How to Save on Your Commute

eHow Money Blog

Sitting in traffic on the way to work is no fun—and all that gas can add up! Traffic congestion cost $121 billion in 2011, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. That translates to $818 per U.S. commuter. For super commuters, some of whom commute hundreds of miles each day, the situation is even worse.

Here’s a look at four ways to cut your commuting costs.

  1. Use pretax dollars.
    If your employer offers a free or subsidized transit or parking pass, take advantage of that perk! Employers can also allow employees to pay for transit passes, vanpool fares, and parking using pretax dollars, effectively lowering your transportation costs. However, beginning on January 1, 2014 the cap on pretax commuter mass transit benefits will drop from $245 to $130 per month.
  2. Participate in a carpool or vanpool.
    If you live near other coworkers, consider organizing a car pool where you take turns driving and split the cost of gas to and from work. Some communities or employers have vanpools that will pick you up from public transit stations or other landmarks and drop you off near your workplace. If you’re part of a carpool or vanpool you may also get to use HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes that could reduce your commute time because they’re less congested.
  3. Ditch the car.
    Instead of driving to work, ride a bike or take public transit if you can. When I commuted to offices in downtown Boston, I rode the subway and listened to music or caught up on reading. Getting exercise on a bike instead of gripping the steering wheel in a traffic jam could also make for a more relaxing commute. According to Bicycling magazine, the average cost of driving a sedan is 59.6 cents per mile but a bicycle only costs about 10 cents per mile or $308 per year on average. The magazine also reports that a growing number of Americans now travel by bike and many cities are adding protected bike lanes as a result. Some employers offer financial incentives and showers to employees who bike to work, since it’s better for the environment and reduces demand for parking.
  4. Negotiate an alternate work schedule.
    For those with an especially long commute, alternate work arrangements might make more sense. Fortunately, concepts like telecommuting or four-day work weeks (where the employee works 10-hour days and has a three-day weekend) are gaining acceptance among employers. Regular telecommuting grew by 79.7 percent between 2005 and 2012, according to data from Global Workplace Analytics. The research company predicts that telecommuters will total 3.9 million by 2016.  Telecommuting also means less money spent on suits, dry cleaning, and lunches or coffee on the go. If that’s not an option for you, consider asking your boss to shift your workday start time, since frequent stops and starts in rush hour traffic eat up time and gas.
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