Arizona’s “Transportation Freedom Days” are Here

Media Contacts
Jason Donofrio

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

This month, many Arizonans will start to celebrate their Transportation Freedom Days, the dates by which a typical household in a particular area has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs.

An astounding 17 percent of Americans’ average annual expenditures go to transportation costs, more than they pay for food, clothing, entertainment, income taxes or even health care. New findings released by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund document that a typical Phoenix household, for example, shells out the equivalent of 21.62 percent, or close to three months of a typical annual salary to pay for transportation costs; a typical Tucson household pays approximately 24.22 percent, over three months of a typical annual salary; and Flagstaff’s households typically spend 25.49 percent of their annual salaries on transportation costs (two weeks more than a typical Phoenix household). In more walkable communities and those with better transit systems, households spend less.

The City of Phoenix celebrates its Transportation Freedom Day this coming Saturday, March 20th. In the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, Transportation Freedom Days ranged from March 2nd in North Central Phoenix along the Central Avenue Corridor (i.e., 16.67% of income), compared to April 18th in more auto-dependent Avondale (i.e., 29.51% of income). Averaged across the region as a whole, Transportation Freedom Day lands on March 24th.

Tucson celebrates its Transportation Freedom Day in the city proper on March 30th, while Transportation Freedom Days in the region ranged from March 11th in Jefferson Park near the University of Arizona (i.e., 18.94% of income) to May 9th in more auto-dependent Sahuarita (i.e., 35.08% of income). Averaged across the Tucson Metropolitan region as a whole, Transportation Freedom Day lands on April 6th.

And Flagstaff will celebrate Transportation Freedom Day on April 4th, with its downtown area celebrating a week before on March 27th – averaging 23.55% of total income spent on transportation costs – compared with April 25th and 31.43% of income in Kachina Village.

The average American household spent more than $8,000 per year on its vehicles in 2008 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Americans who live in areas with good access to public transit generally spend less on transportation than those who are fully dependent on cars. Residents in transit-friendly areas tend to attain “Transportation Freedom” earlier in the year. By highlighting these dates, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund seeks to raise awareness about how access to public transportation is crucial for saving Americans money.

“Shortchanging public transportation is a classic case of being pennywise and pound foolish,” said Jesse Victor, Transportation Associate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Now more than ever, public officials must make trains and buses a top priority.”

Transportation Freedom Day is the day of the year in which a median-income household has earned enough money to pay for their transportation expenditures for the year. It is based on Census data and includes gas, repairs, parking, vehicle depreciation and transit fares.

Transportation Freedom Day data comes from the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which is a leader in statistically based analysis of transportation and housing. Transportation costs are controlled for differences of income, family size, and number of working individuals in a household. 

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