Who Pays for the CTA?

June 4th, 2012

Last week we showed you how your fare gets split into the different parts of the CTA budget. However, your $2.25 doesn’t pay for everything the CTA needs. In fact, fares pay for only about 40% of the $1.3 billion budget. So where does the money come from?

Well over half the money needed to keep the trains running and bus wheels turning comes from city, county, state, and federal sources. So while your fare pays for part of it, public funding is essential to helping us all get where we need to go!

For more information, see the CTA Finance & Budget website.

Where does your CTA fare go?

May 29th, 2012

Chicago has the second largest public transit system in the United States. The CTA manages 1,781 buses and 1,200 rail cars covering 224 miles of track to accommodate the more than 1.6 million rides taken per day. Have you ever wondered what fare helps pay for? Well, wonder no longer!

To read more about the specifics of these expenses, see the CTA Finance & Budget website.

The categories above are what your $2.25 fare pays for. However, fares only pay for about 40% of CTA’s total expenses. Where does the rest come from? We’ll explain that right here on the Abogo blog in the coming days.

The Future of Oil Means a Future for Location Efficiency

April 6th, 2012

Time Magazine’s cover story this week takes a head-on look at our oil future. In the tightly wound and sometimes muddled piece, we are reminded quite clearly that there is still no substitute for oil, and it remains by far the most heavily used fuel for transportation in this country.

The new kid on the oil block is tight-oil production, which involves fracturing rocks to release the tightly bound liquid, and it has helped to revitalize the American drilling industry. While this may be good in the short-run for the American economy by increasing our national oil output, barely a dent would be made in gasoline prices. However, public concerns like contaminating groundwater, pollution, and safety are involved in this process. Will we be resilient when fuel becomes too expensive and how will energy efficiency be improved? While Illinois is a state with a relatively low percentage of household income spent on gas, states like Mississippi (at 14.2% – highest in the nation), Montana, and South Carolina show that rural states suffer more. Location is a big factor here, in that depending on where you live, you will be affected by gas prices accordingly.

We still get our oil from a multitude of places including Canada, the Middle East, Brazil, China, and Russia, but there major changes are happening with the geopolitics of oil. Demand is still rising at high rates despite a struggling economy, but the article does not expand on this much. Maybe because of the limited space allotted, the truth that oil is mostly used to power our vehicles is not explored much. Only a couple lines about how to efficiently operate cars are mentioned, but the real truth is that we are just driving our cars more, and therefore are using more fuel.

Oil has a natural volatility and this must be embraced. Only few years ago in mid-2008, a barrel of oil was around $30. Whether the price of filling our cars is high or low, efficiency must be explored at every level. After all, as the article says, doubling your gas mileage is virtually the same thing as cutting the price of gasoline in half. Developing a current history of oil production is a great reference tool and is what the article provides, but a deeper understanding of our oil obsession and location-based analysis will help more Americans realize what they are actually paying for.

Where this analysis can be found is directly at Abogo’s site, with access to affordability and sustainability indexes all around the country. Sure, gas prices are going up and much is involved in obtaining oil for our transportation, but location efficiency is just as important here. Where you live greatly affects how much you spend on gasoline and travel, and Abogo is the site to go to for this information. Location efficiency should be a big part in making a decision on where to live, and Abogo gives you that resource!

Helping Housing Counselors Prepare Clients for the Hidden Cost of Homeownership: Transportation

April 2nd, 2012

Housing counselors know that their clients need to be prepared for the full cost of owning a home, which includes taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, and other expenses in addition to the mortgage payment. However, some may not have considered the impact that transportation costs have on a family budget, or how these costs are related to where that family lives. Transportation costs represent the second-largest and fastest-growing expense for the typical American family, and they can vary widely based on the location of a home, the size of the household, household income, and other factors.

CNT created the Housing and Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index to reveal what it costs to get around in neighborhoods across the country. The Index shows that transportation costs vary between and within regions depending on neighborhood characteristics. People who live in location-efficient neighborhoods—compact, mixed-use areas with convenient access to jobs, services, transit, and amenities—tend to have lower transportation costs. People who live in location inefficient places that require automobiles for most trips are more likely to have high transportation costs.

The differences from one location to another can make a big difference in a family’s ability to service a mortgage. The left map below shows that 7 in 10 neighborhoods (69%) in the Chicago region are considered affordable for the region’s typical household when using the conventional measure. On the right, affordability shrinks to 4 in 10 neighborhoods (42%) when using the expanded view of affordability. This produces a net loss of 1,718 neighborhoods where that typical regional family could afford to live.

CNT created an easy-to-use tool called Abogo to put this information in the hands of individuals seeking to make a decision about where to live. Now when families are evaluating their options, they can take into account not only the amount of the rent or mortgage payments and the number of bedrooms they need, but also the impact of the neighborhood on their transportation costs.

Abogo helps clients discover what it costs a typical family in a particular neighborhood to get around—not just for the commute to work, but for all those little trips that make up the bulk of our time in the car: shopping runs, picking up the kids, medical appointments, and so on. You can also use Abogo to compare the estimated transportation cost at an address to the regional average and to find the estimated carbon impact from driving.

CNT recommends that housing counselors use these tools to give clients a full understanding of the costs associated with living at a particular address. You can use Abogo to compare the average transportation costs at different addresses and determine a combined housing and transportation cost estimate for a client, making sure that a home is truly affordable and sustainable for a family. Figuring out transportation costs is a key part of assessing the total cost of owning a home.

CNT also offers a training guide to housing counselors on how to use the H+T Index in their work. It offers the tools and knowledge to help first-time homebuyers and other clients consider how they can control transportation costs while saving for a home, as part of their home-buying decision and to help them stay in their home over the long term. The guide includes talking points for use in one-on-one meetings, a take-home handout for clients, and two slides that can be used in workshop settings. We have collaborated with The Housing Trust of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the City of El Paso, Texas, to develop these materials, and are currently working to make the guide available in more areas (for more information, contact Stefanie Shull at sshull@cnt.org)

CNT is committed to creating cities that use resources wisely and are affordable for all. Working with housing counselors to provide families the information they need to understand the transportation cost implications of where they choose to live is a key strategy in meeting that commitment.

(Post originally appears as a guest post on Metropolitan Planning Council’s blog)

Dublin Transportation Costs

March 16th, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

While our data doesn’t cover the Emerald Isle, let’s see how close we can get, starting with the Dublin with the highest transportation costs. Just outside of Oakland, Dublin, CA, is home to Discovery Channel’s MythBusters:
Dublin, OH is a suburb of Columbus and hosts one of the largest Irish festivals in the US—though you’ll have to wait until August.
And the Dublin with the lowest transportation costs? Dublin, GA-half way between Savannah and Atlanta-gets a big dose of Irish credibility for being mentioned in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.
Do you live in a place with a connection to Ireland? Hope you don’t need to pay a whole pot of gold to get around! May you find a train, bus, car sharing car, sidewalk or bikepath at the end of your rainbow!

Air Jordan’s Transportation Cost

March 7th, 2012

Michael Jordan can float across the basketball court, but to get around, he still drives one of many, very, very expensive cars. His home in Highland Park, Illinois, is up for sale (check out the giant ‘23’ on the gate).

If a typical family could afford the $29 million asking price (which, being a typical family, they couldn’t), what would they spend on transportation?

$1,162 wouldn’t be  much to His Airness, what with the Nike contracts and stakehouses, but that’s a chunk of change for a typical household—almost $14,000 a year.

So, imagining for a second that MJ still donned a Bulls uniform, what if MJ wanted to try a lower-cost way to get to work at the United Center? The nearest METRA regional commuter rail stop is about two miles away. He should have no problem pulling a LeBron and riding his bike the last stretch. Or, if he wanted to save his legs, he could grab a Pace suburban bus! It’s about an hour trip downtown, and then a bus straight from the train station to the United Center. Piece of cake.

Most Places Unaffordable, According to Updated Housing and Transportation Cost Data

February 28th, 2012

CNT has just released the latest version of the Housing + Transportation (H+T®) Affordability Index, using the most up-to-date Census data. While this is exciting news for those who have used the Index in the past, the news on affordability isn’t so bright.

Most places are unaffordable when it comes to combined housing and transportation costs.

