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Household Deficit Reduction: Transit Saves People Almost $10K a Year

2:28 PM PST on January 10, 2011

With gas prices at their highest level since October 2008, the American Public Transportation Association’s monthly Transit Savings Report estimates that transit riders save, on average, $9,656 a year.

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Of course, not everyone has equal access to these massive savings. According to APTA's numbers, which are based on gas prices ($3.08 per gallon last week) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate, big city residents save the most by giving up their wheels. But what about residents of transit-poor areas? For them, car dependency is like a mandate to spend $805 more per month - the equivalent of a second rent check. With no other way to get around, how are they to access the savings available to transit riders?

With the House of Representatives seemingly prepared to skimp on transportation budgets and reorient spending toward highways, it may soon get tougher to extend the savings provided by transit to more Americans.

According to APTA's figures, New Yorkers see the biggest savings from riding transit, topping out at $14,159 a year. San Francisco is number three, saving $12,738 by taking the train. Washington, DC is way down at number 14, but we Washingtonians still save $9,709 a year riding transit. (These numbers assume that big city residents drive the same number of miles as anyone else, which they almost never do, so the real-life savings may not be quite as high as APTA indicates.)

Still, the huge savings for transit riders almost make those fare hikes a little easier to swallow, don't they? Even paying more for transit service, riders are saving a bundle. But will Congress make sure these savings are available to more Americans? Or will we hang on to a system that gives a relatively small number of us the option to spend less on transportation?

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