with a small family this is possible, though at times it can be frustrating.

    I have not calculated the savings I have made in car ownership, parking costs, car taxes, insurance, wasted time, etc. but I do benefit a lot from being able to use my commuting time to work or relax while someone else is driving.

  39. Lloyd Alter says:

    externalities. Who is paying for the parking? In any city it will cost between 5 and 20 bucks a day. If your inquirer is getting parking for free, then somebody is subsidizing him to drive. And to the commenter who writes about transit: “the pickpockets, the foul-mouthed youth, the long-term unbathed, and the over-loud “musical” devices often found on our local buses, make driving my car in rush-hour traffic far less stressful to me than riding the bus.”- read Jane Jacobs. We cannot live in our own little bubbles and avoid everyone who doesnt look or act like us, the price is too high.

  40. Joshua Best says:

    I think children is a huge issue that wasn’t touched on in this article. Transferring buses multiple times to get kids to daycare and school is just not worth it. It makes your day longer and stressful – and in the end, yes it is worth it to drive a car (for my family, anyway).

  41. D says:

    Two additional points to consider:
    1) public transit is much less stressful (once you learn what time the bus/train arrives) than driving
    2) zipcar. ’nuff said.

  42. Kai says:

    I have no car. Therefore, when I looked for an apartment, I located myself close to the train station, a mall with a grocery store, and my workplace. I bike ~20 minutes each way to each of my jobs. There are some bus routes that get me around in poor weather, and when I have to go somewhere further, the c-train is just a ten minute walk. I bike 5 minutes, or walk 15 to the grocery store, and bring a 20L backpack, which I fill. If on my bike, I can also fill a large bag for each handlebar.
    It’s not near as convenient as just loading everything in the trunk, but it works, and it’s a short trip. Having to do it by transit would really suck.

    Toilet paper is the worst part. It’s not heavy, but it’s just so damn bulky. I usually strap a package to the back of my bike, but anytime I happen to have a car briefly for something, I buy a massive amount of toilet paper.

    As for living entirely without a car, I like not being dependent on driving for my daily needs. I would HATE to commute by car, and like getting in a bit of daily exercise while getting where I need to go.
    But I need to LEAVE the city as well. Regularly. I have a weekly quota of mountain, and it’s a minimum of one day – two is far better. I need a car to get out to the mountains. (There really isn’t any other way.) As it stands, I go with friends and contribute for gas, since I cannot afford to own a car myself. But in the future, in a better income bracket, I will absolutely buy a car. It won’t be used daily, but the freedom to leave the city when I want to go where I want will be wonderful.

  43. anne says:

    jim @ #12-

    thank you!!

    tonight at dinner i was thinking about the 70 cents per mile figure, and i started to get depressed. i have an 80 mile a day commute, and that’s w/out any miles i put on taking my daughter to school, or running errands.

    my car is a 2001 accord, w/ 222,000 miles on it. so you’ve made me feel much better- it’s not really 70 cents per mile for me after all!

  44. Michael says:

    I have been car-free for a little over 5-years. Here’s how I do it: I live in a major metropolitan area with good public transit. I use a bicycle for most of my day-to-day transportation needs, and I have a bike trailer for groceries and errands. I live close enough to work that I can walk or ride. I intentionally chose to live where I do so that I would not have to own a motor vehicle.

    On the few days every year that I actually need a motor vehicle, I simply rent one. No problem there.

    My annual transportation costs are under $1000, even with the occasional car rental or taxi ride. Owning and maintaining a reliable motor vehicle costs at least $200-300 a month, in many cases more.

    This lifestyle is not for everyone. If you have children, it can be difficult to get them to where they need to go reliably and in a reasonable amount of time. Despite this, I have friends with kids who manage just fine without owning a motor vehicle.

    If you choose to live in an area where there is no biking/walking/transit infrastructure (suburban/exurban/rural), then it will be more difficult to do this. For the majority of healthy urban Americans, living without a car is a simple change in attitude.

  45. cv says:

    @#11, one other option for errands like groceries is services like Zipcar, which are basically super-convenient hourly rental cars. You pay $10/hour or so for a car that’s available in your neighborhood, often within a couple of blocks in big cities. Doing that for two or three hours for some errands a couple of times a month is a lot cheaper than owning a car, and you don’t have to worry about the insurance and maintenance. In between big trips you can get produce and other items that can be carried home more easily.

