There’s More Transportation Costs Than Commuting

'traffic jam' by flikr user K2D2vaca

People love to hate their commutes. What could be better than being stuck in traffic going to and from work? All that money going out your tailpipe while you listen to talk radio. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 76% of home buyers rated commuting costs as an “important” or “very important” consideration when they were looking for a place to live.

I’ve found that when I talk about transportation costs, people automatically think about their commute—“My costs must be lower because I take the train” or “I must be saving a lot by working from home!”. Now I encourage you all to use alternative modes of transportation to work, but it’s important to point out that the commute takes up just a fraction of a households total transportation budget.

According to the National Household Transportation Survey (I suggest you read the report below), the daily commute accounts for 14.9% of all trips taken—that’s a little less than one in seven trips. So what are the other six trips? The top three destinations are (drum roll please):

  • Family/ personal business: 22.5%
  • Shopping: 19.8%
  • Other social/ recreational: 18.4%

% of all trips by purpose

So if you stopped a random traveler, it’s more likely they’re out and about on personal business, shopping, or for fun than going to work.

But this is just trips; surely the slog to work is the longest of all. This is true—the commute accounts for 18.1% of all person miles traveled. But family/personal business is right behind at 17.3%, other social/recreational at 16.2%, and shopping at 14%.

% of miles by purpose

So while the commute may often the longest single trip of the day, it doesn’t overshadow the other trips the way people might expect. And let’s not forget that a huge part of what we measure as transportation cost isn’t just the cost of driving a car—it’s the cost of owning one that really drives (ha!) the numbers up. So living in a place where you can walk, bike, and take transit for all your other trips-not just to work-that will help keep your transportation cost down.

So how about you-what do you do to make your commute easier?

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