Economics of owning a car

Ditto for me. I would use MaaS as an occasional supplement to my private car. Going to the airport would be a typical use. Or when my car is in the shop. If you consider Uber/Lyft to be the same as MaaS (and I do) then I’m already using it. But it’s still not as convenient as getting into my car and going where I want exactly when I want and on the route I want.

I can leave my shopping in my car if I want and unload it later. I can leave things in my car that I may or may not need, like an umbrella or a light jacket or a pair of sunglasses. I can put things in my car tonight that I want to take with me tomorrow morning. When you rely on MaaS for all of your transportation, you can’t do those things. It makes some small things in life less convenient rather than more convenient.

I’ll freely admit that the inconveniences of owning a car in the heart of a city can outweigh these conveniences. That is one of the benefits of living in suburbia.



It’s a pretty safe bet. Transit systems are very expensive. Fares are low, because transit systems generally charge users only a small fraction of the cost of providing the ride. Again, excepting certain systems in certain exceedingly high-density metro areas, like NYC - though even there farebox recovery rates aren’t especially high by global standards.

Direct-to-destination transportation is always faster and more convenient than in-traffic rubber-tire transit. It’s often faster than dedicated or track transit - in most metros, travel times by transit are significantly higher than private passenger automobile even for commutes. For non-commute trips, private passenger cars are almost invariably faster. In a MaaS world (with autonomous vehicles), those advantages will only increase.

For most cities (again, outside of the very densest like NYC), it’s going to just stop making sense to try to run a bus system. The travel experience will be inferior, since riders will still have significantly longer travel times and don’t get door-to-door service. But now there will be an actual alternative that isn’t prohibitively expensive, and indeed will be cheaper in most cases. Combine that with vehicle electrification killing most of the environmental reasons to favor mass transit rather than individual transport (especially particulate emissions), and its hard to see many transit systems surviving the onslaught of MaaS.

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Perhaps not, but I sure could see only having one car rather than two. That’s half the battle right there.

Eldest graduated college 5 years ago, getting a job in a city. I encouraged him to look at the carrying costs of owning a car, since he already was using Uber to go everywhere, and work would rent a car for him if he needed one for business. Since Covid, work sold the office building and they work from home exclusively…something he maintains he will never relinquish.

Dad lost his license in his 80’s, when his response to declining driving skills was to get more and more aggressive and he almost ran a sherriff off the road. Yeah, I will embrace autonomous cars.


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That’s not the whole story. Mass transit reduces road congestion and the need to build more highways. Forget about NYC. DC, Boston, and San Francisco have roughly 1/3 of commuters use public transit. Moving them all to single occupancy vehicles, autonomous or not, doubles the traffic. Even LA with only 10% using mass transit gets an 11% increase in traffic. I suspect that with LA freeway congestion, 11% more cars leads to much more than 11% slower commute time.

Sure - in a small handful of super-dense cities. You’ve picked the top three for transit mode share (outside of NYC). Most of the rest of the country’s urban population lives in places where the transit mode share is much lower for commuting (and almost non-existent for non-commuter trips). In most cities, transit just isn’t used enough to materially affect congestion even during rush hour.

Even then, the argument that transit reduces traffic congestion is somewhat suspect - for the same “induced demand” reasons that widening highways doesn’t really reduce traffic congestion. Just like an extra lane encourages new drivers to come in and fill the space in the highway, so too does taking a bunch of drivers off the highway and moving them to transit.

We see that when you have transit closures or significant reductions in transit usage. Large-scale transit shutdowns (like the system-wide closure of the DC Metro in 2016) don’t usually result in significantly unmanageable traffic: most people adjust. Transit use has been falling precipitously in some areas (like LA, for example, where transit boardings have been falling for years before the pandemic, dropping nearly 20% from 2015-2019), without any visible changes in traffic patterns. Now that auto usage has recovered from the pandemic, but transit usage is still down by nearly a third, we may have an even broader opportunity to study whether transit use actually helps relieve congestion.

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I assure you that in New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and lots of other cities with some form of mass transit, walking from the bus stop in February (November, December, January, and when raining) is a very big deal. I’ve lived, worked, or had cause to be in all of them and mass transit is no picnic.

I think Albaby1 is right; if TaaS is cheap enough to be even close there will be lots more traffic on the roads and even less use of traditional mass transit.

A reasonable answer would be the “no fare” movement, which has already had experimentation in several major cities; D.C. is removing bus fares later this year. Often the fare box only covers 10-20% of the costs anyway, so removing it is a strong encouragement for people to get off the highways. Unfortunately the movement has only gotten traction during the pandemic, so any results are skewed and we won’t know if there’s real world application for several more years, but I think it’s a great idea. (Of course there are those who insist it’s socialism, that everyone should “pay their way” etc. [not kidding] but they are just wrong, as usual. Back in the 19-teens many said the same thing about paved roads between cities, which they saw as a subsidy for Henry Ford.)

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Not an answer to my point, unfortunately. Making transit free doesn’t change what it costs. It just doesn’t impose any of those costs on riders. MaaS is likely to tear transit apart because it’s going to be cost so much less than most systems to provide the same amount of transportation. When that happens, it’s going to be very difficult for local governments to resist.

