APTA has just come out with a press release touting large savings for households that do not drive but instead take mass transit. The average it claims is $10,000 per year per person nationwide; in some cities it’s higher, and Second Avenue Sagas seized upon the study’s claim of a $14,000 saving in New York.
The only problem: drivers in the US do not spend $10,000 a year, let alone $10,000 more than transit riders. The federal government has a detailed breakdown of household budgets, so that it can compute inflation rates accurately and set cost-of-living adjustments and monetary policy. The New York Times has a nifty graphic breaking down household spending as of 2008, and transportation was 18% of American households’ budgets, of which about 17% is on cars and 1% is on all other forms of transportation. Mean household income in the US is $68,000 per year as of 2009, so we’re talking about $11,560 spent on cars per household. There are on average a bit more than 2 cars per household in the US (246 million cars, about 113 million households), so we’re talking about $5,400 per car. Not $10,000.
At least it’s better than its shilling against a climate bill on the grounds that some of the carbon taxes it would raise from roads would not go to the Highway Trust Fund, to the point that it proposed an alternative that would raise less money for transit. But in either case, it cares less about a mode shift benefiting transit users and the environment than about lobbying for transit operators’ interests.