Given last week’s post about Grady Ranch, it might be good to have a refresher on just how expensive car commuting actually is. A bit over a year ago I posted this piece on the aggregate cost of driving alone to work, and it bears repeating.

The Greater Marin

Marin’s commuting workforce travels quite a distance for work, 11.5 miles each way on average, thanks in part to its relatively suburban character.  Although most would say such a commute isn’t terrible, commuting even that far is a massive financial loss to everyone involved, and Marin’s economy suffers for it.

Financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache recently penned a fantastic piece on the true cost of commuting (which I truly recommend) and found that an 18 mile commute, roughly from downtown San Rafael to Market Street, costs around $75,000 over the course of a decade and wastes roughly 1.3 working years of time.  He factors in the IRS cost of $0.51 per mile in car depreciation, gas, and the like and assumes that it could be reinvested at about 5% interest.  This is crazy, and that’s just for one person.

How much time and money is lost to commuting alone in…

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About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

2 Responses to

  1. Richard Hall says:

    It sure would be ideal and a nice notion if everyone could bike or walk to work – but for most families it just isn’t practical. The morning is a rush, it’s not often practical to take under 10’s on bikes and there are road safety and weather concerns.

    Even in Europe where gas is double the price to discourage road use (and heavily diminishing quality of life IMHO and a massive financial loss to families) trips like commutes and school runs remain unavoidable for many, unless there happen to be convenient public transport (which often isn’t the case) and that’s good that that option exists and people use it (so long as it’s not a disproportionate burden on taxpayers).

    By comparison spending $1bn on a train nobody is going to use, that does not connect to employment centers or a true network, when bonds are losing ratings and cities are in significant financial crisis would be a real blow. The impact of cutting off traffic into San Rafael due to railroad crossings and causing massive backups onto 101 every day – when people discover this impact and realize the ridership is so very low…then they will really question their $1bn massive cost.

    Now I hear the madness is spreading to San Anselmo where trolley cars will seize an already highly congested transit corridor. Please step back and understand your vision is not shared, and cumbersome and out of alignment with reality.

    • I’m not saying we can eliminate all car trips, but more that we can shift the balance to be as few optional car trips as possible, leaving roads clear for the necessary ones and improving the quality of life (and pocketbooks) for those who would’ve taken the optional ones. Cars are fantastic transportation tools for certain kinds of trips: those with lots of rapid stops, and long ones that begin or end in low-density areas.

      Along the Fairfax-San Rafael corridor, 45% of trips are two miles or less. Moving some of those trips to biking and walking would do a fantastic job of clearing up that corridor. That means better bike infrastructure, especially through downtown San Rafael. It’s cheaper to make driving optional than to double down on car infrastructure and car-centered urban forms. For Marin, even North San Rafael, that means bikes and walking.

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