View Full Version : Public transportation vs. personal transportation
This is a problem that's been nagging me for quite a while. Five years ago I bought a car that was supposed to get whoppingly good gas mileage, and I got to thinking, "At what point is it more efficient to use public transportation?"
Assuming I average 2 trips per day (i.e. to and from work for five days then four trips over the weekend and/or during the week), it would cost me 2x bus fare per day vs. the operating cost of my car.
I could probably look at the number of buses the city has and factor that into the public transportation budget, but I'm really just curious about fuel usage for now: what is the gas mileage of a typical city bus? Put another way, how many people need to be on a bus before it matches a one-person vehicle capable of 30 miles per gallon (i.e. how do the person-miles per gallon differ)?
The best answer I could find comes from the federal goverment and you'll not it's adressing a different question than you asked.
The ethanol buses have been running on E95, a fuel composed of 95% anhydrous ethanol (less than 1 % water by volume) denatured with 5% unleaded gasoline as
required by law. Because of the energy content difference between E95 and diesel fuel (78,100 British thermal units [Btu] per gallon [21.8 million Joules per liter] for
E95 versus 137,000 Btu per gallon [38.2 million Joules per liter] for diesel), the ethanol buses were expected to get little more than half the mileage (about 57%) of
the three control buses. The advanced diesel buses averaged 3.35 to 3.40 miles per gallon (mpg) (1.42 to 1.44 kilometers per liter), so the mileage for the ethanol buses was expected to be about 1.92 mpg (0.82 kilometers per liter). However, the ethanol buses averaged 2.15 mpg (0.91 kilometers per liter), which is 64% of the mileage of the diesel buses - 12% better than expected.
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The point is right away. Here in Montreal, twelve months of bus passes is less than the *insurance* for a year on a car.
Thanks for the info, Jimpy--I expected them to be in the 1-5 MPG range...for fuel alone, I guess it works out to about 10 people average on a bus being equivalent to 1 person in a 30 MPG car. Bump that number to full capacity in a car (i.e. 4), and you're at the capacity of the bus. Of course buses tend to take what would be considered the "long way" if you were to drive the same route, so they tend to travel more miles. Curious.
Matt--unfortunately, here in Rochester, busses cost a dollar a ride plus 10 cents per transfer, so it wouldn't be unusual to average around $1.10 to $1.30 per trip to wherever you need to go. Factor that in with my 2 trips per day scenario, and it's up around $875 a year, which is around what I pay in car insurance. Add in the cost of transportation for car trips (i.e. rent a car to go out of town for a few days) and you start to approach the cost of driving a car.
Of course once you add in repairs and maintenance (maybe $500-$1,000 per year) and fuel (maybe $500 or so per year) the advantages of owning a car start to get a bit expensive...mind you, I still think the freedom of travel gained by having a car outweighs the extra $150 or so a month above the cost of the bus.
Then again I could just get cable TV for $30 a month and sit at home a lot saving $120 per month by using public transportation. :-)
I agree with PapaBear - the issue isn't the environment or money but rather convenience. I work in a major city but live in a suburb that is across a river (and thus in another state). There is public transportation, but it doesn't run at times that get me to or from work at the right times. Plus when I factor in the errands I have to run on my way home, public transportation just doesn't suit my needs.
As I learned in a commuter transportation thread I started a few months ago, this issue is really more about life style and personal convenience than efficiancy or economics. Many Texans and Californians (like myself) evoked real irritation from people like Matt in the East or in other countries by clinging to our love of the automobile, and rejection of trains and busses. Both sides can find numbers that support their arguement, but in the end, I think, money and even the enviroment have very little to do with it.
08-30-1999, 03:53 AM
Don't also forget time factors. I live in Chicago which had, until about 2 years ago, excellent round the clock public trans.
Due to my schedule at my former job. I spent 1 hour getting to work and 1.5 hours getting home. ( I leave after 11pm so busses and trains don't run as often and they aren't synched as in the day.) So that is 2.5 X 5(#of days per week worked). So that is 12.5 hours commute per week.
When I get a ride I can get to work in 25 minutes and home in 15 minutes. or about 3.3 hours if I drove per week.
12.5-3.3 is 9.2 hours saved. If I used that time to get a job paying 10.00/hr I would have an extra $92.00 a week. This would offset most of the savings.
Plus people smoke on the Els and buses. (yes it's illegal but they do it all the time anyway), which I hate and it isn't as safe walking three blocks from a subway at 12:30am then it is walking down my driveway.
If we were all using hydrogen-burning cars, gasoline use wouldn't be an issue. And with the right equipment, everyone could be creating their own hydrogen, so our dependence on oil exporting countries would end. And it would work wonders for the environment. See http://www.clean-air.org
08-30-1999, 11:02 PM
Here is my take on the cost issues comparing me having a car in NC and when I didn't have one in NYC: All figures are guesstimates based upon averages I am coming up with based on my usual life in a month:
TOTAL AUTO COST $380.00
Misc. Travel: 50.00
TOTAL COST $275.00
As you can see, public transportation was far more inexpensive for me.
You cannot put a number on intangibles, however. For example, not every city has public transportation as efficient and plentiful as New York City.
Other things that you can't put a number on as it depends on your own personal preferences include major issues such as safety and the ability to travel on your own schedule, and even mondane things - I for one read a lot fewer books since I traded in my subway tokens for car keys.
Ultimately, if (when) I make it back to NYC, I will not drive. But until then, I don't have much of a choice.
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08-31-1999, 06:54 PM
First of all, how did I know Satan would be from New York?
Second, i hate to be the little voice in the back of your head, but maybe you should consider biking as a commute method. Obviously forthose of you who live really far, it's not an option, but it is perfect for me.
Resons why i like bicycling: It's faster than cars and public transit - I don't really have to obey the traffic laws and in rush hour, i can outdistance a car by two or three times.
It's cheap... dirt cheap. I pay maybe $10 - $20 dollars a month on average for maintenance and accessories.
It's really good for you. In six months of biking, i lost 20 pounds and have kept them off, without any hint of putting them back on. I am much fitter and healthier and sexier for having biked.
It's good for the environment. It's more efficient than cars and busses.
That's my rant, i hope you liked it.
Sincerely, SDStaff hopeful
09-01-1999, 04:51 PM
1st of all I want to say that busses suck. I hate them.
now that out of the way. I think that it depends where you live and what is available. in NYC (manhattan) i feel you would be a fool to own a car. not only is insurance and fuel higher, but there are alot of other expenses, like parking, tickets& tows, and what the f*&^ charging $3.50 for going over a bridge (I know $3 w/ EZpass). not to menting the time lost due to having to move your car because of alt. side parking. also the nyc subway rocks, not that it doesn't need improvment, but it is almost allways the fastest way to get around during the work week.
I think bikes are great if you can use them, ie if distances are not too great, secure area to lock up, not too much to carry.
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