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    Cost of Commuting Calculator

    It's now official: Atlanta now has the longest commute times in the country and usually has a thick brown layer of smog over most of the city. But it doesn't need to be so.

    What does commuting cost us collectively?

    1. A snowball effect delaying everyone
    2. Fossil fuel emissions
    3. Collective anger
    4. Propensity to speed, thereby setting poor examples for our children
    5. Greater construction costs since city planners feel the only solution is to pave their way out of trouble
    6. Fewer trees: ergo more pollution and higher temperatures

    But more importantly to the many of us who don't care about everyone else, what does it cost us as individuals? Can that be quantified? Perhaps. Try this on for size...

    1. Estimated round-trip commute time per day.
    2. Multiply times your average hourly wage.
    3. Estimate round-trip mileage per day.
    4. Multiply times $.30 per mile.

    I used numbers of 70 minutes (based on an average 35 minute commute time for all Atlantans), $20/hour, and 30 miles and came up with approximately $32/day per commuter. That's $160/week. That's $8000/year (assuming a 50 work-week year). That's $16000/couple. If you could cut that commute to 20 minutes and 10 miles, round trip, then you would save about $22/day per commuter. That's $110/week. That's $5500/year or $11000/couple. Oh, and you could sleep in almost a full hour more every single work day of the year. You may even wish to save the time, but still spend the same amount of money on your mortage. Fine. You can now spend $916 more per month on your mortgage. At 7%, you can buy a $220000 home instead of a $100000 one.

    Seems pretty expensive, doesn't it? So what do you need to give up? Nothing. The answer to your problems is simply to find a job closer to home! Keep the car. Keep the yard. Keep the house. Keep the suburban lifestyle if that is what you want. I certainly do! But instead of living in Marietta and commuting to Norcross, find a job that's in Marietta. Can't find one that pays as much? Based on my sample numbers above, you could find a job that pays $5500 less, and still come out ahead.

    You may not agree with my numbers, but at least think about it while you enjoy your extra 50 minutes of time to relax.


    First of all, I have to say that I am a great fan of MARTA and of the service that it provides to many people. I used it for many years myself, especially during my middle school to college years (when I must have been the only college student in all of Atlanta without a car).

    MARTA is burdened by a great (and wonderful) fact: Atlanta is a huge city with a very low population density. If MARTA is to truly succeed, it needs several things to occur:

    1. Stations located at the densest points of Atlanta
    2. For Atlanta to further nodalize
    3. (Unfortunately) Abandon prospective users in areas that have low population densities
    4. Shorter, more frequent trains
    5. Rail access along the heaviest corridors (MARTA is doing well here)
    6. Frequent shuttle-bus type access along secondary corridors

    Narayan Sengupta

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