Driving vs. Taking Public Transportation
Since I moved to Chicago, I’ve never had a car and I’ve never missed it. Of course, it helps that M has a car if we want to go for a drive or need to hit up Ikea. But I’ve always assumed that public transportation was not only cheaper, but that it was also more convenient in a city like Chicago. Parking, as everyone knows, can be a hassle.
With all the buzz about gas prices and so forth, I was curious to see exactly what the breakdown was, so I ran the numbers to see exactly how public transportation (the bus and L-train) stacks up against driving.
Riding the Accordion Bus
M and I ride the bus to work every day, so we have a Chicago Plus Card, which means we pay $75/month and that entitles us to unlimited bus and train rides. That means we get to ride as much as we want — no questions asked.
Some people might be annoyed riding the bus/train every day. And sure enough, there are stinky/weird/annoying/loud talkers out there. But for the most part it’s nice because you get to sit and read a little bit on the way to work, which is always nice.
So we’re paying $150/month to not only get us to work and back, but to use the train and bus system (decrepit as it may be becoming) as much as we want on the weekends. Not bad.
Total Public Transportation: $150*
Riding on Teens
On the rare days that we actually drive to work (it happens from time to time), it’s a five mile ride there and a five mile ride back. So it’s a total of 10 miles per day. M’s car yields around 21 miles per gallon in the city and with gas prices hovering around $4, that comes out to around $38 in gas per month.
But then you have to add downtown parking, which can run up to around $150 per month. Then you have to add all kinds of small extras like the additional wear-and-tear that the car would be going through. Let’s say that comes out to an extra $10 per month.
As for parking at home, we pay for it whether we take public transportation or not, so I won’t count it here. And I won’t do the math for selling the car, because that’s not an option. It’s how we get home to M’s family when we visit. A similar breakdown regarding flying vs. driving makes my head spin and won’t be tackled here or probably ever.
Total Driving: Around $198
I would rather take the bus just because any extra time I can sneak in to read is well worth it. Plus it gives us more flexibility in terms of going out after work or anything else. No one has to worry about “driving the car back” or any of that business. For other people, they would probably drive every day, and M might feel this way. But with our commute taking around 20 minutes door-to-door on the bus, it’s hard to make the argument for driving. I was definitely surprised that driving was as cheap as it is — it’s much closer to the price of taking public transportation than I thought.
For me, the added flexibility and reading time makes it a cinch.
This actually brings up a good point for all you city people: do you prefer driving if public transportation is easily accessible?