Why riding the bus makes cents


A friend sent me a link over the weekend to a personal finance/development site called the Simple Dollar. The article deals with the relative costs of riding public transportation versus driving a car.

The Simple Dollar highlights a key point overlooked by many: contrasting the hidden costs of owning a car and the seemingly higher upfront price of a bus ticket. The writer provides a breakdown of the costs of a general commute. Not surprisingly, the factors beyond gasoline run up the cost, and in the end, it’s nearly always cheaper to ride the bus.

So how much does it cost local commuters to travel by car vs. bus? We can employ the same formula used over at the Simple Dollar to adjust the general cost estimates to a more localized version.

The Twin Cities have been blessed with relatively shorter commute times compared to other large American cities, though it’s reasonable to assume the average commuter will still drive somewhere around 25 miles getting to work and back. Figuring in an average price per mile of 54.0 cents (based on driving 15,000 miles per year, data by AAA), Minnesota drivers spend $13.50 a day commuting to and from their jobs. In a year of 240 work days, that adds up to a tidy $3240. Interestingly, the cost of commuting doesn’t include parking, an expensive and necessary evil for many an urban commuter.

A roundtrip ticket on a Metro Transit bus runs from $3.50 to $6. Beyond that, there is a wide array of monthly passes and stored value cards. A 31-day pass tops out $113.50 for express buses, for an annual rate of $1020.

The trade off, of course, is the added convenience and mobility afforded by having a private car. The point of the article is not to persuade people to abandon their cars, but merely to promote careful, economical decisions. For a transit advocate, it’s another clear reason why riding the bus, when possible, is a wise choice.