Want to save money on gasoline? Take the bus—if you can find one.
A study of consumer spending by the U.S. Energy Information Administration released Monday finds that households in areas of the country with mass transit systems spend significantly less on gasoline than areas without public transit.
Drivers in the South—where relatively few cities have large mass transit systems—spend the most per household on gasoline. Only a few cities in the South (including Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore) have rapid transit systems serving more than 10 million riders a year. Southern households have more cars—an average of 2.1 vehicles per household compared with 1.6 in the Northeast and 1.9 nationally.
That's why households in the Northeast—where people have access to large mass transit systems—spend the most on public transit but the least on gasoline. Higher expenditures on gasoline tend to reflect the number of vehicles per household.
With a larger public transportation ridership, especially in cities like New York and Boston, the typical household in the Northeast spends the least on gasoline—a average of $2,389 a year, or about $400 less than drivers in the South. But Northeasterners spend nearly $800 a year on public transit—more than twice as much as households in the South.
Wealthy households are the heaviest spenders on public transit: Those in the highest-income quintile spent more than $1,400 a year to ride the bus or take the train in 2013, the latest data available. That's almost three times the national average and eight times the lowest income quintile.