72% of American communities are unaffordable for typical regional households when transportation costs—the second largest expense in a family budget—are considered along with housing costs. Under the traditional definition of housing affordability, where a rent or mortgage payment consumes no more than 30 percent of household income, three out of four (76 percent) US communities are considered “affordable” to the regional typical household making their area’s median income. However, under an expanded definition of affordability, where housing and transportation costs consume no more than 45 percent of income, the number of affordable communities decreases to 28 percent, resulting in a loss of 86,000 neighborhoods that are within reach for a typical family.

Transportation costs have risen 39%; much more than income.

The analysis also shows that it is much more difficult for the typical household to find a truly affordable place to live today than it was a decade ago, with incomes having increased roughly half as much as transportation and housing costs since 2000. Median housing costs, as reported by the US Census, have increased by nearly 37 percent nationwide, while the national median income has only increased by approximately 22 percent. Average transportation costs in the geographies covered by both Indexes increased by more than 39 percent or $318 per month.

People living in walkable, transit-accessible places are better off.

Despite the increase in transportation costs from 2000 to 2009, the Index shows that people living in location efficient neighborhoods—characterized by access to transit, jobs, and amenities—experienced a smaller increase than those living in car-dependent places. The typical family living in a location efficient neighborhood in 2000 (where transportation costs were less than 15 percent of the national median income), saw average transportation costs increase by approximately $1,400 annually. Meanwhile, families living in inefficient neighborhoods (where 2000 transportation costs were greater than 15 percent of the national median income), had average transportation costs increase by more than twice as much, or slightly over $3,900 annually. The difference between these two numbers, $3,900 and $1400 per year, is a benefit of $200 per month “less exposure” to the rising cost of gas during the decade.

CNT used the Index to rank the metropolitan areas that had the highest and lowest average monthly transportation costs for a typical family earning the national median income. Be sure to check out the Index and create your own custom comparisons.

$4,155: Gas Bill for the Typical American Household

December 20th, 2011

An Associated Press article found that the typical American household pays $4,155 a year to fill their gas tanks—or 8.4 percent of median family income. Research by the Center for Neighborhood Technology has found that living in location efficient places—walkable communities with access to amenities and transit—helps people keep transportation costs low compared with people living in inefficient places where a car is a must to get around.

More and more people understand that the spread-out nature of our communities—home is here, work is there, Junior’s school is that way, and groceries are way over there—are stretching our family budgets to the breaking point. More and more people want to live in communities that are convenient, vibrant, and affordable.

What would you do with an extra $4,155 in your pocket this year?

Santa and his Bright Red Sleigh

December 15th, 2011

Last year, Abogo visited Santa up in North Pole, Alaska, to estimate some of the transportation costs he is likely to encounter. We decided to revisit the jolly St. Nick to update some of the estimates made last year. Bottom line: Santa needs more payment than cookies to break even on his travel costs.

Courtesy AlxTheRed

We can assume the price of keeping Santa’s reindeer healthy has stayed relatively constant since last year at around $2,000 per reindeer per year. This totals $18,000 just for reindeer related costs. This may seem more costly than car maintenance per year, but let’s explore more costs. Taking a trip around the world in one night can put some dings in the sleigh. Luckily Santa has a few handy helpers, so we can assume that he spends only $1,000 on sleigh maintenance.

Abogo decided not to include insurance costs for ole’ St. Nicholas last year. However, after some close calls last year and some nagging from Ms. Claus, he decided that he should pick some up this year. So, how much does it cost to insure a sleigh that travels around the world?  Gina Roberts Grey of MSN Money explored this option in an article published last year. This is what she found:

-Since he flies his sleigh in the air, typical auto coverage will not suffice. Santa must purchase aircraft hull and liability insurance. This will cover any damage done while in flight. Santa hasn’t had any reported accidents, so his annual premium would be low—an estimated $30,000.

-Santa’s nine reindeers are an anomaly in the world of insurance, but could be considered “engines” and insured under a special endorsement along with the sleigh. For the team of reindeers, Santa can expect to pay an additional $12,000 on top of the $30,000 he dished out for coverage of the sleigh.

Abogo has found an unfurnished replica of Santa’s sleigh handmade by a Michigan carpenter.

