Who's better off? AAA says it's the Metro riders.

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AAA has not always been a paragon of temperance when it comes to assessing the D.C. area’s priorities on transit modes. Until recently, nearly every policy or road change that implied that cars weren’t paramount drew accusations from the auto lobby’s Mid-Atlantic office of a “war on cars.” Advocates of bikes and public transit, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John B. Townsend II, were “nerds” and “ninnies.”

Well, it seems AAA Mid-Atlantic has taken a ninny turn of its own. In a cost analysis of driving versus Metro, the office concludes that even with Metro’s proposed fare hike, it’s still the better option for many commuters.

“Even with a three percent average increase, area commuters will still save by using public transit after doing the math,” Townsend writes in the analysis. “After adding up the costs of driving and parking, commuters will often find that public transit is a more economical way to get to work and stick with Metro.”

A driver from Alexandria to McPherson Square can expect to spend $503.10 a month on driving and parking costs, AAA finds; a Metro rider would spend only $330.82 after the fare hike, including driving costs to the Huntington Metro station and the cost of parking there. From Greenbelt to Farragut North, it’s $558.60 for driving versus $395.78 for Metro. And from Bowie (via New Carrollton) to Dupont Circle, it’s $680.70 to drive and $458.82 to ride the rails.

AAA also notes that the D.C. area has been named the “most congested city” in America for two years running—-making driving less appealing—-and that 40 percent of peak-time Metro riders are federal government employees, who receive transit benefits, though those benefits are being cut.

And so I say in all sincerity: Thank you to Townsend and AAA Mid-Atlantic for a helpful and honest analysis of transit modes. It’s a welcome change.

Photo of the Vienna Metro station from Flickr user anna.xie