Today is Transportation Freedom Day: Chicagoans Must Work Over Two Months to Cover their Annual Transportation Costs

Local Leaders Must do more to Save on Transportation Costs

Chicago, IL – On Thursday, Chicago residents celebrate Transportation Freedom Day, the date a typical area household has earned enough to cover its annual transportation costs. To mark the occasion, community and transit advocacy groups joined together at Union Station to push for better transportation. It is based on Census data includes gas, repairs, parking, vehicle depreciation and transit fares.

“Transportation Freedom Day is an eye opener,” stated Kate Lehman of Illinois PIRG. “It shows the need for greater investments in more efficient ways to get around, such as public transit. When government makes the right kind of transportation investments, citizens save a lot of money.”

Americans on average spend an astounding 19 percent of their annual income on transportation, far more than they pay for food, clothing, entertainment, income taxes or even health care. New findings released by the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (Illinois PIRG) show that a typical Chicago household shells out the equivalent of 19 percent, or 70 days of a typical annual salary to pay for transportation costs. In more walkable communities and better transit systems households spend less. In New York City, for instance, residents could expect to spend the equivalent of about 3 and a half fewer weeks of income to get around.

“Here in the Chicago region, average annual transportation costs can range from $7,034 for a household in Chicago’s Roscoe Village Neighborhood, to $11,783 in suburban West Dundee, a savings of more than $4,500 per year,” noted Scott Bernstein, President of the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

People may not recognize how much they pay for transportation. The average American household spent more than $8,000 per year on its vehicles in 2008 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Americans who live in areas with good access to public transit generally spend less on transportation than those who are fully dependent on cars. Residents in transit-friendly areas tend to attain “Transportation Freedom” earlier in the year, but Chicago still lags behind other major cities. By highlighting these dates, Illinois PIRG, CNT, and Midwest HSR Association seek to raise awareness about how access to public transportation is a crucial for saving Americans money.

For example, while 70 days must pass before the income from a median-income household living in Chicago would cover their annual transportation bill. However, a typical household that would live in car-dependent Sugar Grove could expect to wait 93 days, equivalent to twelve weeks of income before their transportation costs are covered.

“Little Village is among the ten lowest-income community areas in Chicago. Transportation costs hit much harder for struggling families in these neighborhoods. Without our fair share of funding, the transit system cannot meet the transportation needs of our communities,” said Michael Pitula of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

Advocacy groups are calling on Mayor Daley to push for better transit. Chicago is famous for its elevated and historic transportation system, but its past due for our city’s transportation to be known for efficiency and cost effectiveness for all Chicagoland residents.

Transportation Freedom Day data comes from the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, which is a leader in statistically based analysis of transportation and housing. Transportation costs are controlled for differences of income, family size, and number of working individuals in a household. Transportation demand is modeled using the most recent census data, and costs are calculated to include car ownership, maintenance, gas, and transit fares. A detailed description of their transportation cost methodology can be found at:

Transportation Freedom Day logo found at