Cool Information

Commuter Cost: Sydney

With increased fuel costs and insurance premiums, global warming, congested roads, rising unemployment and lower confidence in job security, (just to name a small handful), many people are looking, in these uncertain times, to address their household and workplace budgets as well as seeking alternatives to their lifestyle.
The growing use of e-scooters is an example of this. Electric scooters are cheap to run and maintain, are reliable and leave much less of an environmental footprint. Put into perspective, they can literally save you thousands of dollars. How many dollars exactly, and can this be
substantiated?

An in-depth study and report, one of the most comprehensive of the last decade, ‘Commuter costs and potential savings: Public transport versus car commuting in Australia’*, authored by Dr. Jian Wang, of Southern Cross University, makes interesting reading and demonstrates just how much Australians spend on motor vehicles and their associated costs.
Although not conceived or produced with e-scooters specifically in mind, it paints a picture well worth observing.

The discussion paper, quoting the foreword, states that it ‘identifies and quantifies, where possible, the potential savings that commuters working in the CBDs of Australian capital cities could achieve by converting to public transport and leaving their cars at home or deciding not to purchase a second car, or not owning a car at all. It is acknowledged that in real life scenarios, the commuter costs and potential savings identified in this report might be influenced by a range of other factors in addition to vehicle types and distance driven.

We hope this report will add to the public debate around where and how to encourage the greater utilisation of public transport in Australia.

The report states, in an introductory summary, that ‘To own and commute to work in the CBD five days a week by car, costs the average Australian commuter between $7,432 (5km from the CBD) and $14,639 (25km from the CBD), or an indicative average cost of $11,031 each year.’

Sobering stuff. That’s about the same as a fairly luxuriant family holiday to Europe or an African safari, or a year’s supply of very fine wine, (although not quite as sobering).

It goes on: ‘If Australian commuters decide to retain their car but take public transport to work in the CBD, the annual cost drops to an average of $5,541, a saving of $5,490 (or 50 per cent) compared to driving five days a week.’

The study is conducted with two scenarios in mind, identifying the potential savings achievable by commuters. (Note that since the release of the report in 2013, further factors such as fluctuating fuel prices, new toll roads and inflation may alter the quoted figures, but are unlikely to change them significantly). The two scenarios are:

1) Leaving the car at home and commuting by public transport or,

2) Not owning a car at all (or not purchasing a second car) and only commuting by public transport.

Electric scooter commuters come into three categories:

1) Living close enough to the workplace that they are able to commute entirely by electric scooter.

2) Mixing public transport with e-scooter travel, and,

3) Traveling by car to a designated parking area and continuing on by e-scooter only or a mix as in category 2.

By taking both the figures and the e-scooter categories into account, it’s possible to estimate potential monetary savings according to individual situations. Certainly the same applies to those who choose to commute by either walking, jogging or riding a bike; just with the difference that on arrival at the workplace, and possibly for the rest of the day, those individuals will have to take into account that there is a chance that they may smell like they walked, jogged or push-biked to work.

Regardless, the figures show that by leaving the car at home and travelling by public transport to work, on the assumption of five days a week, the average commuter heading for their respective CBD’s can achieve the following savings.

As an average for all cities, ‘..commuters who own a car but choose to leave the car at home and travel to work via public transport will save between $4,859 (5km from the CBD) and $6,124 (25km from the CBD) per year.’

Due to its sheer size, its clogged roads heavy parking and toll costs, Sydney rates as the most expensive city in the country to commute by car or taxi.

‘In Sydney.. similar cost savings can be achieved at an average of $8,232 per year by leaving a car at home and commuting by public transport.’ ‘.. commuters driving larger vehicles have higher costs than those driving smaller vehicles. As a result, the annual cost to commute to work five days a week by car in Sydney ranges from $8,890 to $20,206 depending on the vehicle type and distance driven. The average cost to own and commute by car in Sydney is $13,242 per annum.

‘The annual cost to own and commute with a small car 15km each-way five days a week (231 days of the year) is $11,737.

‘..where a small car is owned but the decision is made to commute to work with public transport, the annual costs drop to $3,762. As a result, by leaving their car at home and traveling to work by public transport, a Sydney commuter can save, $7,975 per annum (a saving of 68 per cent on the costs of using the car to commute per year, or $153 per week representing around 11 per cent of the greater Sydney median weekly household income ($1,447 ABS 2012)).’

Furthermore, the report finds that in Sydney ‘..if an individual decides not to own a car or not to purchase a second car to travel to work, they can save $10,377 in one year, or a massive 88% saving compared to owning and commuting by car. This saving is equivalent to $200 per week or 14 per cent of the greater Sydney median weekly household income.’ This is based solely on commuting and exclude other trips that are not work related.

This reads as a powerful incentive if one accepts the figures and even suggests that individuals can contribute to ‘saving the planet’ by reducing emissions whilst at the same time saving money!

To catch the occasional Uber or taxi to commute to work in the CBD, one can expect to pay at least $46 for around 15km to and from the CBD, even with tolls excluded. If the frequency of taxi rides is a consistent once or twice a week, the annual cost will range at average between $2000 and $3,500.

All in all, Dr Wang’s report presents a strong argument against motor vehicle travel to work. Parking costs are among the highest in the world, and the highest in Australia along with Brisbane. It’s not only the real estate, but crushing fees and levies which are not being reinvested in smart technologies that are being utilised in other cities with the aim of developing more affordable parking options.

An NRMA report in 2014 found that there were 52,515 car park spaces in the CBD and over 250,000 workers. Add to this residents, visitors and outside workers (couriers, salespeople, delivery drivers, etc. – the list goes on and on..). As a result, the report found over 60% of people preferred to travel to the city via public transport.

Why the figure wasn’t over 90% is anyone’s guess as off-street parking in the CBD currently averages a whopping $31 an hour, with daily rates peaking to about $90. On street parking costs roughly $5 an hour, but is so hard to find that many drivers cruise around and around, ironically contributing to the density of inner city traffic. As every Sydney resident knows, the roads don’t cope well when there is an accident, and that one accident can have a cumulative effect; spreading far and wide. Most would agree that in these situations, one would rather be on a bus or a train or a ferry, e-scooter by their side and ready to continue the journey unimpeded and without delay whilst having some fun at the same time..

Safe travels!

*Dr Jian Wang, CRC for Rail Innovation Southern Cross University For the Australasian Railway Association November 2013

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