In a previous blog I asked, “what will it take for you to change your commute?”. In reading that question, you may have responded “NOTHING.” Nothing will prompt you to change your ways. That is your “driving solo in a car” ways.
I admit, being able to get in your car and drive anywhere you want to go, whenever you want to go, is quite an advantage and difficult to argue against. You are not tied to anyone else’s schedule. You don’t have to wait for anyone. If you are running late, who cares. No one is waiting for you. If you feel sick, you can leave whenever you want. This is especially true for your commute to work. How can one top the convenience of driving alone? Why would I want to participate in a shared car or shared van arrangement?
Well, you should know that the convenience does come at a cost. The cost may not be so obvious at first, but you are paying for that convenience. How much?
Well in 2017, Americans paid, on average, $3,037 to cover the indirect/hidden costs of driving which included sitting in traffic and searching for parking. Also in that year, the average total cost of driving was $10,288. This is a staggering figure. Are you beginning to see how driving alone to work may not be as advantageous as you once thought?
How do I know this? I came across an article in the March/April edition of “@Livemore” a publication of the Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA). The research was drawn from the first ever published report on the “Cost of Driving” by INRIX, an analytics company that researches the connection between technology and transportation.
Sometimes I don’t like to drive, especially to areas that are dense and built-up. The reason for this is the hassle of finding available parking. I don’t know about you, but I hate driving around and around in the search for parking, and often over paying on a street meter or paying the inflated cost in a parking garage. According to the INRIX research, drivers spend on average $3,000 per year on parking. The type of costs that are integrated into this estimate include:
- Waste of time,
- Carbon emissions,
- Parking fines,
This may be the reason many drivers are excited about the idea of having fully autonomous vehicles in the future. The car will take you to your destination, then disappear. When you are ready to leave, you can snap your fingers and voila, there is your car. Not going to happen folks, at least not in the near future. Parking will continue to be a drawback to driving for a long time.
Your next argument could be, I work in the suburbs. I have unlimited parking in the suburban office park where I work. True enough, but you must understand there are other costs to car ownership and driving everywhere you go. These include:
- Purchasing or leasing a vehicle, including finance costs
- Depreciation of a vehicle
- Maintenance and service (I can vouch for that having paid over $2,000 in recent car repair)
- Lost productive time sitting in traffic
- (fill in the blank)_____________
And remember, with the rising cost of property and real estate, some companies, or their property managers/owners, may not find it as lucrative to continue setting aside valuable space just for parking. Don’t be surprised if your employer starts considering charging for parking, especially as congestion in suburban areas becomes more problematic to commuters. An increase in traffic congestion may prompt employers to look for ways to encourage shared driving in order to help reduce congestion and better assure their employees arrive to work on time.
Recent trends show employees are increasingly leaving their job due to commuting challenges, and that employees are beginning to look to their employers to help them address their commuting challenges. As a result, a number of companies are beginning to cover employee commuting costs if they use alternative modes of commuting (carpooling, vanpooling, transit, biking) while increasingly charging solo drivers for their “parking privileges.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you if that happens to you at your company.
So what can you do? No, I am not suggesting you sell your car, though kudos to you if you do. It’s basic economics, the less you drive, the less wear and tear on your car. Consider a carpool or vanpool if your schedule allows it. Look to telework, and potential transit opportunities. The bus may not be so inconvenient. If you do consider these options and cut back on your driving alone to work, your wallet will thank you.
James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.