In the minds of the majority of Americans driving to work is simply second nature. Other options frequently don’t even enter our thoughts. Although, in cities especially, there are multiple other options such as biking or public transportation many of us tend to skip them for the convenience of a personal vehicle.
What many of us fail to consider is the substantial financial benefits of alternative transportation that go beyond simply pumping less fuel. By leaving the car at home we can add hundreds of dollars back into our budgets and promote greater long-term health. When it comes down to it, alternative transportation is one of the best financial decisions you can make.
Perhaps the biggest direct benefit of not using a car is the ability to reduce spending on fuel significantly. The majority of Americans are forced to visit a gas station at least once a week which, even with reduced fuel prices, can really begin to add up. Some studies suggest that the average American spends four percent of total income on gasoline; a number that increases to nearly eleven percent for the poorest subsection of the population.
Furthermore, the average American spends over 100 hours commuting each year. That is nearly two and a half weeks of vacation time! Of course some commuting time is necessary regardless of the mode of transportation, but alternative transportation methods offer dual benefits such as getting daily exercise or having time to study or read for fun rather than focus on the road.
Avoiding extensive car time can also have profound benefits on your personal health. For instance, one study from the University of Southern California’s Public Health Program found that there was a significant correlation between driving time and knee pain prevalence. In one year, nearly 6 million Americans visit their doctor for knee pain related issues which create substantial health costs for many families. The study suggested that reduced amounts of driving could play a role in reducing this type of pain.
Depending upon the type of alternative transportation there may be other benefits such as daily exercise. For example, taking advantage of bikes as a means to get to work can replace a gym membership. That alone can save quite a lot of money monthly, but the long-term benefits of daily exercise may be even more profound as it can reduce risk for obesity, high cholesterol, and many other negative health issues that are prevalent in the US.
Breaking the habit of driving to work every day can also have an interesting impact on your lifestyle. Public transportation can offer a means of meeting new people or avoiding blood-boiling traffic jams on a regular basis. Depending upon the route you take, it could also open up new areas of town to explore without having to search for parking.
Biking rather than driving can also change things a lot. Since bikers are traveling at a much slower speed it is possible to take in the surrounding area much more effectively. Some studies have indicated that local small businesses actually benefit from having bike lanes go by them because people are more likely to stop and check things out. Additionally, if routes move through more scenic areas can provide obvious mental health benefits.
Making the switch from personal vehicles to alternative transportation methods isn’t always easy; it involves a certain amount of preplanning and a willingness to give up the convenience of a car. However, alternative transportation methods can offer a significant boost to your wallet through direct benefits such as reducing fuel and car maintenance costs and indirect benefits such as improved physical and mental health. Overall, it is worth the effort.