Is Public Transportation Cheaper Than Driving?

Is Public Transportation Cheaper Than Driving?

Whether you’re a student or working full time, it’s essential to get around. Many people opt to buy a car and take transportation matters into their own hands. Others prefer to ride a bus or train with fellow commuters. We’ve compiled information on both options to help you determine which option is best for you. 

The Benefits of Public Transportation

Those who take public transportation, whether it’s a bus, train, or light rail, often see many advantages.

  • It’s Better for the Environment: Each car on the road outputs carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes to global warming. In fact, transportation accounts for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. When dozens of people ride together, however, they reduce the amount of pollution generated. Heavy rail systems, such as subways and metros, produce 76% fewer emissions per mile than the average single-occupancy vehicle. Light rail systems and buses are also more eco-friendly than hopping in the car.
  • It Can Save You Money: Driving comes with more costs than the vehicle itself. You have to purchase insurance, keep your gas tank full, and schedule routine maintenance. In comparison, you pay to use public transportation per ride, a fee that’s typically a few dollars at most. Although owning a car can give you a degree of freedom you might not otherwise have, many who take a bus or subway save money in the long run. In some locations, services like taxis, ridesharing services, and trains can still be less expensive than owning and driving a car.
  • It’s Safer Than Driving: Driving a car can be dangerous. While you can control how you act on the road, you can’t take over the wheel for others. When you take public transportation, you reduce the chance of getting into an accident by more than 90%. The next time you sit next to fellow travelers during your commute, rest easy knowing you can pick up a book or listen to music without focusing on the road. 

Tips for Saving on Public Transportation

Doing your research can lead to even more savings and benefits when it comes to public transportation. For example:

  • If you plan to ride local public transportion more than once, look for a multi-use card. A monthly pass, for example, often comes with unlimited rides, ideal for someone commuting to work or school.
  • Call the transportation authority and ask about available discounts. You can typically save money if you’re a student, military member, over of the age of 65, or have a disability.
  • Find out if you can bring your bike with you when you travel. Instead of paying for a transfer to your exact destination, you can ride a short distance and burn some calories.

The Benefits of Private Transportation 

Don’t sell your car and buy a bus pass just yet. Driving your own vehicle comes with its own set of benefits.

  • You Have More Flexibility: When you drive, you have the freedom to choose where and when you want to travel, including the exact start and stop destinations. You control the schedule, instead of looking at timetables and trying to rush. You also go straight from point A to point B without unnecessary stops. Driving is ideal when you want to cross long distances. Many transport systems have limited routes and are confined to locations within the same city. Sometimes getting across town requires multiple transfers. With a vehicle, however, you can drive across city, state — and country — lines with ease.

  • You Can Travel in Comfort: Public transportation, which often requires crowding into a small area, can be uncomfortable. If no seats are available, you may have to stand. If you get stuck next to someone loud, you have to wait until your stop to escape. In a car, you can make yourself as comfortable as you want. You have more space and can control the temperature and airflow. If you feel like listening to music, you can blast tunes as loud as you want.

  • You Can Be Alone: One of the most significant issues of public transportation is that you can’t control who you sit next to. In a car, you can drive alone or accept friends and family members as passengers. You can bring along valuables without fearing that something might get left behind. If you’re worried about driving at night or in a particular area, you have the option of leaving at a different time or choosing a safer route.

Tips for Saving on Driving

If you decide driving is the best option for you, look for ways to cut costs and save. For example, you can reduce insurance premiums if you opt to take a driver’s education class.

If you’re a student, either in high school or college, ask your insurance agent for applicable discounts. Often, if you have good grades and stay accident-free, you may receive lower monthly costs.

Be sure to take care of your car and schedule routine maintenance. The longer you let a problem go, the more expensive it becomes to fix.

Public Transportation vs. Driving — What’s the Best Option?

Should you drive a car or ride the local public transportation system? The answer depends on you and your needs. On the bus or train, you can save money with each ride and know you’re helping the environment. In a car, however, you have the freedom to travel when and where you please.

To learn more about saving money — both on and off the road — find tips and resources on our WalletWorks page.

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.