While cars seem to be a more convenient and preferred choice of transportation for people in modern times, they do unfortunately remain one of the primary polluters in the transportation industry, contributing not only to the increasing traffic congestion and pollution we’re seeing in cities but also in terms of the economic and global impact on climate change. Government officials and city planners have looked at mass transit as a crucial component in addressing some of these urban issues, with the hope of moving towards a future of more sustainable mobility in cities. Public transportation systems have an important role to play in society and are of fundamental importance when it comes to changing the habits and mindset of citizens, helping them embrace greener and more efficient modes of transport. Let’s go over some reasons why public transportation is better than cars.
Public Transportation Is More Cost-effective Than Driving
The costs of commuting by car are regarded to be bigger than that of using public transportation. Driving a car typically comes with additional expenses that go beyond the initial purchase. Fuel costs, which fluctuate depending on oil prices and distance traveled, can take a significant toll on any household budget. Furthermore, car insurance premiums can be substantial, especially in busy urban areas, not to mention congestion charges and regular check-ups. The accumulation of these expenses can quickly add up, making commuting by car a rather costly choice. Public transportation, on the other hand, absolves passengers of the responsibilities associated with fuel costs, vehicle purchase, and maintenance and riders can use the services they require for a fixed fare, based on their travel distance or zone. In many cases, monthly or annual passes provide further savings for citizens, making public transit an even more cost-effective option, especially for students, the elderly, and low-income residents. While fares can vary depending on the region and the type of transport service, they often prove to be more affordable than the overall expenses of owning a car.
Some estimates show that residents of cities could potentially save thousands of dollars a year by switching to public transport. It’s considered that an average American spends around $2,000 a year on gas. By choosing public transportation, people could entirely cut out this expense. Furthermore, the average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is around $1,592 a year. With public transportation, you won’t even need to have a policy in place. Additionally, the average cost of a car amounts to over $42,000. There are, of course, cheaper options on the market, however, in the long run taking public transportation could save a lot of money by eliminating the expenses that come with having a car.
Public Transportation Reduces Traffic Congestion
City traffic and congestion have a far bigger impact than most people realize and stretch beyond just being a daily inconvenience in the lives of citizens. It’s a global issue that comes with a variety of implications, whether they are economical, environmental, or related to health and the well-being of populations. It was reported that for 2022, the typical U.S. driver spent over 51 hours in congestion, which is about an hour each week. That’s 15 more hours lost to congestion than in 2021, and the time wasted in traffic jams costs Americans over $869 in lost time as well as increased levels of pollution, according to the 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard by the mobility analytics firm Inrix. Furthermore, drivers paid around $134 more for fuel in 2022 than they did in 2021 The overall costs associated with delays and traffic congestion for the U.S. economy amount to over $120 billion annually.
Pollutants from cars are linked to a variety of health conditions, from allergies and skin irritation to heart disease and respiratory problems such as asthma. It isn’t only exhaust fumes, however, that pollute the atmosphere. Brakes and tires are known to further contribute to releasing harmful emissions. Every time a person drives a car, small fragments of particulate matter such as dust are released into the air from brake and tire wear, as well as from the surface of roads. The particles then enter the airstream and could potentially have a damaging effect on people’s health. Public transportation not only reduces the number of cars on the road but also contributes to less pollution in cities. Individual cars might provide comfort and a level of convenience to drivers, especially in long-distance travel, however, private vehicles simply can not achieve the same result in terms of capacity and fuel efficiency. They also can not transport as many people per vehicle and only contribute to further traffic and congestion in cities.
Public Transport Is More Energy Efficient Compared To Private Vehicles
Public transport systems are designed to operate in a more efficient and planned manner, reducing the overall use of fuel and emissions produced. Public vehicles travel along designated routes, limiting the amount of fuel needed to transport a large number of passengers which is why it’s effective in reducing air pollution. It’s currently estimated that around 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector are related to the surface transportation system. The use of public transportation remains one of the most effective actions individuals can take if they want to conserve energy.
