A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Train and Bus are Cheaper

The total costs of driving, including owning a vehicle, paying for insurance, and the rest of it, have exceeded the cost of riding a bus or taking a train for a long time. But since most people own cars anyway, they tend not to think about the total costs on a day to day basis. What really matters for individual trips is the marginal cost - the cost of tolls, gas, and parking. For a long time, the marginal costs of driving a car to Boston have been cheaper than the marginal cost of buying a bus or train ticket.

But not anymore.

With gas over $4 a gallon, it's officially cheaper - and in some cases, much cheaper - to buy a ticket to Boston on the Downeaster or Concord Coach than it is to buy gas and tolls on the Maine and New Hampshire Turnpikes. Here's the breakdown of vehicle costs:

Gasoline costs (110 miles each way at $4 a gallon):
$29.33 for a 30 MPG vehicle; $59.66 for a 15 MPG vehicle
Maintenance costs (source: AAA):
$8.75 for a small vehicle; $11.15 for a large vehicle
Total vehicle operation costs:
$38 for a small sedan; $71 for a pickup or SUV

Tobin Bridge toll (southbound only): $3
NH Turnpike tolls (both directions): $3
ME Turnpike York tolls (both directions): $3.50
ME Turnpike entry/exit toll (both directions): $1.20
Total tolls: $11.70

Total costs of tolls plus gas and maintenance (parking not included):
$49.70 for a fuel-efficient sedan; $82.70 for a gas-guzzler.


A round trip on Amtrak's Downeaster, which includes wi-fi and electric outlets for productive work time, comes to $48. A round trip on one of Concord Trailways' hourly busses costs $35.

Also, four hours wasted behind the wheel is equivalent to $50-$100 in lost wages for most workers, which effectively doubles the cost of driving - and that assumes no traffic. When you take the opportunity costs of sitting in a cramped car into account, even carpooling becomes more expensive than riding the train.

4 comments:

lizzie lou said...

unless you've got passengers, that is -- i wish it were cheaper for me to take the bus with my two kids when we visit family in boston, but it's still significantly less expensive for me to drive my little car.

Corey Templeton said...

Can't argue with that math. Nice work with the press herald on today's top story as well!

C Neal said...

Lizzie-
Concord Coach sells 1/2 price tickets for kids under 12, and the Downeaster is offering free rides to kids under 16 on Sundays through the end of this month.

Ari said...

Midday Downeaster runs cost as little as $20, and if you are an Amtrak Guest Rewards you get 100 points per trip, or 1/10 of a one-way ticket (equivalent to 10% off). So that makes it $17.50, assuming you "buy" a more expensive ticket with your points. Roundtrip on the bus, same-day, is $32, far cheaper than driving, by a lot. Although I think NH tolls are only $2 each way, not $3.