Cost of Commuting – Driving versus Transit versus Cycling
Commuting can be a surprisingly expensive part of your monthly expenses, especially if there are multiple people going to multiple places. Cars, by far, are the most expensive way of commuting. Some people have no other choice than to take a car, most likely because they live too far from their work, or their transit options are too limited. If you can take the bus, however, you can drastically reduce your community costs. Are there even cheaper options, however? Let’s take a look at the next most popular way of getting to work – bicycling.
Cars can be expensive. Monthly insurance costs can start at about $100 a month, per car, and go up from there. Then you have to refill it with gas, the cost of which does seem to just keep getting higher and higher. Our average gas bill, for example, is between $70 and $100. So right there you have costs that are around $200 a month per vehicle. The major benefit of car commuting, however, is that it takes the least amount of time.
Your transit costs depend largely on where you live. In Vancouver, for example, an average bus pass costs $110. In Toronto, it’s a little more, and in Calgary, it’s a little less. That, however, is the extent of your costs. You don’t have to pay for gas, and you don’t have to pay for insurance. The other nice thing about the transit pass is that it is a consistent price, and a monthly pass is eligible for a tax credit. The downside, however, is that you’re dependent on the bus schedule and it takes much longer than car commuting.
If you live within a reasonable distance of your workplace (<10km), definitely consider riding a bike to work. If you already own a bike, there’s no upfront cost. There’s also no monthly fee involved with cycling. If you don’t own a bike, then there can be a fairly large initial purchase. Commuting by bike can also take a long time, but in certain scenarios (my commute to my work, for example), it will actually take less time to hop on a bike and ride there than walk to the bus stop (early, so I don’t miss the bus), wait for the bus, ride the bus, and then walk another ~ 8 minutes to my workplace. You are also the most exposed to the elements, so cycling to work in the winter is far less of an option than going during the summer, but you also get exercise and will most likely be happier as a result of cycling to work.
So which is the cheapest? If you have a bike already, it’s probably cycling. If you don’t have a bike, then it depends on how often you will be able to use your bike. Even in the most ideal situations, you’re not going to be able to bike to and from work each and every day, especially if you haven’t already been doing it for years. If you want to start cycling to work, then consider the initial cost investment of the bike (starting at at least $400, going up exponentially from there) and determine how many months of transit you can get for that. In my case, as I don’t use the bus to and from work every day, I only spend about 40 dollars a month on transit passes. At $40 a month, I can transit to work for about a year before it would start to pay off buying a bike – and that’s assuming I bike to work 5 days a week for all those 10 months.
Right now my wife and I use a variety of commuting options. We have one vehicle, so sometimes we drive to work. We also have decent access to transit, so we often make use of the bus as well. Instead of a monthly pass which locks us into using it throughout the month, we buy a selection of tickets so that we can use them as and when needed. I also bought a bike recently, and because I live pretty close to my work, I may start commuting to work on my bicycle as well. I will, however, most likely get a ride home from either the bus or our vehicle so that I don’t have to bike home in the dark. It’s a mix of the cheapest options and the most convenient options. What’s your commuting combination?