Cost, convenience and environmental advantages of using public transportation.
Many people who are looking for a way to save money can look no further than where they sit every day. People who live in rural or suburban areas often have the option of public transportation, at least for the daily commute to work. There are many advantages to using public transportation.
First is cost. If you compare the cost of gas, parking and auto maintenance to the cost of a bus or train pass, you’ll find that a monthly commuting pass is far more economical. If you live in an urban area and use the bus or train as your primary transportation source, you save even more on car payments, insurance and repairs. Also, many public bus systems have “ozone days” where patrons can ride for free.
Convenience is the next advantage: Most trains and buses run on a set schedule that you can set your commuting time around. No more roaming around looking for parking or sitting in traffic. Some say that buses and trains take longer than driving, but if you consider that driving is “lost time” that you can better spend reading or relaxing while leaving the driving to someone else, you come out way ahead time wise.
Environment: Consider how many large suburban vehicles and trucks you see inhabited by one or two people. Everyone who is taking his or her own vehicle is causing some individual pollution, and the earth does not need any extra of that. And many public transportations systems like trains or cable cars do not cause the same energy waste.
One objection to riding public transport may be that a person has children to transport. Many find it easier to look after a bunch of kids while seated on a train or bus than constantly trying to keep an eye on what’s going on in the back seat while trying to drive.
The final barrier to riding public transport could be the “status” factor. It requires a shift of attitude away from high school where “only geeks rode the bus”.
What if improving your physical and mental health was as easy as riding the bus?
Breathing fresh air, driving safely, being physically active, and avoiding excessive stress are a few of the well-known steps toward living a healthy life style. Actually, using transit supports all of the above! The Victoria Policy Institute and The American Public Transportation Association explored the health impacts of transit, and here is what they found:
1) Public transit users are more active.
Individuals who use public transportation get over three times the amount of physical activity per day of those who don’t (approximately 19 minutes, rather than six minutes) by walking to stops and final destinations. The U.S. Center for Disease Control recommends 22 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, per day (or 150 minutes per week). Getting active helps lower the risk for many serious diseases, such as: heart and vascular diseases, strokes, diabetes, hypertensive diseases, osteoporosis, joint and back problems, colon and breast cancers, and depression.
2) Buses are safer than individual vehicles.
Bus related accidents have one-twentieth the passenger fatality rates of automobile travel. Car accidents are responsible for approximately 40,000 deaths (and many more injuries) per year, making them one of the largest causes of death for people aged 1-44. Traveling on public transit significantly diminishes this threat. Moreover, areas with high public transit movement tend to have better overall security and reduced crime rates.
3) Public transportation reduces stress.
Public transportation improves access to education and employment, which in turn leads to better long-term economic opportunities. In fact, 12 percent of transit riders are traveling to schools and almost 60 percent are going to work. It also provides access to social and recreational activities, allowing individuals to participate in events they otherwise couldn’t. Furthermore, public transit benefits community cohesion by promoting positive interactions between neighbors.
4) Public buses keep air cleaner.
Pollution is estimated to cause as many deaths per year as traffic accidents. However, buses (especially newer diesel and electrically powered vehicles) produce less pollution than cars per passenger mile by utilizing advanced technologies and higher standards. In fact, from 1992-2009, buses using alternative fuels (such as natural gas) jumped from 2 to 30 percent and electric rail transit increased from 29 to 34 percent of passenger miles.
5) Riding public transportation saves money.
“Affordable transportation” generally means that an individual’s total travel expenses make up less than 20% of their household finances. Car payments, gas prices and parking can be a major budget drain, but public transportation lessens those financial burdens by alleviating the need to purchase and operate individual vehicles (saving a household around $6,251 annually) and helping riders avoid parking fees. This supports public health by leaving riders with more money for better living arrangements, healthy food, and medical services.
6) Public transportation provides access to essential needs later in life.
A survey of Americans aged 65 and older found that non-drivers take 15% fewer trips to the doctor, 59% fewer shopping trips and restaurant visits, and 65% fewer trips for social, family, and religious activities than those using an individual vehicle. Public transportation is a way for these non-drivers (particularly low-income seniors and disabled individuals) to gain access to important services and activities that improve public health such as: healthcare appointments, basic shopping, banking, education, and employment opportunities.
The benefits of public transportation are expansive, ranging from public health to household finances. If you’d like to learn more about public transit’s positive effects, read Todd Litman’s full study for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, and APTA’s article “Public Transportation Benefits for the 21st Century.”