News Release


Happy Transportation Freedom Day!

"Transportation Freedom Day is a great learning opportunity for all Portlanders," said  Mayor Sam Adams. "It highlights the need for Portland's continued work to make smart investments in sustainable transportation and to increase transportation options in the city. Inaction carries a much heftier price tag."

Americans on average spend an astounding 17 percent of their annual income on transportation, far more than they pay for food, clothing, entertainment, income taxes or even health care. New findings released by the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) show that a typical Portland area household shells out the equivalent of 21.5%, or over three months of a typical annual salary to pay for transportation costs.  In more walkable communities with better transit systems, households spend less. In the Pearl District, for instance, residents could expect to spend the equivalent of about 3 fewer weeks of income (than the Portland average) to get around.

“People may not recognize how much they pay for transportation. Our research and these figures show we need long-term solutions that make it easier for Oregonians to drive less and to get around more efficiently,” said OSPIRG’s Jenn Lavelle.

Here in Oregon, Transportation Freedom Days in the region ranged from February 21st in Portland’s Pearl District (i.e., 14% of income), with plentiful bike lanes and MAX and bus connections, compared to April 14 in the more auto-dependent Medford/Ashland area (i.e., 28% of income).

The average American household spent more than $8,000 per year on its vehicles in 2008 according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Americans who live in areas with good access to public transit generally spend less on transportation than those who are fully dependent on cars. Residents in transit-friendly areas celebrate their “Transportation Freedom” earlier in the year. By highlighting these dates, OSPIRG and Mayor Sam Adams seek to raise awareness about how access to public transportation is crucial for saving Americans money.

“Underinvestment in public transportation is a classic example of being pennywise and pound foolish,” added Lavelle. “Now more than ever, public officials must make trains, buses, and pedestrian and bike infrastructure a top priority.”

Transportation Freedom Day is the day of the year in which a median-income household has earned enough money to pay for their transportation expenditures for the year. It is based on Census data includes gas, repairs, parking, vehicle depreciation and transit fares.

For example, a typical median-income household in Hosford-Abernethy, with a well-established transit system, works 58 days to cover their annual transportation costs. However, a typical household in Lents, which is still on its way to a viable transit system, pays for their transportation costs in 78 days, or nearly three more weeks.

The findings illustrated in Transportation Freedom Day confirm other data showing that an individual in Portland switching from driving to public transportation in 2010 could expect to save $9,581 in 2010, according to the American Public Transit Association.

Transportation Freedom Day data comes from the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago, which is a leader in statistically based analysis of transportation and housing. Transportation costs are controlled for differences of income, family size, and number of working individuals in a household. Transportation demand is modeled using the most recent census data, and costs are calculated to include car ownership, maintenance, gas, and transit fares. A detailed description of their transportation cost methodology can be found at: .


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