You hear a variant of that argument sometimes even today - “Given the number of people who will ride, it would be cheaper to just buy everyone an inexpensive car than to fund X transit improvement.” That’s not a realistic alternative for a lot of reasons, of course.

But when the alternative isn’t to give people a car, but instead to give them an annual “all you can eat subject to restrictions” pass on a MaaS service (rather than picking up 90% of their tab on transit)? Suddenly that actually is a viable alternative.

In passing, I think “fare free” proposals are almost always a bad idea. It costs money to provide transit service. If you give up farebox revenue, service has to be cut. Generally speaking, the more meaningful barrier to having well-used transit in the U.S. isn’t that fares are high, but because service levels make it less usable. Service is too infrequent, coverage requires too many transfers and mode changes, the vehicle stock is in poor condition or uncomfortable, etc. Most of what I’ve read on the subject says that transit has to be fast, frequent, and reliable in order to really compete with alternative modes - and losing farebox revenue typically degrades all of those characteristics.

“It’s poor quality but at least it’s free” probably isn’t going to get you very many riders switching from cars. It will get you a lot of opportunistic riders switching from modes like biking or walking for very short trips. Most people won’t pay a fare to hop on a bus to go six blocks rather than walking - but if a bus happens to pull up and it’s free, why not?


I thought I was supposed to be the idealist. Making ideals into practical ideas…

You know what is going to happen? Your Tesla is going to go low enough in price to cut off your MAAS or be your MAAS.

The difference in Tesla getting there and F and GM taking too much time to get there is Tesla insuring buyers of their cars.

The real solution for someone who wants to go into business is parking. Meaning a self driving car can go somewhere intelligent to park itself. Ah ha moment when Tesla starts to buy property on the outskirts of a city for mass parking. An alarm goes off crack of dawn and your car shows up to take you to work.

People don’t buy cars because they are the most economical transportation, they buy them for convenience.

Just saying.


Agreed! TaaS does NOTHING to solve a fundamental problem with traffic: a single person occupying a vehicle taking a considerable amount of road real estate. A problem mass transit actually does solve.

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They (sort of) already started doing this in a small way a decade ago. They call the parking lots Supercharger stations. They are mostly vacant at night.



The idea is instead of renting a garage in LA or SF, you rent a spot well away in a field. The car drives itself there for the night. The car picks you up for work the next morning.

In other words, it deadheads for the night rather than be available for a potential passenger elsewhere.

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I am saying you own your own car.

Different than Maas or TaaS or whatever those are supposed to be but keep morphing into some other theory…I mean plan.

BTW Tesla beat.

A small but growing number of smaller cities and towns are replacing buses with what is called a microtransit system. This is on demand public transit using vans. Apparently for the same cost one gets much greater reach and ridership than from the traditional bus system.

Arlington TX, the largest city with no bus system has city-wide microtransit using electric vans. It began in 2017 and has expanded ever since, with some data indicating it is reducing car use.

Microtransit seems to be a public transportation strategy that works in lower density areas. An example is Valdosta GA, a town too small for a fixed bus system.

"That’s why last spring we launched Valdosta On Demand, the city’s first-ever, citywide on-demand public transit service. Since implementation, we’ve received over 14,000 ride requests per month and increased access to jobs and necessary destinations. Forty-five percent of riders use the service to go to work or school, while other trips allow residents to access grocery stores, hospitals, libraries and more. "


I have been meaning to mention, I remember when I was very young (8?) going to a city (D.C.?) which had a jitney system. It was like hailing a taxi, you could get one on the street, and the city was carved up in to 5 (or) districts. You’d get one going to whatever district you wanted, and the driver could also pick up others headed to the same district, then he’d shuttle around dropping people at their hotel or house within that district, then head out again.

Everybody paid a fare, but with jitneys scurrying around a city you’d have a quasi micro-transit system, people would get door to door service, and there’s little-to-no waiting at a bus stop, you just grab one whenever one going to the right area drives by.

Don’t understand why the system didn’t catch on, it seems very logical to me.

It does. Perhaps the DC was concerned about competition with the subway system?

Arlington TX recently initiated unlimited on-demand public transport for the entire city for $80/month. That is a very viable alternative to personal car use and provides a blueprint for how cities can use MaaS to reduce congestion while improving transportation access to those who can’t afford a car. Future AV will only improve the economics of microtransit.

Possibly inflation, the plant needed to be replaced after a time and inflation destroyed the city planning for it. Just an educated guess.

Microtransit seems to be a public transportation strategy that works in lower density areas…

That makes a lot of sense. In my area, the transit system uses medium sized buses, and usually ( not always ) only ever see 1 or 2 riders on them, when they are not completely empty. So even though there isn’t much useage, for some people it is a valuable service. I don’t mind paying taxes to help out and keep this option available for people that need it, but microtransit vehicles would be much more cost effective. The transit system could buy electric vehicles and use them for the majority of the day, and keep those buses in reserve.