  46. ashley says:

    I moved to a metro area with decent transit about two years ago; previously I lived in large towns and a couple of cities in Iowa. I chose not to bring my car when I moved to the metro area. It is a pain once in a while as some of the other commenters have said, but most of the time it’s less of a hassle than than having a car out here would be.

    As for groceries, I’m fortunate enough to live within about five blocks of a Whole Foods. I get the majority of my groceries there and can usually carry enough for an entire week in one big bag, which isn’t too difficult to carry. Every month or two, I’ll also walk to Giant (about two miles) and get the heavy, stables that aren’t too different from what I would get at Whole Foods but are a bit cheaper, i.e. flour, sugar, some canned goods. I typically take the bus home when I do that. I also try to get produce at the farmers’ market that is just a couple of blocks from home.

    I have to move in a couple of months; proximity to a grocery store will be important although relying on a delivery service could work for many of the groceries.

    It just requires more planning than what I was accustomed to in Iowa–it’s more burdensome to just run by the store to pick up a single item and there’s no such thing as a quick trip, but this is the case for all parts of life, not just shopping.

  47. Kenya says:

    I agree but if you think about it, you cannot do bulk shopping with public transportation. Better yet, many bus drivers on schedule do not let you on if they have to wait for you to fold up a baby stroller. With that much groceries at once and temptation of cheap prices, you may injure yourself carrying so many bags, or that flimsy shopping card you use for groceries can break on the way.

    And for people who say to “buy less”, if you have an average sized family (4+), you can never buy less, unless you want to go back and forth every 4-5 days. I can prove this from my household. Food goes by very quickly, and prices here are not as cheap as in B&Js, Costco, Pathmark, etc (which these places are NOT close by.) There is also no such thing as renting a car here.

    Plus, if you have a family that have people that go to school, work, and other places during the day such as daycare and such, with that many things to do at once, you would want a car. Not to mention the prices of public transportation in NYC is about $90 for a unlimited ride every month. If you are alone, it is not a big deal, but if you have a family of 1 or 2.. or even 3 or more along with a spouse, you should just consider a car.

    Public transportation is not a great place unless you really need it. I do not think a lot of people who have never used it actually understand how it goes. I have had friends that were beaten up and mugged on the train including me whether day or night.. empty or full. There are crazy people, rude youngsters, and a lot of crime on trains. You are harassed no matter what you wear, look like or have. Of course this depends on the area (this is for NYC.) Then there’s crowdedness, stinky people, and noisy children, or some people just decide to play their music aloud on their cellphone. You have to watch your back every second and make sure you’re never alone with a suspicious person on the platform or train cart. And if you think any innocent civilian really cares if you get hurt or mugged, trust me, they ignore it and walk away. They do not even call for help.

    Public transportation here also have the habit of not doing what you need the day you need it. They can close certain lines, change them and re-organize them for constructioning or other reasons which can go on for months, even years.

    And I bought a unlimited ride for that price of $90 and they cancelled it in the middle of usage, saying I bought it with a bad credit card (I’m 16, I don’t even have one!) They did not give my money back, and they did this to many people, many of my friends also and did it to me on a day I had a very important test.

    There is no such thing as cycling here either, unless you have a home or a garage. Since we live in a small apartment, there is no room for a bicycle unless we want to chain it on the living room table. I had a bike 5 years ago that I chained outside, and the entire bike was stolen. Other bikes chained out here have their wheels, handles and seat taken off and stolen. You should never leave something like that outside even if you think your chain and lock is heavy duty.

    I do agree, however that buying local and not carrying too much but it is never a great idea in many places. But, sometimes it can rain out of nowhere when you least expect it, it can be very cold, too hot, or you can bump into a few jerks that want to take your wallet, since the blocks here are empty during the day, but full of drunk teenagers late night.

    And this is not a “ghetto” or bad neighborhood either. A lot of people are just unfortunate here. A girl was raped a few weeks ago, people were mugged a block away, there was a shooting a block away, and there are car crashes on this corner occasionally across the street from Staples.

    MTA does not give discounts for public transportation. They are in a financial crisis. Higher fares almost every 6 months, dirty trains and buses, and very slow service. They have cut many buses and trains and service in general yet expect a higher fare rate. In their dreams.

    The only downfall I can think about for having a car here is that you can be 1 in 10,000 that unfortunately, got your tired slashed or car scratched by idiots. Plus, the MTA unfortunately, supported an advertisement which was put onto NYC buses that I think was very rude, unnecessary and uncalled for.

