Friday, December 01, 2000

Study: Commute is costly here

Public transportation spending low

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new study released Thursday said Cincinnati residents spend less than 2 percent of income on public transportation.

        Overall, Cincinnati is the 19th most expensive city in the U.S.- of 28 studied — for driving to work and getting around town — largely because of suburban sprawl.

        The study said Cincinnatians spend more money on their cars and transportation than other household expenses such as food, utilities, education and entertainment. Only housing costs more — and not by much.

   Of the $6,145 Cincinnati households spend on transportation, 44 percent goes to vehicle purchase, 36.2 percent for other vehicle expenses such as maintenance and 18 percent for gas and oil. Only 1.7 percent goes to public transportation.
   By comparison, locals spend $6,784 on housing, $5,055 on food, $2,389 for utilities, $2,312 on health care and $1,885 on entertainment.
        The average Cincinnati household spends $6,145 per year on transportation, or 16.7 cents out of every dollar earned, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Surface Transportation Policy Project and Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology's ""Driven to Spend” study released Thursday.

        Houston has the most expensive transportation costs of cities studied, at 22 cents per dollar earned, followed by Atlanta at 21.7 cents per dollar earned and Dallas at 19.7 cents per dollar. Honolulu had the lowest costs, at 15 cents per dollar earned. The report concluded that areas with little sprawl or lots of transportation choices, like New York, fared the best.

        Cities with greater sprawl problems spend $1,300 more a year on transportation than cities with little sprawl.

        Local advocates said the report shows the need to offer expanded bus service and light rail.

        “The key is to create choice,” said John Schneider, chairman of the Alliance for Regional Transit. “People need to get around in the way which suits them.”

        The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) wants to build a light-rail system to run from Northern Kentucky to Warren County as a way to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. Federal and state funding sources would cover about 75 percent of the estimated $800 million project, and local sources would need to cover the rest, possibly through a sale or property tax increase.

        Some groups say the proposed light-rail route along Interstate 71 would neglect those who use public transportation the most.

        “There's no conclusive study that shows light rail will lower the costs of transportation for every community,” said Monique James, spokeswoman for the Regional Mobility Forum. “The west side is going to be completely left out.”


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