So I was doing some thinking today about how lucky the Amish are for not having to worry about $4.00 per gallon gas prices and how maybe, just maybe, I should ride my bike to work more. This then got me thinking about whether or not it would be cheaper for me to live next to lots of public transportation. Riding the bus (or subway, or train) to work doesn’t sound too bad, right? I wouldn’t have to pay to gas up my car as much and that sounds nice. However, as of now, I don’t live that close to any bus stop or major transportation hub, which led me to another thought, “would I save money living close to lots of public transportation?”
To answer this question, I analyzed the cost of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom apartments versus their transportation scores, 1 to 3 (low), 4 to 6 (medium), and 7 to 10 (high) in 12 major cities. What are transportation scores you say? A transportation score is a little something that we came up with at Place of Mine to help you determine whether or not the apartment you want to lease is close to public transportation stops. A low transportation score means you are further away from transit stops on average, and a high score means you are closer to transit stops than average. What I found when I looked over the data was very interesting. For one bedroom apartments in ten cities, rent was higher in high transportation score areas compared to medium and low transportation score areas. Eleven cities had higher two bedroom rent, and ten cities had higher three bedroom rent when comparing high and low transport scores. The only two cities that didn’t follow this trend were Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where for both of these cities it was cheapest to live in a medium transportation score area rather than live in a low or high scoring area. You can see the individual data for each city we surveyed below. *Note* the sampling size of the apartments per city varied. The rent prices sampled ranged from $150 to $49,999.
Now that I had some new insight as to where the cheaper apartments were versus transportation I did some number crunching to see if renting in a high transportation area really does save me money. Here are some assumptions that I made based on recent figures:
• The average commuter travels 16 miles to work every day, 32 miles daily, and 960 miles monthly.
• You will drive to work if you live in a low transportation scoring neighborhood.
• You will take public transit if you live in a high transportation scoring neighborhood.
• Average cost of gasoline is $3.82, your car gets 20 mpg, spending $184 per month on gas.
• Average price of a 30 day unlimited public transit pass is $100.
• Cost of insurance, car loans, and parking costs per month are not taken into account with calculations.
Say I’m a low transit scoring gal living in a one bedroom apartment in Austin. My rent is going to be $840 per month. With the data assumptions above, I’m going to be spending $1024 per month on rent and gasoline. Now say my friend also lives in a one bedroom apartment, but she lives in a high scoring transportation apartment and takes the bus to work. She’ll be paying $1325 per month for rent and with her taking public transit, she’s going to be spending $100 per month for her metro pass paying $1425 per month on rent and transportation. This is a difference of $401 per month with a $4812 difference for the year! So it looks like that bus pass isn’t really saving you any money after all if you live in a high transportation scoring area. You can see Austin’s chart below.
So when will using public transportation actually save you money? It is hard to say exactly as gas prices, cost of rent, and public transportation passes vary city to city, and your individual situation varies from the average prices and numbers given. There are also many times where you must use public transportation, like commuting in very large cities. However, it looks like you will save the most money if you live in a medium to low transit score area and use public transportation for the majority of your commuting. But as for me, I’m going to stick with my car until I can travel by hover couch.