This replica, with a reindeer pole attachment, costs $4,500. This, however, is only a shell of what Santa’s sleigh includes. On top of the sleigh, he will need headlights to see and be seen in the night, harnesses for his reindeer, a windshield for keeping his eyes dry while traveling so fast, and some decoration in light of the joyous occasion. We can assume that Santa’s elves can produce these accessories in-house (hey, if they can make an iPad…), which will keep costs low. In total, Santa will probably need around $6,000 more to ensure his sleigh is holiday ready.

Assuming his non-residency in any country, Santa will not have to file for any permits this year. The sleigh will depreciate by about 5 percent for a total of $3 in costs. He will most certainly still need an air freshener ($5) since riding behind nine reindeer for an entire night can get stinky!

Good thing Santa has magic on his side, or else he would be hard pressed to visit all of the children in the world. Despite this magic, Santa still must consider transportation costs for the year.

In total, we found that Santa can expect to spend $28,058 on transportation costs per year. In comparison, his neighbors can expect to spend nearly $14,000 per year at current gas prices.  Along with the cost of depreciation and insurance, this cost is likely to be much higher. Santa avoids gas costs by using renewable energy—his reindeer.

Peter DeFazio’s Oregon District Transportation Costs

December 8th, 2011

Are the roads in your area looking a little rough? Perhaps you’ve been swerving to avoid potholes more often than usual? Is your wait at the bus stop getting longer and longer? Maybe you want to bike more often, but are terrified of sharing the same lane as an oversized Hummer? Whatever your situation, transportation infrastructure affects everyone. The construction and maintenance of America’s roads, bridges, transit, and bike lanes rely on federal funding. This funding not only improves our ability to get around, but also provides thousands of much needed jobs.

Usually, the federal government passes something known as the Transportation Reauthorization Act every five to six years to assist states in funding transportation infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, legislation of this kind has not been passed since the expiration of the last reauthorization (enacted 2005)more than two years ago.

A few weeks ago, we profiled John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He  is in charge of the House proposal for federal funding of infrastructure improvements. We looked at the transportation costs of two different cities in his district, one urban and one rural, to see how the lack of transportation investment affects his constituents. All politics is local, right?

This week Abogo visits the district of another member of this powerful committee. Peter DeFazio has represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District since 1987 and is the ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Bordering California to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west, his district includes more than 680,000 constituents.

Springfield, Oregon, is where DeFazio resides when he is not working on legislation in the nation’s capital. Since Matt Groening grew up in Oregon, it is rumored that this Springfield may be the one that the Simpsons family lives in.

Courtesy Flikr- slideshow bruce

Let’s see what Springfield residents’ transportation costs are on average per month.

Assuming the Simpsons family does indeed living in this Springfield, the Abogo gas slider shows that Homer and Marge and their three-dimensional neighbors could expect to shell out $867 per month on transportation costs. That’s a 15 percent increase from 2000. 2010 Census data show that the average commute to work is about 20 minutes for residents, and that 74 percent drive alone to work. To lower these costs, residents can consider carpooling or taking the Lane Transit District bus system that operates in both Springfield and neighboring Eugene.

Another city located in DeFazio’s district is Florence, Oregon. Located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the city is known as a popular tourist destination. Let’s see what residents near Heceta Beach, one of the more popular beaches in the area and the location of the infamous exploding whale story, can expect to pay in monthly transportation costs.

Courtesy Flikr- hatchski

Given the current gas price of $3.50 in Oregon, residents can pay around $1,127 per month in costs related to transportation. This is a 19 percent increase from what could be expected in 2000, almost $300 more per month than Springfield. Due to the beautiful, but less location efficient setting of the beach, residents are more car-dependent than families in Springfield.. According to 2010 Census Data, the majority of residents in Florence commute less than 10 minutes to work. Given such short commute times, many could reduce the cost of their commute by walking or biking instead of driving alone.

We at Abogo come to the same conclusion here in Oregon as we did after our trip to south Florida: DeFazio’s constituents are spending a sizeable chunk of their incomes on transportation. They could use smart investments in transportation that would help people become less car-dependent and less beholden to the gas tank. DeFazio, like Mica, should be pushing hard to pass a Transportation Reauthorization Act that improves the everyday lives of people and spurs jobs.

Where does your congressional representation stand on transportation investments? What do you want to see invested in transportation-wise you’re your tax dollars?