Riding public transit far exceeds the benefits of any other energy-saving household initiatives in the form of energy-efficient light bulbs, the adjustment of thermostats, or comparing energy-efficient appliances. To better understand just how big of an impact this has in terms of energy savings, let’s look at an example. A single person who switches from a 20-mile commuting trip by car to public transport can lower their annual CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day, which amounts to more than 48,000 pounds, annually. That equals a 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical household, consisting of two adults and two vehicles.
Data further shows that by eliminating the use of a single car and taking public transportation instead of driving, a saving of 30% of carbon dioxide emissions can be achieved. It has been further reported that every year, public transportation in the U.S. is responsible for the saving of over 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. This is the equivalent of the total emissions generated by electricity being used in over 4.9 million households or every household in Washington DC; New York City; Atlanta; Denver; and Los Angeles combined.
Public Transportation Reduces CO2 Emissions
Personal vehicles are among the largest contributors of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a typical American household. It’s estimated that an average household with two cars consists of three main areas of CO2 emissions: electricity, natural gas, and private vehicles. Electricity accounts for around 25% of the total emissions, natural gas for about 20%, and the remaining 55% is all contributed by cars. Public transportation is part of the solution to mitigating the effects of climate change, improving the quality of air in cities, and reducing the CO2 emission levels generated by the sector. Vehicles in public transit are better for the environment and more effective in reducing fuel usage as well as the number of emissions per passenger. An average transit bus can fit up to 42 people, meaning that a full bus can reduce the need for 42 single-passenger cars from the road during a single commute. A group of full buses running every 15 minutes along one route can take up to 168 cars off the road each hour. It’s estimated that one person can cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 4,800 pounds per year if they switch from their car to using public transit.
Buses do generate some level of CO2 emissions as well, however, their fuel efficiency makes them a superior choice when compared to cars that promote sustainable living mainly due to their person-miles per gallon rate. Say five people drove their cars 25 miles at about 25 miles per gallon, then each person would emit about one gallon’s worth of emissions. That’s five gallon’s worth of emissions in total. If those same drivers were to use a bus going the same route (with a similar miles-per-gallon rate), then those five people would only use one gallon’s worth of emissions in total. Overall, public transportation systems can reduce carbon emissions by over 37 million metric tons in a single year, with buses decreasing the usage of gas by 4.2 billion gallons, on an annual basis. In conclusion, communities can collectively lower their carbon footprint when buses and other transit vehicles are integrated into everyday life.
Public Transport Enhances Accessibility & Community Mobility
Because Public Transportation creates social and economic opportunities for members of communities, it remains a vital part of society. To sustain a good quality and standard of life, communities need access to essential services that will ensure the upkeep of physical and mental health, employment opportunities, and social and leisure activities. When access to public transportation systems is not available to a community, there is no mobility and therefore there is a high dependence on cars which may either create a financial burden on families/individuals or exclude disadvantaged community members from being able to access essential services.
The availability of mass transit allows members of society to participate in events they otherwise wouldn’t be able to access whether it’s because they are unable to drive, can’t afford to, or simply choose not to. This affects various groups in our communities such as children, people with disabilities, elderly citizens, low-income residents, and high-risk people/drivers going out to parties. Unlike cars, public transit systems are designed to work for all residents regardless of their race, income, social status, or where they live, functioning as an important tool for promoting equity.
Public Transportation Is Safer Than Driving A Car
Riding public transportation has been proven to contribute to the reduction of traffic-related fatalities and other road incidents since it limits the number of cars on the road. Buses and subways offer better capacity for transporting larger groups of people meaning more passengers can travel per public transit vehicle when compared to a single car. This not only reduces traffic in cities, meaning there’s less chance of an accident to occur but it also takes high-risk drivers off the road. If someone happens to be under the influence, they can take a bus or subway home instead of getting in their car and endangering others or themselves. Furthermore, bus and train drivers go through intensive training to make sure they are capable of keeping up with their responsibilities and are usually well-rested and highly alert. It has also been observed that most road incidents and crashes that result in casualties typically involve multiple vehicles, with even responsible and experienced drivers falling victim, despite their knowledge and close observation of traffic laws.
