Not All Public Transportation Systems Are Sustainable – Here’s How They Can Be

Not All Public Transportation Systems Are Sustainable – Here’s How They Can Be

As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing issue, the search for long-term and easy-to-implement solutions has become more critical. One of the methods with the most potential to combat climate change is improving public transportation systems. But why are not all public transportation systems sustainable and how can we change that?

Public transportation is almost always better than driving a car. Heavy rail transit, like subway systems, produce 76% less greenhouse gas emissions than a car, and bus transit systems produce 33% less. Although methods of public transportation are often thought of as one of the simpler solutions to fighting climate change – especially as many cities already have systems in place – it’s imperative that transit systems are implemented strategically to preserve resources and achieve the potential of reducing emissions.

At my company, Modeshift – a technology company providing digital mobility infrastructure for transit agencies – we’ve found that there are three key ways that tech companies and governments can drive sustainability in cities.

Encouraging Increased Ridership

Although public transportation is often a better and more sustainable choice than driving, cities must ensure that there are enough riders utilizing public transportation to achieve the least amount of greenhouse gas emissions possible. Otherwise, if there aren’t enough consumers, they may not be as efficient as cars and other single-occupancy vehicles.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a typical 40-passenger diesel-run bus needs to have at least seven riders, and an average train car must be at least 19% full for each to be more efficient than a passenger vehicle with an average load. Cities can encourage ridership through a variety of means, but one of the most common practices is to modernize and update overall public transportation systems to meet the minimum threshold to be sustainable.

Implementing User-Friendly And Affordable Ticketing Solutions

One way cities can better systems and increase ridership is by creating more efficient and convenient public transportation systems and services – including establishing cost-effective and intuitive ticketing solutions. When vending machines, kiosks, onboard validators, and web portals are introduced, purchasing a ticket becomes increasingly more accessible and, in turn, riders are incentivized to use public transportation.

Creating smart fare policies, particularly when combining different services, helps drive sustainability as well. Flexible payment and fare options, including discounted subscriptions, help increase ticket revenue collection and encourage ridership.

When one client of Modeshift – Bistrita, a city in Romania – began implementing more modern ticketing solutions, it reported up to a 20% increase in ridership within one month, as well as overwhelmingly positive feedback from riders themselves. When public transportation systems are smarter and easier to use, cities can expect more people to utilize transit, ultimately helping to lower greenhouse gas emissions and boost sustainability.

Read Bistrita Case Study >>

Creating Optimized Routes

In addition to ensuring there are enough riders, cities can drive sustainability and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions by optimizing fleets and routes. When more vehicles are used – buses and trains included – air pollution becomes a greater problem. To prevent superfluous public transportation usage and poor air quality, cities can implement on-demand green transportation.

On-demand green transport works by substituting the buses’ predefined routes with a map based on rider demand. There are online platforms and mobile applications available now that collect data (e.g., rider demand, traffic, and weather), analyze it, and then create the most efficient route for each ride, picking up as many passengers as possible along the way. When optimized tools like on-demand green transport are introduced, not only is the number of personal vehicles as well as trains and buses dramatically reduced but so are air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation serves as a key aspect of day-to-day life for many but can also be a major contributor to wide-scale pollution. By focusing on encouraging ridership, implementing user-friendly and affordable ticketing solutions, and creating optimized routes, we can maximize public transit’s ability to drive sustainability while ensuring populations are able to get from point A to point B efficiently and safely.

Read the article in Forbes Tech Council >>


CEO at Modeshift

Miroslav is a great motivator, consensus builder, and a big-picture thinker, leading a team of 40 people with combined transit experience of more than 240 years. His expertise and background include business strategy, business planning, telecommunications, managing system integrations, security, and automation business units. Miroslav is passionate about entrepreneurship, start-ups, talent scouting, and development.