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.