For many Washingtonians, the question doesn’t matter. “Thirty percent of persons in D.C. do not own a car,” said John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic. “We have one of the largest ratios of people who don’t own cars in the country.” For those people, public transportation is a must.
But for the 70 percent of us who own cars and want to decide whether to drive or take Metro, there are ways to calculate the costs. You might be surprised by the results.
Singles in the City
Cars are expensive
There’s a reason why many Washingtonians don’t have cars: They’re expensive. “The cheapest part of owning a car is the gas; people never believe it,” Townsend said. “Look at the cost of parking, the average cost of operating the car per mile, insurance, maintenance — all those things factor into owning a car.” According to AAA’s “Your Driving Costs” guide, in 2011, the average cost of owning a sedan rose to $8,776 per year, or 58.5 cents per mile based on driving 15,000 miles a year. How badly do you need one?
Calculating the advantages:
Let’s say you live in Clarendon and want to get to Metro Center. That’s roughly $4 a day for the 21 days you’ll be headed to work in June, a total of $84 spent on your Metro commute. Before you add up the cost of gas, car maintenance, insurance and wear-and-tear on your car, contrast that $84 with the cost of parking downtown. “The average cost to park in an unreserved parking space in downtown Washington is $240 per month compared to the national average of $155.22 per month,” Townsend said. You’re saving more than $150 on the parking alone.
Conclusion: If you have the option of walking to a Metro station and using Metrorail for your commute, you’re saving a significant amount of money.
Park and Ride
You’re not saving that much
Those living in the suburbs might think that taking Metro in from the farthest stop would save a lot of money, but it’s not the case. The farther away you are from the Metro station, the gap in the cost of driving vs. riding narrows, so much so that it might behoove you to drive every once in a while.
Here’s a scenario using Metro’s Savings Calculator to calculate the cost of driving between Metro Center and Huntington. Driving to and from Metro Center would cost $400 each month if you were paying $10 each workday to park. Compare that with $344, the monthly cost of riding Metrorail from Huntington after paying to park at the station. With daily parking at Huntington costing $4.50, a round-trip rush-hour commute of $7.70 and the cost to drive to the departure station, the numbers add up. The daily difference between riding and driving is $2 to $3. Which one will save you time? Will you be more comfortable in traffic than on the train?