According to the APTA, public transportation is among the safest ways to travel, stating that it’s over ten times safer per mile when compared to traveling by car, with less than a tenth of the per-mile traffic casualty (injury or death) rate as that of automobile travel. Using commuter/intercity railroads, on the other hand, is over 18 times safer for residents of cities than private vehicles. Using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Transit Administration, researchers concluded that metro areas where residents take an average of more than 40 trips a year by bus or train experience around half the traffic-related fatalities rates as opposed to metro areas where residents average less than 20 trips annually. It’s estimated that over 100 people die every day on U.S. roads and motorways, which is one of the reasons why more governments are investing in building strong public transit systems that not only serve communities in terms of their mobility needs but also in improving safety for everyone on the roads.
Public Transport Reduces Pollution In Cities
The excessive number of cars on the road every day has a serious and harmful effect on the environment as well as human health. Exhaust gases from vehicles are lowering the quality of air in cities by emitting harmful particles into the atmosphere, increasing the risk of respiratory diseases, while also negatively affecting people’s mental health. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the greatest environmental risks to health, having caused over 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2019. When more people use public transportation, the number of private vehicles on the road is reduced thereby lowering the amount of emissions being released into the atmosphere each day. Governments around the world are introducing various initiatives to encourage citizens to use public transport more frequently as a way of improving the quality of air in cities and mitigating the effects of climate change. Most of these initiatives include subsidies that go towards promoting greener, more eco-friendly modes of transport such as walking and cycling, as well as the development of more efficient and sustainable public transport systems.
Local authorities and transport providers are starting to see the benefits of investing in infrastructure that accommodates active modes of transit that enhance mobility in cities and are now more open to collaborating with organizations and businesses that offer ride-sharing mobility solutions as a way of meeting user demand and filling in service gaps for first and last-mile journeys. Less fuel burned means better air quality for cities since it is estimated that around 85% of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from transportation are due to day-to-day commutes. By leaving a car at home, a person can save up to 20 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every day. Furthermore, public transport vehicles such as buses and trains are now starting to move towards using alternative fuel sources such as electricity and hydrogen to further reduce emissions. The shift towards cleaner and more sustainable energy sources is making a tremendous impact in the sector so far by effectively decreasing air pollution in urban areas and improving the overall living conditions for citizens.
Public Transit Makes Communities Healthier
For decades, urban planners have looked at public transportation as a way to facilitate improvements in community health and the well-being of the population. Public transit riders typically have to walk from their front doors to the nearby transit stop and back, which increases physical activity and helps address the modern obesity epidemic. It has been proven that through regular use of public transit, citizens of cities can achieve the 30 minutes of daily physical activity recommended by physicians. Public transit is a viable alternative to driving in many urban and suburban areas throughout the world. A lot of people use the opportunity to get some extra physical activity in their daily commute by opting for public transit as opposed to their cars as it allows them to walk more. It may also be possible to bike or walk to work, or to combine public transit with biking or walking to get those extra steps.
Various research and reports on the topic concluded that public transportation systems contribute to the overall better health of populations as is the case where researchers who looked at residents in Charlotte, North Carolina, before and after the city built a light-rail transit system (LRT). It was reported that residents who used the LRT walked significantly more when using the train as opposed to when they drove regularly and they lost weight in the process. A Canadian expert physician further states that the longer people spend in their cars getting to and from work, the more time pressure they feel, and that lowers their overall satisfaction with life.
Public transportation systems are going through major changes, globally, as technology advances and more cities are moving towards smarter and more sustainable practices. We can certainly expect many new developments in the sector and with emerging trends and various mobility solutions and initiatives that improve user experience such as MaaS, contactless payments, and ridesharing services, it’s safe to say the future of public transit looks bright. Residents of cities are growing more accustomed to sustainable travel practices and embracing the idea of leaving their cars at home, for the greater good of everyone.