Driving vs Public Transportation

Commuting to work by car can be a breeze for some folks, and a long drawn out process for others.  Nobody I know likes to spend a lot of time commuting, as it’s time you could be spending doing other things.  It’s not easy or safe to multitask while driving anyway! Additionally, it the financial costs of commuting can add up too.

When looking at it from a financial perspective, it’s great to have a short commute to work. If you take public transportation, the time factor might still be there but there are other ways you’ll be saving.  Let’s take a look at my commute lately, and see how this might come into play.

First off, this latest assignment I’m working on has me commuting to Downtown Chicago, from the suburbs.  Being the 3rd largest city and metropolitan area in the country, and the primary business hub between the coasts, it can get hectic getting to downtown during rush hour. Thus, I take the train.

To get to the train, I have to drive about 15 minutes. The train ride is about 45 minutes. Then, I walk another 15 minutes when I get downtown.  So, by a combination of car, train, and walking – it takes 75 minutes to get to work.

The other alternative is driving straight there.  A few people have mentioned to me, sounds a lot better – especially after I talk about how I have to do some walking! Well, I get what they’re saying, as it might sound like a tough grind to many people, especially those in smaller cities. Admittedly, it is a grind! But, this is the deal, and we have to find the best solution for our present circumstances, right?

Along those lines, I’ll go with the public transportation route. Here are 5 reasons to choose public transportation instead of driving:

  1. Multitasking.  When driving, you have to focus on the road. No texting, no tweeting, or anything of the like. Just drive and pay attention to the traffic around you, for your safety and that of others. When on the train for those 45 minutes, I can multitask. If I have work to do, this is a good time to get a few things done. Or, I can catch up on some reading, email, or other activities.  It’s a better return on investment when it comes to time.
  2. Reliability.  Public transportation generally follows fairly reliable schedules and timings, at least with commuter trains around here.  While there’s no flexibility up front if you’re in a hurry (they don’t wait for you!),  you have some predictability around when you’ll reach your destination. With driving, you don’t have that.  Time is money
  3. Saving on Gas.  We talked about this recently here, how there are ways to save money on gas for your car.  One way is to drive less! In my case, it would probably cost $10 round trip to get to work, based on today’s prices.  When stopping to fill gas at the station so frequently, your credit cards get a good workout with all the money that’s being spent. Conversely, taking the train comes out to $7.50 per day, plus some gas to get to the station (which I didn’t consider before). Overall, I still think it’s probably cheaper to take the train.
  4. Insurance Costs.  If you have a long commute to work or do a lot of daily driving, you could be paying more for insurance. You might be able to save on car insurance by taking public transportation and driving significantly less.  If you consider your driving “commute” to be taking your car to public transportation, this could mean a ton less driving.
  5. Wear and Tear.  When driving, those miles can add up. Cars don’t run forever, and at a certain mileage level they need to have things worked on. For example, periodic oil changes. Additionally, at some point, the car has an estimated useful life – just like many other machines. By driving, we’re accelerating spending on maintenance as well as the end of our car’s useful life. This means spending more money. While daily spending might be incremental, it can add up over the long haul! Plus, there is wear and tear on us mentally and physically when driving, even if not perceptible. After all, we are really making life or death decisions all the time when driving!

My Questions for You

If public transportation is an option for you, do you take it? Why or why not?

If it isn’t an option, would you prefer that it was?

Can you think of any other reasons as to why public transportation is a good choice?


  1. says

    Public transportation is a good option for me and I’m taking it once or twice a week in the winter. It was too cold for baby to wait around for public transport in the winter so I feel justify in driving him to the daycare. Once the weather get nicer, I’ll take the public transport more often.

    • Squirrelers says

      Joe – yes, when it’s chilly outside, public transportation can be tough. I know what you mean about how it can be too cold for a very young kid.

  2. says

    I haven’t had a car through college and live in Dallas. Public transportation here sucks and only gets you so far. However, I do use it. When I had internships during the summer I would commute an hour to get to my job. By car it could have taken max of fifteen minutes.

    • Squirrelers says

      SFL – I suppose it depends on where one lives. If it takes excessive time via public transport, it can negate many of the other benefits.

  3. says

    I would use public transportation, if it were more convenient. I have carpooled in my previous work situations. I even took the train when I worked downtown.

  4. says

    I use public transit several times a week. I also move myself around on foot and by bike. Living in Chicago this is very easy, but I can see how it would be hard to do so in cities, towns, and suburbs with less developed public transit.

    I think we’ve all become much too reliant on the convenience of cars. It wasn’t that long ago that most people relied on their own two feet or a public bus to get around. Now we find it odd if people walk more than a couple blocks or wait for a bus if they have access to a car.

    Like you I look at the time I spend on public transit as time to relax or multitask. I’d rather kick back with a book or some knitting than try to fight my way through traffic at any time.

    • Squirrelers says

      Linda – totally know what you mean, better to read or relax – or even get work done – than fight through miserable traffic.

  5. says

    I’d love to ride the bus to work but there’s no direct route so it would actually be faster to walk :(

    Though, I’m going to start riding my bike next month. I can’t read a book while doing it but I will be getting some exercise!

  6. says

    When I lived in Detroit my office was 20 minutes from home on a bad day. After traveling across the UK on trains and around London on the tube, I decided to begin taking public transportation to work….until I found out that my 20 minute ride was going to take 90 minutes there and 2 hours home. I couldn’t spend all that extra time away from my young family. If it were more efficient, I would totally take public transportation. I solved that problem now by working from home!

    • Squirrelers says

      Average Joe – wow, that would be a big difference! Public transport should be helpful, not negative and a big waste of time! Seems like you did solve that issue.

  7. says

    When I worked in a nearby urban area, I tried public transportation since it put me a 5 minute walk from my job (with a 10-15 min. drive to the train in the mornings). The thing that made me choose to drive to work instead was comfort.

    I had a couple experiences with drunk people sitting next to me in rush hour – so I had nowhere else to go, or almost being ran over because everyone is so aggressive on the trains.

    I preferred not to sacrifice my comfort. Even though I was stuck in traffic at times, I was in the peace of my own space, listening to some good music!

    • Squirrelers says

      Sherrian – we all have to do what’s best for ourselves, and I respect what you’re saying. No sense being miserable!

  8. says

    I am thinking that saving money on parking and the hassle of finding it (unless you had a reserved space) would also be a factor. Unfortunately, public transportation is not an option for me, although I would definitely consider it. They have talked about putting in some train lines down old freight corridors from the suburbs to downtown Indy, but that is probably a decade or two away.

    • Squirrelers says

      CFM – yeah, from what I recall from Indy, it’s a city in which you really have little choice other than use your car for the most part.

  9. Squirrelers says

    Anthony – very true, there is a stress component that can impact some people when driving, no question!

  10. says

    I used to ride the bus to work – we had a stop 2 minutes from our front door and 1 bus took me about 55-60 minutes to get to a stop less than 5 minutes from my office. It was great! I read, studied, relaxed… and my commute by car would have been 45 minutes and gave me road rage!

    Now though, my drive is 25-35 minutes, but to ride the bus would take 85-95 minutes (and 3 different buses). So I no longer use public transit. 2 hours of my time each day is not worth the savings.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kris – that first example you shared is a great one for how public transport can be better. You got things done and/or relaxed, instead of fighting traffic. But like you alluded to, it’s not always a good tradeoff when public transport takes way longer. It depends on the situation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *