BLOG: The Cost of Commuting on Maui

November 22, 2013, 6:07 PM HST · Updated November 29, 4:24 PM
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By Nate Gaddis

Motorists experienced a delay in travel during the Monday afternoon commute on the Haleakala Highway because of a brush fire reported near the Keahua Junction. Courtesy photo, Kaniala Masoe.

Traffic on Haleakala Highway heading to Kahului. Courtesy file photo, Kaniala Masoe.

If none of us ever had to commute, we’d probably be better lovers.

Many of us spend an hour every morning sitting in traffic, work a full day, then once again spend all too much quality time staring at our dashboards instead of our partners.

Yes, kids and pets suffer too.

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Given all the sacrifices, it’s worth asking the question, “How much does it cost to work in town, while living outside it?”

Thanks to a new federal online tool, that question became much easier to answer.

A joint project between the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the “Location Affordability Portal” gives consumers an easy way to calculate the cost of housing and transportation, no matter your location.

Users can enter in multiple addresses to compare their potential cost of living at various locations simultaneously.

First, there is a little homework to be done on your part though:

1) Make sure you know the number of miles you intend to travel each month from each location (we recommend using Google Maps to calculate distances. Click ‘directions’).

Chevron. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Chevron. Photo by Wendy Osher.

2) Look up the rental (or mortgage) rates of the respective areas you wish to live in, and add in your typical utility bill. The “housing cost” number the website asks for includes your utility expenses.

3) Know your vehicle mileage, and the cost of gas.

Once you enter in all your data, a comparison sheet will come up for each location explaining your total yearly costs. There is also a comparison provided for “Similar Households” but we found this aspect of the site to be a little unrealistic at times, and are unsure how that number is being calculated for you.

We played around with the tool, using three locations on Maui for comparison: Kihei, Lahaina, and Kula. In each case, we used an example of a single person, living in a one bedroom rental unit, and commuting to Kahului for work.

We found that a person living in Kihei could expect to face around $21,400 per year in housing and transportation costs.

A single person living in Lahaina, by contrast, could face around $24,500 per year in housing and transportation costs. A steep hike, with the extra miles driven mostly to blame.

Aerial approach to Kahului Airport. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Kahului. File photo by Wendy Osher.

As for Kula, we found rental rates there to be a bit more scattered and random, priced at anywhere from $600-1,200 per month. Using a $1,000 benchmark, we found that our fictitious commuter could expect to pay out around $19,750 per year for housing and transportation. Obviously the tool doesn’t account for the significant cost in gas and vehicle wear and tear that comes with partially ascending Haleakala each day, which by our estimation would balloon that figure.

Based on the averages, the yearly cost of both living and working in Kahului comes to $16,836 – and that’s factoring in the occasional drive to other parts of the island.

We use these examples to illustrate an important point: the numbers you get using the calculator are very dependent on your choice of housing, and the mileage of your vehicle.

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