Alternative Fuel and Transportation

Published on May 3rd, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


New Yorkers Save $19 Billion a Year Using Sustainable Transportation

$19 billion each year is no small change, not even for New York City. Residents of the Big Apple save at least this much each year due to the simple fact that they drive less than Americans living in other cities. In addition to being good for the environment and people’s health, bicycling, riding transit and walking are clearly good for people’s pocketbooks as well.

CEOs for Cities is the non-profit organization that recently came to the conclusion that New Yorkers save $19 billion a year from using these modes of transportation (i.e. sustainable transportation). After creating reports on the financial benefits of sustainable transportation for Chicago and Portland, high officials in NYC asked the organization to do one for New York.

Although New York is green as can be in terms of sustainable transportation, some powerful economic and development players have been big supporters of car-oriented development lately. With a better understanding of the financial benefits of sustainable transportation, however, the hope is that things will change.

Bicyclist in Times Square

Bicyclist in Times Square

Transportation summary stats for NYC

Transportation summary stats for NYC

$19 billion is a lot. However, the CEOs for Cities report, “New York City’s Green Dividend” [PDF], actually gives a very conservative estimate of how much New Yorkers save by using green transportation, Noah Kazis over at StreetsBlog shows:

“The $19 billion number is a quick, conservative estimate that almost surely understates the savings New Yorkers reap by not driving. The study estimates that, per capita, New Yorkers drive nine miles per day. It then multiplies that figure by the national average cost of operating a vehicle, 40 cents per mile. Compare that total — how much New Yorkers spend on driving, per capita — to the national average, and you get $19 billion in savings.

Here’s why that’s a conservative estimate. The study calculated average VMT rates in New York City by distributing the average daily distance driven in the entire metropolitan region according to the city’s vehicle ownership rates. If New York City car owners drive less often than their Suffolk County counterparts, or drive shorter distances when they do — both reasonable assumptions — then nine miles per day overshoots the mark. Moreover, the cost of driving is almost certainly higher in New York than it is nationally, due to elevated costs for parking, insurance, and gasoline. In other words, it’s likely that New Yorkers save much more than $19 billion.”

Additionally, there are tremendous health benefits to using sustainable human-powered transportation. Being healthier, one saves a lot of money on healthcare as well (something not calculated in here).

New Yorkers aren’t the only ones saving money using sustainable transportation. Across the country, people who ride transit save an average of $9,215 a year. I have not seen a study on the amount of money the average cyclist (or pedestrian) saves, but I imagine that it is even much larger.

I think we need to continue to show that being green can add a lot more green to your wallet. Tell your friends: “Want to save about $10,000 a year (or more)? Green your transport!”

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to and click on the relevant buttons.

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