BART Week 2020: What's the cost of your commute?

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KGO) -- Why do you take BART -- or why do you decide NOT to take BART? As commuters scramble for the best way to get around the Bay Area, cost is a big factor.

We asked viewers how much they pay every day to get to work and back. Turns out BART is among the most cost-efficient, but depending on how close you live to a station, not always. We take a look at one East Bay commuter and the four options she considered. The results may surprise you.

"I travel from Alameda to San Francisco and I think the best way to commute is with..."

Lydia Tom has several options for her daily commute from Alameda to her job in downtown San Francisco and back home again.

BUILDING A BETTER BAY AREA: BART Week 2020

She knows which one she likes best. "It's very easy to get there... And back."

But which is the most cost-effective? We did the math.

"I'd probably not be able to carpool so..." Tom said.

She could drive -- which lots of commuters figure gives them the most flexibility. Or does it?

"I'd probably allot an hour to get through the Bay Bridge, then drive into the Financial District, find parking..." Tom continued.

Not only would she be mired in traffic, but it would also be expensive. According to the IRS's mileage allowance, it costs about 58 cents per mile to drive a car.

Multiply that by 26 miles round trip for Lydia; it would cost $15.08 a day for gas, insurance and maintenance.

Add the $7 rush-hour bridge toll, she's up to $22 a day.

"And then you have to park the car? No." Tom said.

We did find a $20 flat-rate offer for all-day parking for early birds. Added to the $22, that brings her driving total to $42 per day.

"I wouldn't do it, it would be unreasonable," she said.

What about AC Transit?

"I do have a bus stop that's probably not that far, but..." Tom said, her voice trailing.

Bus fare from Alameda to San Francisco is $12 round trip, or $216 for a month of unlimited rides.

She'd get dropped off at the Salesforce Transit Center, a half-mile from her work -- economical, but what about BART?

"I'd first have to get to BART from my house," Tom said.

Here's the breakdown. She could drive four miles to the closest BART station, the one at Fruitvale, and park all day in a reserved space for $6. She could then take BART to Embarcadero for $8.40 round trip. Factoring in $4.80 for mileage, and her daily BART cost would be $19.20.

It's a little more than the bus, a lot less than driving -- but her cheapest option is also her favorite... and she's heading there now.

"Definitely the ferry!"

Tom can ride the Alameda ferry for $10.80 per day round trip using her Clipper Card, or $11.20 to the Harbor Bay Ferry terminal in Alameda. Parking there is free, but she's only steps from the ferry terminal on both sides of the Bay.

"It's very relaxing to be on the ferry,'' she said. "When it's a beautiful day you can go outside, and you know see the skyline in the background while you're going home. I love it."

And with the sun setting behind her, traffic-jammed above her, she's floating peacefully home.

So here's the comparison: Of course there are many variables that might apply for every commuter. But here's the comparison for Lydia:
  • Driving is by far her most expensive option, at $42 per day.

  • BART costs less than half, at just $19.20 cents a day.

  • AC Transit costs just $12.

    • And the Harbor Bay Ferry was the most economical at just $10.80 round trip, or $11.20 for the Harbor Bay terminal in Alameda.


Check out the fare schedules for the Bay Area transit systems so you can compare prices on your own commute:
AC Transit
BART
San Francisco Bay Ferry
Golden Gate Ferry
Bay Bridge tolls
Golden Gate Bridge tolls
San Francisco MUNI
CalTrain
SamTrans

See more stories and videos from ABC7's Buliding a Better Bay Area BART Week.
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