TexPIRG Education Fund
DALLAS, TX–On March 17th, Dallas residents celebrate Transportation Freedom Day, the date a typical area household has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs.
“Transportation Freedom Day is an eye opener,” said Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). “It shows the need for greater investments in more efficient ways to get around, such as public transit. When government makes the right kind of transportation investments, citizens save a lot of money.”
Americans on average spend an astounding 17 percent of their annual income on transportation, far more than they pay for food, clothing, entertainment, income taxes or even health care. New findings released by the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) show that a typical Dallas-Ft.Worth household shells out the equivalent of 21 percent income to pay for transportation, or 76 days to pay for annual transportation costs.
In more walkable communities with better transit systems households spend less. In the Oak Lawn neighborhood between Cole and Lemon station, for instance, residents spend less of their income on transportation than other surrounding places. A typical area household could expect to spend 13 percent of their income on transportation if they lived there, the equivalent of about 4 fewer weeks of income to get around.
“People may not recognize how much they pay for transportation. Our research and these numbers show that we need long-term solutions that make it easier for Texans to drive less and to get around more efficiently,” said Melissa Cubria of TexPIRG.
Here in Dallas-Ft.Worth, Transportation Freedom Days in the region ranged from February 17th in Oak Lawn Neighborhood around Cole and Lemon Station (i.e., 13% of income), compared to April 4th in Aubrey (i.e. 25.5% of income). Averaged across the region as a whole, Transportation Freedom Day lands on March 17th.
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, TexPIRG seeks to raise awareness about how access to public transportation is a crucial for saving Americans money.
“Shortchanging public transportation is a classic case of being pennywise and pound foolish,” added Cubria. “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 includes gas, repairs, parking, vehicle depreciation and transit fares.
The findings illustrated in Transportation Freedom Day confirm other data showing that an individual commuter switching from driving from the suburbs to using public transportation in 2010 could expect to save $8,756 in 2010, according to the American Public Transit Association.
Transportation Freedom Day data comes from the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, 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. Transportation demand is modeled using the most recent census data, and costs are calculated to include car ownership, maintenance, gas, and transit fares. A detailed description of their transportation cost methodology can be found at: http://htaindex.cnt.org/model_summary.