March 16 Marks “Transportation Freedom Day” for Metro Madison

Media Contacts

Residents Must Work Over Two Months to Cover Annual Transportation Costs. Area Consumers Seeking Options – Community Car Hits Membership Milestone


Madison, WI – On March 16, Madison 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,” stated Bruce Speight, WISPIRG Director, at the event. “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.”

Also today, Community Car, Wisconsin’s first carshare organization that rents cars by the hour using a computerized reservation system, has hit a milestone earlier than planned. They now have 1200 drivers. 57% of their members are avoiding the purchase of a car and the number one reason for joining Community Car is to save money. The average Community Car member spends $420/year compared with AAA estimate of $9,055/year for transportation cost. Visit to learn more.

“I did a back of the envelope calculation and I’m spending a third less on transportation than I used to with Community Car. I don’t have to worry about insurance, gas and maintenance because it’s all covered in the hourly rate and I get to drive  a cool Mini Cooper convertible” says Duncan Basson, Community Car member since summer of 2009 when his 21 year old station wagon died.

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 Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) show that a typical Madison household shells out the equivalent of nearly 19 percent, or over two months of a typical annual salary to pay for transportation costs.  In more walkable communities and better transit systems households spend less.

“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 Wisconsinites and particularly residents in the greater Madison area to drive less and to get around more efficiently,” said Speight of WISPIRG.

The average American household spent more than $8,000 per year on its vehicles in 2008 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The average Madison family is spending $9,196 on transportation costs.  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, WISPIRG 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,” added Speight. “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 switching from driving to public transportation in 2010 in Minneapolis could expect to save $9,884 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: .

Transportation Freedom Day logo found at