The true cost of cars vs public transport

I'm going to be naughty and copy and paste this entire article. It is from today's Sydney Morning Herald (May 27 2006) and examines the true cost of driving a car verses the true cost of using public transport:

If they only knew - car's true cost so much more

By Sherrill Nixon, Urban Affairs Editor
May 27, 2006

SYDNEY motorists would think twice about using their car if they knew the real cost of each kilometre they drove was nearly six times higher than most people believe, a transport expert says.

Garry Glazebrook, a transport consultant who lectures on urban planning at the University of Technology, Sydney, says people's choices about travel are distorted because they never see the total cost of private or public transport.

His analysis of the real versus perceived costs of transport shows motorists believe it costs them about 13 cents per passenger per kilometre to use the car. That covers costs such as petrol (even at $1.40 a litre), tolls and parking.

The actual cost - when car insurance, registration and maintenance, plus wider costs to society from congestion, accidents and air pollution are taken into account - comes in at 81 cents per passenger per kilometre.

"All we really think about at the time [we choose to drive] is what it costs us in petrol and maybe parking, and that's only a couple of dollars," Mr Glazebrook said.

"As a society we pay one way or another, but as motorists we don't pay as we go, so there's an incentive to overuse the car. We actually are fooling ourselves. We have the fourth-lowest petrol prices in the world … we have built our lifestyles around cheap petrol and the point is: that will not last."

While Sydneysiders perceive the cost of driving as low, they see using public transport as more expensive, he said.

The perceived cost of catching a bus in Mr Glazebrook's analysis was 22 cents per passenger per kilometre, and 10 cents for the train - primarily the cost of the fare. But the actual cost of using public transport (taking into account congestion, pollution and government subsidies) was nearly half as much as using a private vehicle - 48 cents for the bus and 40 cents for a train.

Mr Glazebrook said the figures showed rail made good economic sense. He called on the NSW Government to accelerate the construction of the north-west line so new residents had greater transport choices.

The Opposition and residents have criticised the Government's 2017 target for the north-west rail link, and business and community leaders have called for more investment in public transport.

The Government revealed this week that high petrol prices had enticed people back to public transport, with an extra 60,000 people a week catching buses between February and April - 750,000 more than the same period last year.

New timetables for the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra and South Coast lines begins tomorrow.

The real numbers:

- Private car - Perceived cost is 13 cents per passenger per kilometre; real cost is 81 cents.

- Train - Perceived cost 10 cents; real cost 40 cents.

- Public buses - Perceived cost 22 cents; real cost 48 cents.


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