    And I just realized, half the things I mentioned was said by AnnJo already *lol*

  48. monthly pass = free pass for the kids

    I used to have 60 miles to work and had at monthly pass. Very expensive BUT I took a lot of extra trips. Where I live, one adult can bring two kids under the age of 12 on one adult ticket.

    So I was able to take my kids almost anywhere, anytime for free. An important fact missed by the above: the more you use a pass, the cheaper it gets. All extra commuting is free once you have it.

  49. Ilya says:

    With regard to grocery shopping, having a good rolling backpack on wheels is a lifesaver. This is the one I have: http://www.amazon.com/Jansport-Wheeled-Superbreak-Backpack-Plaid/dp/B003JD4EKM

    I have a back injury and cannot carry heavy loads, but I can bring home 2 to 3 large bags worth of groceries by packing them efficiently into the backpack (this is where those hours of Tetris finally pay off) and by placing a large reusable bag on top of the backpack as I roll it along. Works really well.

    As a few other commenters have already mentioned, planning is key when considering where to live. Living close to bus lines and grocery stores helps a lot.

    Also, having a scooter or bicycle is helpful for getting home large quantities of groceries. I have a scooter that I load up with groceries: http://i49.tinypic.com/fyomsl.jpg (it’s kind of like a Segway, but with three wheels)

  50. Jer says:

    I just moved to the UK from Canada and decided that I would not drive here. All it takes is a bit more planning; I found a flat in a nice little village just a fifteen minute walk to my work. I’m also within walking distance to shops, parks, and a train station with access to Liverpool and Manchester for those times that I need that big city feel. I’ve found getting around to be quite easy with the train, buses, and cabs and have saved way more money than I ever could have back in Canada. As for groceries I found a bunch of different stores that will deliver them to my door for a small fee. The fee is around the same price as the roundtrip bus ticket and I don’t have to carry anything. I always order the heaviest items this way, and can select a one hour time slot for delivery that fits my schedule. If I ever need a car I will rent one.

  51. Jeroen says:

    For me the math on this is very simple:

    Cost: i can get a full year bus and train pass for 1200EURO, which is fully refunded by my employer (basically, it’s a tax free perk) vs no parking space and no money back from driving my car to work.

    Speed: Unless I leave for work befor 6:30, traffic jams will cause me to get at work in about 70-90 minutes. Bus and train get me there in 50 minutes.

    Flexibility: In theory the car should win this, because the big constraint on my trip is the conversion between train and bus. In practice, I have enough busses each hour, I never have to wait for more than 15 minutes.

    easy choice to make, I’d say.

  52. Mel says:

    I used to be completely car-bound (in a big city, just one that has yet to discover the meaning of ‘public transport’!). I now live in a city with amazing transport (and access to excellent intercity transport). We do have a car, because my boyfriend’s parents gave us their old one when they upgraded. It’s good to have when we need it, but it often goes several weeks without being driven.

    For shopping: I have to walk uphill with the groceries – that *really* sucks. But the supermarket is right by the metro station, so it’s easy to do on the way home from wherever. I tend to do a couple of small shops (1 or 2 bags I can carry on my shoulder) instead of one big one, and I get frequent things (milk, bread etc) from the shop on the corner.

    One thing I like about this city is seeing all the things people take on public transport. I once moved a coat-stand by tram, and I’ve seen people on their way home from IKEA with all kinds of furniture on the metro/subway.

    I’m glad we have a car, but if we hadn’t been given it we wouldn’t have bought one. I think I’m even more glad that we’re not completely reliant on it.

  53. Kate says:


    Either we trim down what we use, do it in small batches (the grocery store is right by the bus stop, so I pick up on my way home), borrow a car, or have it delivered.

    The last one is an interesting factor in a city where it’s difficult to drive. We don’t usually pay for it here, most grocery stores and other suppliers will deliver for free. Our fruits and veggies are delivered to our door (once a week) and so are our cleaning supplies (about twice a year). If we wanted to have all our groceries delivered, it’s about a 1-2$ charge normally.

    IKEA also runs shuttle buses to and from transit stations. And you start prioritizing homes and workplaces are that are closer to transit or bike paths. The economics changes!

