Transportation Costs in Minneapolis St Paul Metro

Abogo has creating a an interesting illustration of the costs of transportation by address. Looking at the Twin Cities, here is a heat map breaking down the average monthly transportation costs (the house on the map is centered on the 55406 zip code):

Transportation Costs in Minneapolis

Many people look at the cost of inner-city living then decide that they can get more for their money by commuting in from the suburbs. With a certain price point, bed/bath, or lot size requirements, they drive until they qualify.

All that driving has a cost, as the above map illustrates. If you’re spending an additional $200 or more per month on gas and all of the other costs associated with long commutes, you’re losing your drive until you qualify benefits.

Another way to look at this is to realize that you may be able to afford more than you think if you buy in shorter commute location. An extra $200/month could translate into something like $30,000 in additional buying power.

To me, the time cost is even greater. How do much do you value your time? At $10/hour, a 30 minute commute is costing you another $200/month in transportation costs. Chances are pretty high that you value your time at a higher rate than that, so adjust that figure accordingly.

Some of Minneapolis’ highest real estate costs are in downtown Minneapolis near the Guthrie Theater in condos like The Carlyle. Units ranging from $300k-$4.5 million generally come with one parking spot with the option to purchase a second spot for $15k-$20k. Since people buying in areas like that tend to have at least one spouse working downtown, the option of having one less car really helps make the numbers work. When the cost of storing a second car is presented in such blatant terms, people get rational. Of course, you’re not avoiding these costs when you have a 2-3 car garage. They just aren’t broken out in the same way.

How much more home you could afford if you only had one car payment, insurance, etc. And, gaining back 250 or more hours per year of your life to spend doing something other than sitting in bumper to bumper traffic must be worth something.

9 thoughts on “Transportation Costs in Minneapolis St Paul Metro”

  1. Bill, I think they’re using census data and lot sizes to figure out things like density of neighborhoods. I imagine that your transportation choices are somewhat atypical for your neighborhood or city.

  2. From the website:

    We estimate total transportation costs for an average household from your region living in your neighborhood, including commuting, errands, and all the other trips around town. We count money spent on car ownership and use, as well as public transit use.

    My house is located in an area which claims I am in the $860-$930 range. Far from the truth in my instance but possible being that this is an average. Now, if we eliminate the commuting piece, which is the largest part of this calculation I’m guessing, and focus instead on the “errands and other trips around town” I really have to wonder how they calculate that metric.

    I have looked at other areas, like South Minneapolis, and homes in that area even at $50,000 more than I paid for mine, are not exactly near any location which I could easily run errands to/from without a car. Living where I do, it is quite possible, although I don’t typically do it because suburbanites don’t understand how to deal with bike riders/peds, for me to walk or bike to any number of stores to do my errands, eat out, etc.

    I have calculated this based on my own formula which doesn’t include C02 emissions and is just raw money. We own one car, I bike or walk to the transit station 1.5 miles away on the majority of nice days (I didn’t today), and I ride the bus to and from work. My wife is a stay at home mom and rarely leaves the house and when she does it’s to go to another mom’s house or nearby park. We drive about 20 miles a week on average.

    I pay $35 a month in mass transit costs, $70 a month in gas, and $70 a month in car maintenance (this includes active and preventative maintenance). You could add in some other fees and what not but it’s no where near the amount this website came up with.

    I’d really like to see some more specifics about the data they have collected for a specific address or zip+4 or whatever it is that they base this on–especially for my own home address.

  3. I was just looking at this graph last night, but from a different perspective: I was looking for more guidance on where in Minneapolis to live. Turns out from Abogo’s perspective, the whole city’s pretty good! Not much help for my indecision, but nice to hear. For comparison, my current home of San Jose has a couple little pockets of deep green, but averages yellow.

  4. Bill, I think they’re using census data and lot sizes to figure out things like density of neighborhoods. I imagine that your transportation choices are somewhat atypical for your neighborhood or city.

    I never like to hear the words, “I think,” when it comes to discussions like this 🙂

    Now, the problem with utilizing more transit is that our system for mass transit (city or not) is that it is not designed for moving people suburb to suburb or city to suburb. If the Met Council would concentrate more on that problem and less on creating arguments about what transit providers receive higher subsidies then we might be able to drastically reduce the bright colors in this graph without encouraging people to flood back into the city–something which it wouldn’t be able to handle.

  5. @Erik, there are definitely some areas that are better than others in terms of access to freeways, LRT, major bus routes, and trails. The Twin Cities, compared to Silicon Valley, is a very drivable city metro. If you know where you’d be working or what sort of things you look for in a neighborhood, I’m sure many readers here could provide some starting points.

  6. Bill – I think a lot of folks in South Minneapolis (and the rest of Minneapolis) would argue about the comment that it’s not easy to “run errands” without a car. I guess it depends on what type of stores you run errands at, but that’s a whole other discussion. Anyhow, I live downtown and can get to everything I need within 2-3 miles, really – which is very easily within bike range.

  7. @Bill, I think the ‘burb to ‘burb and ‘burb to city problem is largely a matter of population density. If there aren’t enough people living within close proximity of each other, it’s tough to achieve ridership levels that justify running a bus or train through that area. Steve Berg’s piece in Minnpost about tax subsidies for transit with and outside of the urban core explains this well.

    In the case of trains (and somewhat with buses) this can be something where the transit leads to increased density, as we’re seeing along Hiawatha Avenue.

  8. Very interesting, although I suspect most people aren’t choosing to live in the suburbs to save $30k off of housing costs. I could be wrong, however. It’s certainly another factor in running the numbers if finance is your main concern.

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