Taking the Subway Saves New Yorkers $14K Every Year

by , 05/11/11
filed under: News,Transportation

nyc subway, nyc metro, new york subway savings, public transportation savings

If you regularly take the subway, take a moment to pat yourself on the back. Not only are you helping the environment, but you’re also helping your wallet. A new study released by the American Public Transportation Association shows that because of soaring gas prices and parking rates, New Yorkers can save up to $14,750 every year if they ditch their cars and hop on the train. We all know the environmental benefits of forgoing cars, but now we have even more reason to pick up our MetroCards instead of our car keys!

nyc subway, nyc metro, new york subway savings, public transportation savings

To calculate the savings, the APTA compared the cost of a monthly MetroCard, $104, with APTA’s average cost of driving formula. The formula take into account fixed costs like insurance, license registration, depreciation, and finance charges, as well as variable costs like gas, maintenance, and tires.

The formula also assumes that the average person would drive 15,000 miles a year or 41 miles per day, a fact that Benjamin Kabak at Second Avenue Sagas takes issue with in regards to New Yorkers’ driving habits:

I have to believe these numbers are slightly inflated for New Yorkers. It doesn’t seem to consider the fact that many daily subway riders are still car-owners, and it seems to overestimate mileage totals. A trip from Bergen Beach to Midtown, for instance, is only 13 miles one way, and someone driving from Riverdale to Lower Manhattan would put less than 30 miles on their car.

While Kabak has a good point, there is still no doubt that the savings we reap from taking public transportation are quite high compared to the cost of owning a car — no matter how you do the math. So even if it hurts a little bit every month when you plop down 100 big ones for that new subway pass, take comfort in the fact that every ride you take is like money in your pocket.

You can see the results for the nation’s top 20 public transportation cities here.

Via Second Avenue Sagas



  1. lazyreader May 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm
    The Interstate highway system was payed for out of user fees. Coming from the form of gas taxes and excise taxes based on tires and other automobile activities. It was also payed for out of tolls. The system took years to build because they didn't get the money to do it all in just a few years. There was no heavy burrowing to address it's costs. It operated on a positive feedback incentive of drivers paying as they drove, that's why it took longer than thought to finish it. NYC's subway receives many "federal" grants annually. As for choice, I never chose to pay for it. I was not talking about New York, even so many transit rail systems are not even 30 years old. They exist in cities with barely one tenth the population and they expect fares will cover the operating costs. Fares barely cover the construction costs and even if they do, it eventually must be rebuilt after a few decades. When it's worn out the few people that still use it are gonna form a lobby to keep on subsidizing the line. And this is the behavior pattern that you find in every other city. For NYC it took hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the pumps up to a good state of repair. Not to long ago a free market think tank, published the salaries of MTA employees through the New York Times. Turns out nearly 8,000 employees are making nearly 100,000 dollars. 60 percent of the MTA budget goes into personnel, not trains. A report from the American Bus Association tracks subsidies per passenger mile for various means. The report says, federal subsidies per passenger mile to air travel averaged 0.8 cents; to autos averaged 0.006 cents; to intercity buses averaged 0.05 cents; to Amtrak averaged 25.4 cents; and to urban transit averaged 19.3 cents. The federal subsidy to highways was actually negative (meaning highway users paid more than highway costs) until 2001, and turned positive mainly because Congress made spending mandatory regardless of revenues (a policy that was corrected this year). The subway is gonna cost tens of billions in order to raise it to a state one could consider a decent state of repair. And most of that money will line the pockets of vicious unions and it will be several years before the first new wheels turns. A true user-fee funded transportation system would eliminate the need for any federal involvement in transit and, for that matter, most other forms of transportation. One researcher has said New York could provide all the transit needs using largely buses. Most cities are lucky that transit is functionally irrelevant. Imagine if more cities were like New York City, where more than half of all workers, not to mention lots of school children, rely on an expensive form of transportation that the city can’t afford to maintain even in the good years, much less a recession. Of course, if smart-growth advocates and urban planners had their way, a lot more cities would be in this fix. Give me a break........or a refund.............
  2. ddotmark May 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm
    Give me a break! I can leave my home in Brooklyn and be at work in midtown Manhattan in under 30 minutes. Home to office in 30 minutes. Can you do that in your car? You act as if roads are free. They are built with taxpayer dollars just like mass transit. This is 2011 and you're bringing back stories about the 1970's...jeeze...give me a break. And, of course there are absolutely no health related side effects from automobiles, but transit has excessive noise problems...jeeze, give me a break. Look, you continue to drive your self-susported fully funded automobile and I'll continue to take my subsidized transit. You should thank me for making me pay for your free highways and roads. I'll use my savings and free time to enjoy my life, you can spend your time looking for a parking spot. Now that's freedom or choice.
  3. lazyreader May 12, 2011 at 8:32 am
    Several subway lines have reached their operational limits in terms of train frequency and passengers, according to data released by the Transit Authority. All but one of the "A" Division Lines as well as the E and L trains are beyond capacity. Rainwater can disrupt signals underground and require the electrified third rail to be shut off. Since 1992, $357 million has been used to improve 269 pump rooms. Despite these improvements, the transit system continues to experience flooding problems. Litter accumulation is a perennial problem in the subway system. In the 1970s, dirty trains and platforms and graffiti were a serious problem. The situation has improved since then, but the 2010 budget crisis has threatened to curtail trash removal from the subway system. New York subway trains produce high levels of noise that exceed guidelines set by the World Health Organization and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Subways are a bad idea for other cities. Most DC visitors and residents consider the Washington Metrorail system to be a great success, so far it's been a failure. Back in 1962, planners projected that a 103-mile rail system would cost less than $800 million or about $4.6 billion in 2009 dollars. Moreover, they expected that fares would cover all of the operating costs and nearly most of the capital costs. As it turned out, the actual 103-mile system that was completed in 2001 covers all of the basic routes of that original plan, yet cost $17.6 billion in 2009 dollars, close to four times the initial projection. Fares cover only about 60 percent of operating costs and, of course, none of the capital costs. Cost overruns don’t explain why fares failed to cover the operating costs, as planners projected. Blame this on planners’ optimistic ridership estimates. Projections said the Metrorail system would lure more than one-third of the region’s commuters and three-fifths of peak-hour trips downtown to use transit. In fact, it achieved less than half these numbers. Metrorail’s average track-mile carries only about half as many passenger miles as a single freeway lane mile, so the six double-track rail lines that converge on downtown are about equal to one six-lane freeway. The highway that rail advocates rejected included several such freeways, and Metrorail failed to substitute for these unbuilt roads. Without adequate transportation, most new jobs moved to the suburbs anyway.