  54. Treva says:

    Aaron didn’t mention a time figure, which would be very important to me. He did mention flexibility, though that may or may not be related to the length of time he spends on his public transportation commute. I used to live in an area that had (and still has) horrible public transportation despite being very urban. Many of the difficulties come from having vast amounts of water. I investigated it once to see if it might be worth it. The fare for my commute was reasonable, but I didn’t have 90 minutes for a 6 mile trip one way. I was a young(er), single mom at the time and biking wasn’t an option. While my home area has improved for bikers in the last couple of years, it has a LONG way to go. Anyway, I guess I was wondering how time factored into his equation, if at all.

  55. Jane says:

    In college I could get about 7 plastic bags of food home with me pretty easily using my hands and my Backpack. When I lived in Queens I had a grocery store about 2 blocks down but it wasn’t my prefered store so I would drive my rarely used car out for them but I would bring my laundry and dry cleaning down to the shops by the grocery store via a rolling cart. For a while I was getting my groceries from fresh direct as well they are an online grocery store. I stopped because it was getting a little to pricey not for staples but because they had all of this interesting deli type stuff.

  56. Geoff Hart says:

    A couple other thoughts on public transit:

    First, it saves a ton of pollution. Don’t have the statistics close at hand, but a bus (particularly an electric bus or streetcar) pumps far less pollution into the air per person transported than a car. Call it an order of magnitude difference for the sake of argument. Whether or not you believe in global warming (an argument for another place), you can’t deny the pollution evidence — and the BP mess down in the Gulf of Mexico reminds us that there are many other hidden costs to our addiction to oil.

    Second, as most students know, public transit provides time to catch up on your studying or read a good book. Heck, if you’ve got an iPod, you may be able to download a favorite book in audio format or even download any lectures you missed as podcasts. Contrast that with the hour a day you spend staring at the bumper of the car in front of you in traffic. Not all costs are monetary; there are also opportunity costs (time wasted not doing something more productive or pleasant).

  57. Kevin says:


    “I think it is kind of silly to factor in depreciation costs. It really inflates the numbers. A car is a tool. It is not an investment.”

    I don’t think it’s silly at all. It’s part of the cost of owning the vehicle. If you instead too transit, you wouldn’t have to bear the cost of vehicle depreciation. It’s not like you can choose not to pay the “depreciation” part of owning a vehicle. It’s money out of your pocket, so it’s valid to include, in my opinion.

    That said, of course the numbers are inflated. But the underlying point is still valid: public transit is cheaper overall than owning your own vehicle.

    Say you drive 10,000 miles/year. Say your car gets 30 mpg. It’s a Honda Civic you bought used for $10,000. You plan to drive it into the ground, so resale value is moot. It had 40,000 miles on it when you bought it, and you expect it to last until 200,000 miles. Maintenance costs average $100/month (this includes tires, brakes, oil changes, wiper blades, headlights, car washes, everything). Insurance is $75/month. Registration is $100/year. That all sounds pretty realistic, right? So what’s the daily cost of operating this vehicle, given the above parameters?

    Driving 10,000 miles/year, you’ll get 16 years out of this car. So assuming no inflation, you’ll pay $1,600 in vehicle registration fees, and $14,400 in insurance premiums. Maintenance will cost you $19,200 in total.

    At 30 mpg and 10,000 miles per year, you’re going through 333.33 gallons of fuel per year. At $3/gallon, that’s $1,000/year in gas. And finally, amortize the cost of the vehicle itself ($10,000) over 16 years. Let’s assume you never get any traffic tickets.

    Put all that together, and even a used, efficient, reliable vehicle like this one is costing you $318.75/month (assuming you paid cash and didn’t finance it).

    To bring it back to “cost per mile,” that works out to $0.38 per mile.

    Public transit is definitely far cheaper than owning and operating a vehicle.

  58. We used the city bus for several years as the backup / in lieu of a third vehicle. The savings for car insurance alone was worth it. (We finally got our third car so each of us have wheels, and yikes!)

    Speaking of bus passes, you may want to check into student discounts. There is a slight discount on monthly passes on our bus service for college students; but I’ve been told that another college town has FREE bus rides for those with student IDs.

  59. Janie Riddle says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments. I rode a bus to and from downtown Houston for a couple of years. I also rode a bus from the University of Houston, changed busses downtown and walked 2 blocks to the next bus at 9 pm at night. Not safe by the way. A drunk driver has changed my ability to do this. Your comments mostly sound like you have to be healthy to do these things and this is not longer possible for many. Walking very far, riding a bike and so many other things are just no longer an option. sure enjoy some of the ideas

  60. littlepitcher says:

    I’ve lived in a few cities with public transport, and the primary objections I’ve found have come from, so help me, the human resources department. When seeking a job, each and every one of them has been skeptical of bus transport. They want employees with cars, even when the car is not used for business purposes. When I have a truck, they are skeptical of my education and class. Temp agencies, once informed of bus schedules and available work locations, inevitably assign to a different schedule and venue.

