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But the cost savings are not so clear for renters living in the same areas because they pay housing premiums, according to a recent report.
Families in California's major metropolitan areas that own houses in transit-oriented developments, or TODs, on average have 40% lower transit expenses than other households, according to a report by the Mineta Transportation Institute in partnership with California universities and other organizations.
The study says TOD households save money on transportation costs mainly because they own fewer cars than other households. About two-thirds of their savings can be attributed to living in a transit-friendly neighborhood and one-third to access to rail transit, "suggesting the importance of integrating a rail transit system with supportive land use planning and neighborhood design."
The study evaluated the impacts of TODs on transportation costs in four California metropolitan areas by breaking down household transportation expenses into three cost buckets: auto ownership, auto operation and transit. Here are some of the key findings:
- On average, TOD households own about 1.24 vehicles, about 0.66 fewer than homeowners living outside of TODs.
- Vehicles owned by TOD households are more efficient than typical cars by about 1.19 mpg.
- TOD households save money on car ownership, which is largely consistent with the finding that they tend to own fewer cars, the report says. On average, they spend about $2,369 less than other families per year on vehicle ownership.
- TOD households do not seem to save money on vehicle operating costs after controlling for all the covariates, which is "unsurprising" given that they drive about the same number of miles as other households, the report shows. The average daily vehicle operating cost of a TOD family is more than half that of a typical household ($7.94 versus $14.25).
- Households in TODs save approximately $1,232 per year on transportation costs compared to other households with similar demographics, accounting for 18% of their total annual transportation costs.
- But TOD families spend more on transit fares (including both bus and rail transit). A TOD household spends about $7.78 per week and a typical family $5.00 per week on transit fares.
The study suggests that TODs can help Californians save money on transportation costs, although the cost saving has different implications for homeowners and renters.
Homeowners receive the double benefits of TOD, including increased property values and transportation savings, while the financial benefits of TOD for renters are less clear.
Renters save money on transportation costs but may need to pay a rent premium to live in TODs, the report shows. For renters, the overall financial impact depends on whether the transportation cost savings outstrips the rent premium.
The study assesses the impact of transit-oriented development on household transportation expenses in the four largest California metropolitan regions: the San Francisco Bay area, the greater Los Angeles area, the San Diego area and the Sacramento area.
For more information from the report click here.
Andre Claudio is an assistant editor at Route Fifty.