Public Transit vs. Private Car Costs


I (Kevin, Co-Founder of Fight Gridlock) was recently asked about transit costs compared to the cost of private car ownership.

“We ought to be looking for ways to make the costs of public transportation as near to free as we can. If we calculated all the costs of having someone drive a car versus taking transit – It probably cost society far more for the car driver – that the car driver doesn’t pay themselves. We all do. And this is without putting a cost on the environmental impact.”

Fight Gridlock fully acknowledges that nothing is “free”. Like anything else, transportation funding is always about “how much does it cost”, and “who’s going to pay for it”. That said, this is an interesting enough topic to dive into to better understand how transportation is funded and value for money.

This article will look at the topic in two ways:

  1. What is the out-of-pocket cost for these trips?
  2. What is the cost to society to enable trips by public transportation vs. private automobile.

Internalized (Out-Of-Pocket) Costs

Private Automobile

Generally, the variables in private automobile transportation are what kind of automobile, whether it is new or used, how many automobiles, and how much mileage is applied. This could be influenced by lifestyle stages such as whether a person has a partner or not, and whether children are being transported regularly. This article will explore a few scenarios, with all costs cited from CAA Driving Costs Calculator, Province of Ontario. Annual mileage of 20,000km on a new automobile is assumed.

Source: https://www.caa.ca/carcosts/
Last accessed: February 24, 2018, 10:19pm

Scenario Car Ownership Annual Cost
One Adult, No Kids Compact Car $7,534.81
One Adult, Two Kids Van $9,874.18
Two Adults, No Kids Two Compact Cars $15,069.62
Two Adults, Two Kids One Compact Car,
One Van
$17,408.99

 

Public Transit

Let’s build out the same scenarios using public transit. There is some overlap in variables, but there are also unique differences. For example: Committing to owning a van accumulates costs whether the van is used to full capacity of not. While monthly public transit passes are available for children, they are not always the best use of money if a child does not need public transit every day. This article will assume the purchase of Brampton Transit monthly passes.

Source: http://www.brampton.ca/EN/residents/transit/Fares/Pages/Fares.aspx
Last accessed: February 24, 2018, 10:35pm

Scenario Monthly Passes Annual Cost
One Adult, No Kids One Adult $122 * 12

= $1,464
One Adult, Two Kids One Adult
Two Child/Youth
$122 * 12 = $1,464
$105 * 12 = $1,260

$1,464 + $1,260 + $1,260

= $3,984
Two Adults, No Kids Two Adult $122 * 12 = $1,464

$1,464 + $1,464

= $2,928

Two Adults, Two Kids Two Adult
Two Child/Youth
$122 * 12 = $1,464
$105 * 12 = $1,260

$1,464 + $1,464 + $1,260 + $1,260

= $5,448

 

Externalized (Socialized) Costs

The tricky thing about public transit is that some of the cost is recovered at the fare box, and the rest is paid for by taxes — which every Brampton resident pays into. Further confounding the matter is that cost recovery is not limited to Brampton residents. This brings us to the second part of this article: What is the cost to enable trips by public transportation vs. private automobile?

2017 Brampton Transit Costs

Operational Costs Source: http://www.brampton.ca/EN/City-Hall/budget/2018%20Budget/Operating%20Budget/TRN_S_2018.pdf
Last accessed: February 24, 2018, 11:43pm

Capital Costs Source: http://www.brampton.ca/EN/City-Hall/budget/2017%20Budget/Capital%20Overview.pdf
Last accessed: February 24, 2018, 11:43pm

Item 2017 Cost
Operations (Drivers, Staff Wages) $136,909,597
Capital (New Buses) $71,421,000
Total $208,330,597

 

This total cost does not take into consideration any grants received by the provincial government, or any cost recovery from the fare box.

Factoring In Census Data

Census Source: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=3521010&Geo2=PR&Code2=35&Data=Count&SearchText=Toronto&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All
Last accessed: February 24, 2018, 11:59pm

Census data suggests that Brampton’s population was 593,638 people in 2016, and that an estimated 13.96% of the population uses public transit as their main mode of travel. This works out to be an estimated 82,872 people.

The same census data suggests that 75.89% of Brampton’s population is a driver of a car, truck, or van as their main mode of travel. This works out to be an estimated 450,512 people.

What Are The Costs?

A cost of $208,330,597 to provide transit to approximately 82,872 people amounts to a full cost of approximately $2,513.88 per person annually.

If an estimated 450,512 people each pay $7,534.81 per year to drive a compact car, this amounts to a total of $3,394,522,322.72 — that’s over 3 BILLION DOLLARS — being paid into a system to support private automobile transport.

Even with no cost recovery at the fare box, a fully subsidized transit system costs 3 times less per person than what it costs for the public to pay for private automobile ownership.

The total contribution being paid to support private automobile ownership is more than 16 times higher than the total cost of the entire Brampton Transit system.

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About kemosite

Registered Graphic Designer with the province of Ontario, and a Certified User Experience Designer. Certified CAN-BIKE Instructor, amateur urbanist, and advocate for cycling and walkable, liveable cities. Former Co-Chair of the Brampton Cycling Advisory Committee. Car-free since 2011.

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