Rich and poor both have cars now. They can be expensive or cheap. Cars give you mobility, utility and status. They may no longer be a symbol of riches. Beverly-Hills-syndrome makes you feel that what you own is what you're. Car is a personalized capsule that the owner gets to custom-design in accordance with his taste and budget. It can have a stereo system that plays the music you want at the volume you want; an air conditioner/heater that keeps you away from the sizzling heat/congealing cold; and a GPS navigation system with the comprehensive map coverage of the city. And you always get a seat. Anybody who owns a car doubtless revels in the freedom it gives him. There're many more people on the planet who want one.
For people, travel on a crowded bus maybe to find them(selves) jolted into griping about it, something kind of disguised blow to their pride. Public transportation is frugal, but not pleasant. Standing at the bus stop, waiting for the bus to arrive and then taking on pangs of jostles, tight squeezes, untold halts and attendant shove-ins & shove-outs drain energy, eat up time and create a stream of unnecessary hassles. A fifteen-minute commute turns out into hours' long. Late in the evenings when the public transport is scarce as hen's teeth, the exteriors/rooftops of buses can be seen smeared with the humans. The frugal choice is to use public transportation if you're looking at numbers only. But, then the 'opportunity' costs in time and comfort terms are worth the extra. Saving extra money may be worth braving the discomfort that public transportation adds to your commute. If you've a car you may use it for stopping at the store or going out with friends/relatives. If you don't own it the choice is obvious, take the bus and save a bundle. Only you know how comfortable you'll feel using public transport and what you've to sacrifice for the extra time and effort it takes to do so.
Cars are expensive for drivers, fuel, tolls, maintenance and insurance, not to mention the low productivity resulting from increased traffic congestion. Of all the transportation options available, a car is the least sustainable, kind of fuel guzzler affecting the health of populations. Driving your own car in traffic snarl-ups, even if short distance, may take lots of sitting in traffic, listening to automobile horns and colorful language choices from frustrated drivers. Costs of owning a car that never runs are enormous. The marginal costs of driving a car, given that's already owned and those costs have already been paid, are cheap form of transportation even though its total costs are very high. What counts to the driver when making a decision to commute is marginal costs? Public transport systems which must cover average costs can't compete with cars which must only cover marginal costs even if the average costs of those public systems are below the average cost of the automobile. With more and better roads more houses are built along those corridors and more people drive. Better road causes people to leave for work later, and peak road rush congestion continues to exist. And building more roads isn't effective since most of the day have a lot of idle capacity.
Rising fuel prices make public transit more attractive for some trips, boosting ridership, but for most trips, transit fares are still comparable with fuel costs and generally take longer. Although fuel costs are generally about equal to bus fares for a typical 15-16-Km trip, car operation also imposes "mileage-based depreciation costs" (wear-and-tear, tire replacement costs, additional maintenance, repairs and reduced resale value). If the vehicle is fuel-inefficient or paid parking at the destination, then financial savings are much greater each day a commuter shifts to public transit. For many trips, car travel takes less time and is more flexible than public transit. Unit travel time costs vary significantly, with higher costs for driving under congested conditions, higher costs for public transit under uncomfortable conditions, and lower costs for public transit travel under relatively comfortable conditions. As a result, under urban-peak conditions, travel on a transit vehicle is often cheaper per minute than driving (travelers prefer to spend time traveling on a bus during which they can rest or read, than fighting traffic and searching for a parking spot). Much of the money currently spent to increase traffic speeds, e.g. by widening urban roads, could be better spent on improving public transit travel conditions and therefore unit costs.
Virtually all forms of motorized transportation rely on various subsidies/taxes. Although it's not optimal to shift all travel from automobile to public transit, for many trips it is cost effective, particularly when all costs are considered. It's long been recognized that, if a train journey is three hours or less, more people will use the train than fly. Partly it's the hassle-factor of flying. But there's also the productive-time argument. If you go by air, you've to get to the airport, check in, wait, board, fly, disembark, and then get to the downtown area. Your journey is fragmented. When you're on the train, you've all that unbroken time to use. You can use a cell phone, a laptop and increasingly access the internet. You can read, write, doze, chat. Time spent traveling by air is a cost: it's time wasted. Time spent traveling by train is a benefit: it's usable working time. Same kind of thing is true for car versus transit for commuting: he who commutes by train and uses the in-vehicle time for reading or writing certainly can't be done while driving the car.