    I’ve carried as much as a gallon of milk plus five pounds of flour and 3 lb onions on an arm cast, up a hill, up stairs, when lugging groceries on a bus, while walking on a barely healed fractured leg. Unless you’re elderly and on full disability, the objections to food hauling don’t cut it. WalMart has bike trailers on sale this week, although my ultimate intent is to purchase a three-wheeler multigear with cargo basket.

    And yes, most cities have monthly bus passes, with discounts for the elderly and students. Between Microsoft discounts, career improvement, and the passes, it may pay you to take a college course every couple of terms!

  61. par717 says:

    But wait, if he already owns the car aren’t all the other costs already being paid?

    You said: “Your round trip in this case is about $12 in depreciation and fuel costs, with the other $9 coming in as costs related to the fact that you own a car, regardless of how much you drive it.”

    So the original assessment was correct, driving to and from work costs approximately $3. The other $9 is a cost of just owning a car.

    So really what you are saying is the car needs to be sold to reap the cost benefits you were talking about. If he holds on to the car it is negligible. I think the true test is whether or not he WANTS to drive to work, as you said in your last paragraph.

  62. Leah says:

    When I didn’t own a car, I saved a lot of money on buying stuff. Like others mentioned, you think twice about whether or not you want to schlep home a six-pack of cola, or three new books, or whatever it is you’re eyeing. My strategy was to shop a bit more often and also to eat way less processed stuff — fruits and veggies didn’t seem to weigh me down. I either used a reusable shopping bag or my backpack, as carrying a bunch of plastic bags is totally a buzzkill.

    I’m jealous of the letter-writer. I would love to take a bus to work. The main advantage, as I see it, is time to use in whatever way you want. It’s not technically a dollar cost, but you don’t have to deal with people cutting you off, sitting at stoplights, or any of that. You just get to sit there and listen to your ipod or read a book. I’ve never gotten a chance to commute by bus, but I have commuted by foot, bike, and car. The first two are far more enjoyable, and I’m actively working to pursue job possibilities that will allow me to stop commuting by car.

    Oh, and one last point: other commenters are right that you will definitely save on insurance. I save somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-200 a year (it depends on exactly where you live) when I didn’t commute by car.

  63. Not only is it cheaper to commute by bus, but I also think it’s better for the spirit. It gives you time to relax, to listen to music, to check out the world around you, to think, to read and maybe write.

    I’m also a big fan of walking. Schlepping weighty groceries can be a problem. I solve that by buying a few things a day on my way home or occasionally using a book bag on wheels.

  64. Caroline says:

    My b/f & I used to share a car b/c after I figured out all costs (inc what Trent points out) we were breaking even with me driving to work and my b/f taking public trans. However, having donated the car about 8 months ago, I can verify that the psychological benefits outweigh the convenience factor. Now I let the bus driver deal with the crazies on the road while I read and listen to music. I never wonder if the car is going to break down or if I’ve fed the meter long enough. I also have more incentive to walk and ride my bike. It’s been great going car-free, and I have no desire to go back just for those rare occasions when owning a car was more convenient. I rent a car about once a month to get certain errands done or see friends that live too far away from the city (DC).

  65. Skirnir Hamilton says:

    I am curious if some of the other bus riders have run into the problem that my twin has. When schleping groceries home, our city has a weird rule that you are supposed to empty your cart on wheels and fold it up when you are on the bus. Anyone else have this rule? Anyone know the reason for the rule? Is it really any safer to have bags in the seats if the bus breaks hard verses the cart on wheels that the person is actually able to hold on to?

  66. Anna says:

    @#31: I suspect the rule has more to do with the cart taking up space than it is with safety.

  67. Inder says:

    I take BART every day from my home in Oakland to my work in San Francisco. There are no passes available that cover an East Bay to SF commute, and it’s over $6 round trip. However, I save money on bridge tolls, gas, and (this is the biggie) parking. My stress levels also benefit – I’m glad I spend my commutes reading my book, rather than battling terrible Bay Area traffic.

