Chicago Celebrates Transportation Freedom Day

CNT Research Director, Linda Young,

CNT Research Director, Linda Young, at the Chicago press conference in Union Station.

March 11th marked Transportation Freedom Day for the Chicago area—the date on which a typical area household has earned enough income to cover its annual transportation costs. In the Chicago region, it takes the average household 70 days to make enough money to cover their transportation costs. That’s about $8,300 per year, though costs vary widely in the region. For example, in Chicago’s Roscoe Village, transportation costs are only about $7,000 annually, whereas in suburban West Dundee, costs increase to almost $11,800 annually. In contrast, residents of New York City only spend about $5,400 on transportation each year.

In transit-rich neighborhoods within walking distance to retail, schools and recreation such as Roscoe Village and the South Loop in Chicago, household transportation costs are lower, and residents spend 6-8 weeks of pay for annual transportation costs. In dispersed communities, far from jobs and with no access to transit, such as West Dundee and Sugar Grove, households spend up to 13 weeks of wages on annual transportation costs.

Most people are not aware of how much they spend on transportation costs annually, nor do they know how much location affects the costs. Not only does one have to take into account car payments, insurance, gas costs, maintenance and repairs, but also the how the location of their home affects how many cars they must own and how far they drive them to meet everyday needs

Americans, on average, spend 19% of their expenses on transportation—this is more than they pay for food, clothing, income taxes or even health care. According to 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.” Citizens benefit in numerous other ways from mass transit—cleaner air quality, less congestion, more take-home pay and a stronger economy due to the number of jobs created from public transportation projects.

Transportation Freedom Day is an important milestone to acknowledge. The federal government has overwhelmingly directed its transportation budget toward roads and highways, not on public transportation. Many states follow suit, resulting in citizens who spend too much time in their cars, suffer from poor air quality and work 70 days of the year just to pay for their costs of commuting.

Read more about Transportation Freedom Day in the press conference release.

Transportation Freedom Day is calculated with CNT’s Housing and Transportation AffordabilitySM Index. The H + T Index is a new and more comprehensive way of thinking about the cost of housing by exploring the impact of location on affordability.