Debate Flares Over Cost of Driving Vs. Metro

by Will Smith


A handful of local publications have weighed in on a debate about which commute is cheaper: Metro or driving. The debate started with a post on Washingtonian’s Capital Comment blog, which asserted that driving is the cheaper way to commute from various points outside the District into the Metro Center station downtown. The post was later taken down because of flawed analysis.

This morning, smart growth proponent Greater Greater Washington published a follow-up analysis looking at the same commutes. The analysis resulted in a completely opposite conclusion: driving is roughly twice as expensive as commuting by Metro.

It turns out that quantifying the cost of a commute is pretty tricky. It’s more than just Metro fare versus gasoline and parking. The calculation also has to take into account variables such as the depreciation of your car; the stress caused by sitting for an hour every day in rush hour; the time you can read or do work riding the Metro; safety, etc. GGW’s post has elicited 45 comments (and counting), many of which contain thoughtful critiques of their analysis.

Regardless of how a commute is calculated, one thing is for sure: short ones are better than long ones. As GGW writes, “Shorter commutes, regardless of the mode, will almost always be faster, less expensive, and less stressful than long commutes.”

See other articles related to: metro, greater greater washington, commuting

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/debate_flares_over_cost_of_driving_vs._metro/2217


  1. Emil said at 2:04 pm on Tuesday June 29, 2010:

    The priceless time you have to drink your coffee while driving versus the ability to read your newspaper while on the bus or rail.

  1. SW said at 3:21 pm on Tuesday June 29, 2010:

    Oh, there’s plenty of time to drink your coffee on Metro, too. Ask all the ladies who do just that.

  1. KW said at 11:51 pm on Tuesday June 29, 2010:

    Not sure who performs such studies.  Do they use real examples.  I live in Hyattsville, MD but work in Alexandria Va.  Driving to work takes 25-30 minutes door to door.  Metro takes 50-65 minutes on average to do the same.  It costs me about 1.75 gallons of gas a day x 2.85 a gallon= 5.00 day.  A metro trip is over 4 dollars each way or 8 bucs for a daily pass.  Even if I by weekly rail passes I spend 41 bucs a week.  Considering that my entire total for gas is about $100 a month that’s not cheap. Beleive me, I wish we could say metro is cheaper but it’s clearly not.  And it’s going to get worse.  Instead of doing the reasonable thing like facing service cuts prices will go up.  Making a metro trip for ordinary working people more expensive so that wealthier people or those with more disposable income can hang out latter when going out for night on the town.

  1. Concentrist said at 9:09 am on Wednesday June 30, 2010:

    How do you account for the lack of reliability and safety uncertainies of the Metro?  I listened to an interview of the head of NTSB.  She refused to answer the simple question of whether or not she now considers the Metro to be safe.  My doubts were fully confirmed making my daily Metro commute all the stressful.

  1. Anon said at 10:24 am on Wednesday June 30, 2010:

    The one thing that I always feel these comparisons fail to take into account is the cost of parking. Sure, some people get it free. But, for those who don’t get free parking, the $10-$15 a day to park downtown means that metro wins out every time.

  1. JT said at 10:55 am on Wednesday June 30, 2010:

    You also have to consider the possible need for a car during the day for work, personal errand, or emergency if you need to get home for some reason.  The flexibility a car gives you has value too.

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