    So it’s worth it on many levels. But from a gas-mileage/depreciation I think it’s a bad example. BART is notoriously one of the highest priced public transportation systems in the country. If it didn’t cost $5 to cross the Bay Bridge, plus hundreds of dollars a month to park in the financial district in SF, it wouldn’t pay off on a pure dollars and cents basis.

    Public transportation rocks, and I’m all for it. I do think BART should be cheaper. I always think of people who only make $6/hour. How can they afford to lose more than an hour of their pay on commute? No wonder $15/hour is considered the bare minimum living wage in the Bay Area!

  68. “If I lived in a large city, my family would own one car at most (and possibly no cars at all). We would use public transportation as much as possible and, if it worked out, we would simply rent a car for the rare occasions we needed one. ”

    LOL! Trent, about the first time a woman was abducted and raped from the bus stop where your wife regularly catches the bus (as happened at the corner stop in my neighborhood), you’d be down at the nearest car dealership! In fact, I’ll bet it wouldn’t take many rides on buses and lightrail cars where you share a seat with an unwashed mentally ill person who spends the trip hollering at his voices before you and the wife would be driving cars around town. Especially when the Trip from Hell takes 2 hours and 10 minutes to make a 25-minute drive.

  69. Evita says:

    Many people who do not own a car end up relying on those who do for emergencies or convenience….
    I ride the bus & commuter train to work but treasure my car for everything else, including visiting my elderly father on a bi-weekly basis, buying his groceries and doing his errands (in another town an hour from my home). Since Sis and Bro both “live in the city and do not need a car”, who is left for the task? I don’t mind since I adore my dad, but I have been doing the (unpaid) taxi for my family and some friends for decades…..
    I cannot imagine how families in cities can get around withoug a car…..

  70. m. says:

    Coming out of the woodwork to point out (again) that you linked to a muni pass, not BART. If you are traveling 15 miles in the bay area, you are probably paying at least eight+ dollars to take BART every day. There is no monthly pass, but there is a discount if you buy a high value ticket. Something like $3 saved on a $45 ticket.

    And if you travel during commute hours, there is no relaxing. You stand and hold on and hope the smelly man over there doesn’t touch you.

  71. steve says:

    I take the BART about 80 miles each day. When you take into account the larger ticket discounts (you get a $65 ticket for buying a $60) and employer transit benefits (wage works / commuter checks) that allow those costs to come out of your pretax dollars it becomes more reasonable with BART.

    I will reiterate the sentiments of the previous comments: public transit is an excellent way to read books, study, or just listen to music and relax. The alternative would be spending a ton of money on gas and getting extremely frustrated before even getting to work in the morning due to traffic.

  72. steve says:

    Oh yes, one more thing… a lot of people around here use Zipcar or City Car Share if they need to go on a big grocery store run.

  73. J. O. says:

    Thanks to all who replied to my question about getting groceries and bulky purchases home.

  74. kit says:

    #25 Kevin makes an excellent point. Assuming near-minimal upkeep costs and minimal driving, it’s still about $0.40 cents a mile to drive. Put that way, even occasional cab rides don’t seem that expensive.

    I’d like to address the idea of the car-free mooch that was brought up. It’s something that really annoys me, but it seems to be the people who aren’t necessarily into the lifestyle but rather those who don’t have a car because they feel they can’t. I can tell you that except for circumstances I could lose a few fingers and still count on one hand, the only times I’ve mooched a ride since quitting the car have been when some other person is already going to the same place or when they don’t understand that yes, I really am fine getting there on my own.

    So many trips in the car suddenly become unnecessary when it isn’t sitting right there in the driveway. There’s a big difference when you car-shop for groceries and when you have to haul, ice cream and sodas become bags of rice and flour. Toilet paper is still annoying, though ;)

    I think it comes down to choosing to make the car necessary, barring disability. You get to choose where you live, where you work, what your recreational activities are, and the commitments you make. Some people choose to align these with car ownership, some don’t.

  75. Another Leah says:

    I’m blessed to work at a large University that provides free bus transportation to all staff, faculty, and students, so it definitely saves me money. When I was looking for a new apartment, I specifically looked in an area where there were buses that made the 25-30 minute trip to and from work for me (and usually they have wifi). I also have a car, but as I’ve been taking the bus for the last two years and it was only previously owned by my mom, it’s a ’99 Honda Civic with only about 92,000 miles on it. I can walk about half a mile each way to the bus stop. To me, sometimes I have to take my car due to other meetings, but I prefer the low-stress of the bus. (My new favorite thing is to listen to the Harry Potter books (I’m now on #4) during the wait for and the actual bus ride.)

