Public transit offers green travel option

Summer Merkle | Cartoonist

In 2018, the American Public Transport Association (APTA) published a report stating that individuals can save $10,000 annually by utilizing public transportation systems. With steady increases in oil and fuel prices, this number could be even higher in coming years.

For this reason and many more, the United States should establish expansive public transportation systems.

Other countries have used public transportation for decades, helping in their nationwide reduction of carbon emissions, overall community accessibility and public safety.

In the United States, transportation is the single greatest contributor to carbon emissions. The individualistic approach we take in transportation means that each vehicle, on average, contributes an additional six to nine tons of CO2 annually to the environment.

The average American family owns two highway vehicles, but some studies show up to 40% of families owning three or more vehicles. Over 76% of Americans drive to work alone, whereas in Chile, for example, only 28% of people frequently used cars.

If the United States were to follow in the footsteps of other countries by making the switch to public transportation, we could drastically reduce our carbon footprint as a nation.

After the initial purchase of a vehicle, car owners continue to pay upkeep, inspection, gas, toll road bills and other expenses.

Those who are unable to drive, whether that be due to financial situation or disability, are left stranded when located in areas without well-established public transport systems. These individuals are left behind without being given a chance at establishing a life for themselves. In 2020, 45% of Americans did not have access to public transportation.

In terms of public health, studies show people who take public transportation are roughly three times more active than those who do not. This collective greater activity can contribute to increased public health in more ways than one.

Decreasing traffic on roads limits potential collisions, and public transit operators are required to complete significantly more training than the average automobile owner. By increasing our public transportation capacity, roads would become safer and we would lose fewer lives to road accidents.

In the United States, approximately 1.35 million people die in road accidents each year. In contrast, Japan’s high-speed railway system has transported over 9 billion passengers without a single casualty.

Increasing demand for public transportation would also help the economy by creating jobs for those managing and constructing railways, as well as those building and operating trains and buses.

How do we execute it?

The implementation would begin by creating hubs in cities across the nation. Unfortunately, much of the current rail in place is designed for slow-moving freight trains and will need to stay allocated for those purposes.

As the public adjusts and demand to travel beyond these cities increases again, railways will need to be built leading straight from hub to hub. This linear railway design is key in allowing for high-speed trains, which in many cases travel at speeds upwards of 200 miles per hour.

Experts say establishing public transportation in the United States would benefit every citizen.

The process of building railway infrastructure and establishing widespread public transportation will not be simple or cheap, but for the sake of creating a more accessible, healthier, safer nation, it’s about time.