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About this blog: I grew up in Los Angeles and moved to the area in 1963 when I started graduate school at Stanford. Nancy and I were married in 1977 and we lived for nearly 30 years in the Duveneck school area. Our children went to Paly. We moved ...  (More)

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The Time and Cost Savings of Avoiding a Long Commute

Uploaded: Sep 23, 2023
This is an edited version of my email sent earlier to the city council. All the assumptions and results are the same as in the original email.

Dear Mayor Kou and council members,

I am writing to follow up on my public comment at the ECR teacher housing project prescreen last Monday.

I did some research and made some assumptions to illustrate the commute cost and value of time saved by eliminating the need for a long commute.

While I did these in the context of council discussion of the teacher housing proposal, the findings are applicable more broadly to situations where housing can reduce the need for long commutes.

I made these assumptions

--the costs of a mile of travel are 65.5 cents (the 2023 IRS mileage allowance)

--the gasoline portion of these costs was calculated using $5/gallon and 20 miles/gallon

--tolls where applicable are $7/day

--the value of time saved is $20/hour or 50% of a $40/hour salary (50% is the low end of the research and state and federal DOT suggestions)

I looked at a 50 mile trip taking one hour (actual times according to Google Map are usually longer) and assumed that there were 17 weekday commutes a month to make allowance for holiday and personal days off.

For example, the time from Gilroy (50 miles to PA) was 77 minutes at 6:30 on a Monday morning but 97 minutes when there was an accident.

These are all rough estimates and I will update as new information becomes available.

The results are

--$65.50 a day per IRS mileage allowance is $1,114 per month

--the gasoline portion is $425 per month and if tolls are needed that adds $119 a month

--the value of time saved is $680 a month

These are substantial savings in addition to avoiding the stress of long commutes and can explain why higher rents can seem and actually be a financially good deal for some individuals.

This is the reverse case of what we know is true--that many workers will take a reduction in pay to avoid commuting and be able to work from home.

I am happy to discuss and answer any questions.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Philomena Jackson, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Sep 23, 2023 at 3:08 pm

Philomena Jackson is a registered user.

You could reduce those costs by taking mass transit or buying a hybrid.

I regularly commute from Palo Alto to Gilroy where I work at at a SC county office. All it requires is one transfer upon arriving in San Jose.

Driving along 101 during commute hours is an unpleasant experience and by taking mass transit, I can chill while other drivers deal with the gridlock and traffic delays.

As a result and since my auto commute only amounts to a short drive from EPA to the CalTrain depot, I only spend about $25.00 a week on gas.

You can save money if you know where to trim expenses.

The other option is moving to Gilroy because buying a Palo Alto home is cost-prohibitive for many people.

Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 23, 2023 at 8:48 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

There is an assumption that it is cost that keeps people who work here in the Palo Alto general area and necessitate a long commute. That isn't always the case. I know of at least 2 separate families who live in Half Moon Bay area or Santa Cruz out of choice rather than housing costs. Living by the Coast suits many who enjoy ocean pursuits and the sound of the ocean rather than the sound of traffic.

There will always be those who choose to commute for various reasons. Raising a family in a house with a backyard is another good reason. With hybrid work options since the pandemic, these types of choices will be much easier. Commuting only 2 or 3 days each week is much better than 5.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Sep 24, 2023 at 11:48 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

I agree that many residents and families who commute long distances will choose to continue commuting by car or transit if it is available and safe�"for a variety of reasons.

But I think these savings will help residents like the teachers and staff who are the focus of the 44 unit proposed housing on ECR for low and moderate income people who do not have or want a hybrid option and wish to rent an apartment in Palo Alto. And help other residents considering market rate rental housing by producing savings that make some high rents seem attractive all things considered.

And the savings in my example are just one case. They will vary by the length and time of the commute.

Posted by Ron Pierce, a resident of another community,
on Sep 24, 2023 at 1:18 pm

Ron Pierce is a registered user.

I reside in the Tri-Valley area and simply fly out of the Livermore airport to Palo Alto for my daily commute.

Once I arrive in Palo Alto, I either Uber or ride a bike to my downtown office depending upon the weather.

It's no big deal. Get some wings.

Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Sep 27, 2023 at 1:10 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

The commute cost on family life ? Enormous. "commuting" diminishes our ability to support our local schools, civic or social volunteerism, support local buisness, support the arts or recreation centers. By commuting a 25-50 distance from one place of lower rent residence to another place for higher paying work is costing us our very families, our climate, our economic local economies ...

Yet, council keep those SFH electric heat pumps selling from the Dias keep, those Teslas rolling off the line, keep purchasing those hybrids, locally so one can in glee and relief justify our pool guy coming in, the landscaper coming in, the store cashier, the nanny, the waitstaff, the childcare provider, the LVN's, RN's, custodial... you said it the commute is reeking havoc on all levels of our social fabric to connect, belong, grow, become and support the environment in which we strive to improve on. Culture shift now.

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