While I'm not a rabid anti-car crusader, there's no doubt I think the U.S. is too car-centric. I understand the historical reasons behind our vehicle dependence — we're a young nation with sprawling cities spread far apart — but I also believe that if you, as an individual, make an effort to live in a walkable (or bike-able) neighborhood, you can save tons of cash while enhancing your lifestyle.
How much can you save? Well, that's tough to quantify. There are a lot of variables that go into the calculation.
The folks at Transportation Evolved, however, have mae an effort to crunch the numbers. They've created a cost of commuting calculator that takes into account a wide variety of factors — then allows you to further explore how this cost affects your true hourly wage and the opportunity cost of lost inverstment income.
Since my commute involves a 30-second walk down to my writing shed, this calculator doesn't work for me. But Kim commutes 9.1 miles three times a week (or more) in her 1997 Honda Accord. I ran the numbers for her situation and they're not terrible.
According to this calculator, Kim spends about $1074.93 per year commuting. Believe it or not, she spends more in lost time. This calculator estimates her commute removes $1620 per year from her true hourly wage. (She would agree with this. She was just complaining last Thursday about how she hates the drive home, which takes 45 minutes. It's only 18 minutes in the morning.)
And the opportunity cost? Assuming she invested in index funds for 20 years, the Transportation Evolved calculator estimates she's missing out on $154,352 at retirement.