    And as for @Funny About Money, I am a late-twenty-something female, and I have been riding the bus alone in the same city on and off since I was 15. I’ve had some not great issues come up from time to time, but usually it’s a good experience.

  76. partgypsy says:

    #11: when I lived in the city, you pick up things like milk from the more expensive but close by marts. For big shopping trips you get your bags and use public transport. There is walking to and from the respective bus/train stops and the store, and for me at the time a 4 flight walk up with the groceries (no elevator). You have to stick with the essentials. Also we ate out alot at the cheap but good ethnic eateries that abound, and street food (in the summer you can get mango or corn on a stick for a buck). Though I didn’t have a health club membership and drank plenty of beer during that time, my cardiovascular and my legs were in amazing shape!

  77. Johanna says:

    @Funny about Money: I’m sorry to hear about the rape that happened in your neighborhood. But I’m not sure why waiting for the bus would be any more dangerous in that respect than going for a jog, walking the dog, walking from your house to your car, or going outside for any other reason. And in truly dense urban neighborhoods, there’s often more than one person waiting at a bus stop at any given time, along with plenty of people walking or driving by, which would make it even safer.

    But at least you didn’t trot out the tired old myth that public transportation brings criminals to neighborhoods they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to. Really, what’s a would-be criminal going to do, mug somebody and then stand there and wait for the bus for 20 minutes? It doesn’t make any sense.

  78. Tiffany says:

    It may be cheaper to ride the bus, but let’s face it: Public Transportation Sucks! I live in LA, a city where wheels are required to get around, and I felt unsafe using public transportation because of the many wierdos that I encountered and having to walk long distances to get to my next stop was a nightmare. Cheap or Convienient? I’ll take the car.

  79. Bela says:

    @Garett: “Most grocery stores offer a free home delivery service.” Is this for real? I have NEVER heard of this! I never heard of grocery stores delivering anything ever. What chains do that?

  80. Brittany says:

    This may be a slightly divergent question, but since it is so much cheaper to use public transport as opposed to a car, is it still cheaper to live a rural area since that is a case where cost of living may be less, but you absolutely cannot function without a car? I work a part-time job in addition to my full time, and someone who used to work there moved to where I live from NYC, thinking the cost of living would be much lower here (I live in a mid-sized city in the DEEEP South, lol). He said it turned out not to be a big difference, in his opinion. Salaries are lower, and while expenses may appear to be less, they are spread over a wider variety of items. Thoughts?

  81. James says:

    Many cities have the option for carsharing. National companies like ZipCar and nonprofits such as City CarShare in San Francisco and HOURCAR in Minneapolis offer you a middle-ground between taking transit/biking/walking only and owning a car. You pay a monthly fee and by the hour and mile only when you use the car which works out to much lower cost than owning a car that you don’t need to use very much. Many households use these services as their “second” car and others have forgone purchasing a new car when presented with this convenient service. The websites of these organizations have the cost breakdown of owning versus carsharing.

  82. Jennifer says:

    Ability to use and benefit from public transportation is such a locally specific thing. It’s gonna work for some and not for others. In my own city, public transport is only good if you live and work in certain areas, and have a very traditional schedule.

    I recently looked into using the bus (our city’s only public transport), but it really didn’t work for me. There was no way that our system could get me to work in time for my early starting time. Travel time was also 1 hour each way (12 minutes each way by car) because the system is not set up very efficiently (you have to go way out of your way most of the time in order to get to “transfer points”). Bus services are severely curtailed on weekends and during non-traditional commute hours so you still need a car for those times. Yet a coworker of mine uses the bus and does fine with it – he works different hours and lives in a different place (we both live in the same city, and about the same distance from our workplace).

  83. Garett says:

    #79 Bela @ 12:01 am June 2nd, 2010
    @Garett: “Most grocery stores offer a free home delivery service.” Is this for real? I have NEVER heard of this! I never heard of grocery stores delivering anything ever. What chains do that?

    In Canada and Britain, home delivery is available either free or for a minimal cost in most places I’ve lived. Most people here are unaware of this. All you have to do is ask your grocer. Locally Safeway, Extra Foods, and most of the smaller independent grocery stores have been doing this since before I was born. There are also food services like Organics at Home that do home delivery as 99% of their business.

