More income used in transportation costs

Drivers spend avg. $13,500/ yr. for transportation

Startling new numbers obtained by 10News on Monday reveal just how big a dent that gas prices have made in the budgets of local drivers.

Driver Tina Frank said she needs to fill up, but her gas tank will not be full. 10News caught up with her at a Shell Station in Carmel Valley.

"I'm stopping at $30," she said. "I don't even know what that's going to get me."

Frank said she does not know and does not even want to think about those gas prices.

"I think I spend way too much to get around," said Frank.

She is hardly alone. According to results from a new survey by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, local drivers spend an average of just under $13,500 a year on transportation, which includes auto maintenance and fuel costs.

That translates into 23 percent of the average income. Although that number is close to the nation's average, researchers say it will hurt local residents, who are already dealing with high housing costs.

The survey found residents of Pine Valley near Julian are spending more than 29 percent of their income on transportation, followed by San Diego Country Estates and Julian.

Those paying the least – about 22 percent –are people living in San Diego, Coronado and National City.

One reason that transportation costs are gobbling up more income is that drivers are driving further.

According to research group The Equinox Center, local drivers travel 14.5 highway miles per person per day, which is the highest in the state and four miles more than Los Angeles drivers.

Public transit participation is another factor, along with development.

"The reason for that is the way we've developed as a region," said Emma Leggat, the communications director at The Equinox Center. "We're spread out… people having to travel to work further than in other regions."

Those long commutes are now getting pricier by the day. The transportation cost study also looked at 2009, when gas prices were below $3 a gallon.

"Today's gas prices are significantly higher, so it's probably much more than 23 percent now," said Leggat. "It's unlikely that today's high cost of fuel alone will force a steady downward trend in highway miles traveled, but it may generate the political will needed for major changes in transportation and land use in the region."

Here are the percentages of average annual income spent on transportation costs in San Diego County by community:

Alpine 26.64% Bonita 24.41% Bonsall 27.08% Chula Vista 23.45% Carlsbad 23.52% Coronado 22.42% Crest 26.44% Del Mar 23.57% El Cajon 22.77% Encinitas 23.59% Escondido 22.68% Fallbrook 25.01% Harbison Canyon 27.37% Imperial Beach 22.94% Jamul 27.31% Julian 28.42% Lakeside 24.07% La Mesa 22.73% Lemon Grove 23.50% National City 22.59% Oceanside 23.03% Pine Valley 29.35% Poway 24.39% Rainbow 27.86% Ramona 25.77% Rancho San Diego 24.68% Rancho Santa Fe 26.21% San Diego Country Estates 28.65% San Marcos 23.47% Santee 23.58% Solana Beach 23.29% Spring Valley 23.83% Valley Center 27.79% Vista 22.99%

The figures are from the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index. Click here for a detailed interactive map.

10News and the Equinox Center have partnered to examine quality of life issues facing the region. Find out more about the Equinox Center and their projects by visiting www.equinoxcenter.org.

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