Online Tool Calculates Transportation Costs

A new online tool calculates average transportation costs, shedding light on the affordability and sustainability of a community.

Abogo map of San Francisco bay area
Have you ever wondered what the average transportation costs are for your community? Do you think your neighborhood is more affordable and sustainable than others, when it comes to transportation?

Now you can find out at Abogo, an online site that says it can help you discover the true cost of transportation where you live now or where you might want to live. Abogo measures the money an average household from a neighborhood would spend getting around, whether by car or public transit. It also calculates the average amount of CO2 generated.

Abogo, which is run by the Center for Neighorhood Technology, uses several sets of data to arrive at average transportation costs. They include money spent on car ownership for your community as well as public transit costs. Other data sets, taken from Census block group data, such as average commute times, job density, transit connectivity, and household income, are factored in.

My community in western Massachusetts costs approximately $869 per month, slightly above the regional average. CO2 production at .81 metric tons per month, is also above the average. None of which is surprising to me, since I live in a bedroom community, where many people have medium to long commutes and access to public transit is limited.

Abogo is produced by the same organization that released the housing and affordability index earlier this year to counter the "drive 'til you qualify" trend that has encouraged outward sprawl for decades. "The true cost of a house is not reflected in its price tag alone," reports CNT. Transportation costs are rarely factored in by potential homeowners or policy makers who decide where development can take place. "For most families, transportation is the second biggest household expense and, although it is directly impacted by where we live, it does not factor into current measures of housing affordability."

Ellen Dunham-Jones, an award-winning architect who teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology, mentions the fact that homeowners in some Atlanta suburbs spend more on transportation than housing, during a talk on retrofitting suburbs. According to CNT, the sum of housing and transportation can cost 77 percent of median income for a two-wage family with three cars. If the same family were to move to a slighty more expensive home, but reduce the number of cars to just one, the combined home and transportation expense drops to 50 percent or less.

Will Abogo and the H+T index lead to more "location efficient" communities, with lower transportation costs? The current housing trend, with a home in the suburbs, and a two-car garage, has been going on for decades and will hardly change overnight. But given the state of the current economy and our lesser spend-thrift ways, more people may make more informed decisions about where they live based on the kind of information that is now available from organizations like CNT.

Tod is the managing editor of Governing and the contributing editor of our sister publication, Government Technology. He was previously the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for IT executives in the public sector, and is the author of several books on information management.