Public Transportation – The Ins and Outs

Public Transportation – The Ins and Outs

Like many actions that are good for the planet, using public transportation is good for the pocketbook, too. But exactly how good is good?

First, the ugly truth: Transportation is the country’s number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite our increased use of renewable energy and a growing EV fleet, over 90% of fuel used for transportation is still petroleum-based. Yuck.

Now, the fun facts:

  • A typical trip on public transit emits 55% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than driving or ride-hailing alone.
  • If your commute is 20-miles round trip, switching to public transportation could lower your carbon footprint by 4,800 pounds annually, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Likewise, communities with strong public transportation can reduce the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons yearly. How much is that? To achieve a similar reduction, every household in New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles–combined–would have to stop using electricity entirely.
  • Public transportation overall saves the U.S. 6 billion gallons of gasoline annually.

That’s a whole lotta good.

So, what about the money part?

The average household spends 16 cents of every dollar on transportation, reports the American Public Transportation Association, and 93% of this goes to buying, maintaining, and operating cars, the largest expenditure after housing. But individuals can save nearly $10,000 per year by taking public transportation instead of driving. Public transit also lets us skirt the wild and often painful price fluctuations at the pump. Cha-ching!

Is ride-sharing a good option?

Unfortunately, using a service like Lyft or Uber is a big carbony “nope.” Researchers at Reuters found that, on average, a solo ride-hailing trip emits nearly 50% more carbon dioxide than one in a private vehicle. Better to carpool karaoke.

Of course, cleaner air can reduce respiratory illnesses like asthma, and even cancer, but GHGs aren’t the only pollutants that come from vehicles. Cars use antifreeze and other fluids that harm the environment. Fewer cars on the road also means less traffic and quieter roads.

Depending on where you live, there might be delightful alternatives like trollies, monorails and ferries. They count as public transportation. Consider this ferry commuter’s view, from outside of Juneau, Alaska, and you may not want to get from A to B any other way again.

If you’re not convinced yet, take a look at the new Bipartisan Infrastructure Law: it includes $108 billion to support federal public transportation programs that will replace thousands of transit vehicles, including buses and ferries, with cleaner, greener vehicles. Big win!

Lastly, you might consider that old school standby – walking! It’s the cheapest, healthiest, cleanest way to go. And it turns out, more than two-thirds of people who take public transportation walk to their stop or station. Just sayin’.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

By Zan Dubin-Scott, Public Relations, Marketing & Social Impact at ZDS Communications, Co-Founder National Drive Electric Week and benefyd Advisor.