    With some of them I can either call them on the phone, or send a fax and tell them what I want to buy, what coupons I have send in a fax of the coupons. They then drop off the groceries, collect the coupons and I pay them when delivered.

    When I lived in small isolated placed, the local grocery stores prices were in the stratosphere. It was easy to get together with the neighbors, and form a buying club, and we got our groceries shipped to us for less than half what it would have cost us to buy locally.

    Use Google or any search engine and type in “grocery delivery service” Here is a one example: http://www.superdeliveryguys.com/ Restaurants deliver, why not other businesses?

    I buy my dry goods, toiletries, and cleaning products in bulk from wholesale buying clubs and online resources for far less than it would ever cost in any grocery store, all of it delivered to my home.

    I don’t know why people even think that going to a store to shop for groceries is so popular. For me it is a rare occurrence, mostly to check out new products and prices to compare them to my online orders.

  84. Vegas says:

    If you have more time than money, ride the bus – I used to.

    If you have more money than time, consider something like a used Corolla or Civic. I have to wear suits every day now and come in on short notice so after 10 years of riding the bus, I now have a car.

  85. Vicki says:

    I currently live without a car and have found the following from having been carless in different parts of the country/world:
    -If you’re going to live without a car, you need to live in a neighborhood along a major transportation artery that has housing, schools, shopping, churches, etc…within walking distance.
    -If you don’t live in such a neighborhood, you end up taking a slow, winding bus to such a neighborhood, where you then transfer to a faster bus, train, etc…and then you end up with 2 hour commutes.
    -Also, since those “peripheral” bus routes are so slow, long, and winding they are magnets for the homeless (who look for extended air conditioning/heat/escape from the elements) who are given day passes by downtown restaurant owners in exchange for leaving and not harassing their customers.
    -I’ve found that my quality of life increased when I moved to a neighborhood on the main transportation artery, not only because my commute too and from work was reduced, but also because I didn’t need to depend on the bus for things such as trips to the grocery store (which are not as big if you can just stroll your neighborhood and go to the store and get something whenever you need it). There are now more options as well, such as local growers markets–where they come to me, instead of me coming to them.
    -Another side-benefit is that there is a lot more work along the transportation corridors, and you have more time to look at it and explore it if you’re not commuting or stuck in a car as much.
    -The big trade-off I had to make to reduce the commute time is space. Such neighborhoods have smaller houses, smaller yards, etc…but downsizing my life wasn’t as hard or dramatic as I thought it would be.
    -Occasionally, I like to go to Costco or somewhere where I need a vehicle. Either, I go with a friend who lives somewhere that they have to drive everywhere anyways…or I can rent from Zipcar…or, when housesitting for someone, if they OK me using their car, I go and stock-up then
    -I don’t have kids, but I’ve minimized my need to take the bus even now, so if I did have kids, I would stay in this neighborhood so that it wasn’t such an issue.
    -My city (Albuquerque) does monthly and yearly bus passes…and at $275/yr, it’s a great deal

  86. Todd says:

    Whatever money you think you’re saving is lost on frustration & waiting. Buy a used car on craiglist, it’s better.

    I know almost NO women who would even consider dating a guy who doesn’t drive or who doesn’t have a car. Cruel, but like Helen of Troy: Women control our actions/choices by being desirable.

    That money saved by “taking the bus” will be lost on coping with not having a life: taxi-cabs & hookers. face it.

    Being green is good. But i think my ice cream melting on the bus full of sweaty dudes & bums is enough to “make” driving affordable.

    The “latte factor” is cute but impractical. No one wants to eat pb & j everyday. And unless materialism vanishes (after jersey-shore forget aboud it) women will continue to seek guys that own a car & don’t live at home with mommy.

    Buy a clunker. Waiting an hour for a crowded bus is not “cheaper” in the long-run. Helen of Troy, baby, that’s all i got to say.

    It might feel good to be all “green,” but are you guys really getting laid as much as the dudes with cars? I think not. Maybe one day the paradigm will change & driving will be “uncool.” I don’t see it happening in this country. Europe yes, here no.

    I like the bus once in awhile if i don’t have to be there on time! It helps to live in the city or rich enough to live in new metro areas with your office job next block… if you’re poor this “austerity activism” is a slao in the face for those who struggle to live. It’s not fun to THEM. It sucks & they’re over it. Mobility is one thing that people won’t give up.

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