Amid gas price pain, should you switch to public transit?

If you’re trying to decide whether it’s cheaper to leave your car parked and take Metro to work with gasoline prices now sky high, some number crunching is in order.

Calculating your gas cost is pretty simple. AAA says the D.C. metro area’s average is now $4.29 a gallon. Take that and divide it by your car’s miles per gallon and get your gas cost per mile. (At 25 miles per gallon, that works out to 17 cents per mile.) Then multiply that number by the number of miles in your round-trip commute.

Also, remember — there are other costs, such as car maintenance, wear and tear and depreciation. (Using the all-encompassing IRS guide of 58.5 cents per mile does not take the recent higher gas prices into account.) Also, add in any parking costs at work.

Calculating the basic cost of riding Metro is easy enough, too: Put your route into Metro’s online trip planner to get a price for your fare, then multiply by two for the round trip price. But for many, there’s also the price of getting to the station. So do the same gas math as you would if driving to and from work, except with the Metro station as your destination. Then there’s the cost of Metro parking, too.

You can also factor in the cost of your time, using your hourly pay rate as a guide. Consider time spent walking or biking to the station, along with possibly waiting for a train (which can currently take up to 20 minutes at some stations). Conversely, consider time spent in heavy traffic as well. Figure out how long each commute really takes; calculate the difference between the two, and then put a price on it.

The simplest math is as follows: A double rush-hour round trip from Shady Grove to Metro Center, with parking, would cost about $17. If driving, gas for the fastest route between those spots would cost about $10 at today’s current rates (at 17 cents per mile). If you’re driving 10 miles to get to the Metro station, from the Gaithersburg area for example, the additional gas cost would bring the total Metro commute cost to about $20.

While that seems to favor driving, other auto-related costs would push the driving cost beyond the Metro cost. Using the IRS rate of 58.5 cents per mile, the round trip cost from Gaithersburg to Metro Center (including depreciation, maintenance, etc.) would be $34 — and the actual cost would likely be higher because of the recent gas price spike.

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John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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