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Why Public Transport Will Be Key in Combatting Climate Change

How we need a shift from the reliance on cars for transport, to public transport, in order to win the battle against climate change.

Train through Nature

Ethan Sees |

The primary cause of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, and the transportation industry contributes significantly to these emissions. As a result of their dependence on fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel, cars in particular are a significant source of emissions. As a result, investing in public transportation and limiting the number of cars on the road can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emission. However, I don't expect you to be convinced just yet, so here are some more reasons why we need fewer cars and more investment in public transport for climate change.

Simply less emissions

While public transport such as buses and trains do still produce emissions, since you can fit so many people onto them, the emissions produced per person are significantly less than what can be said for cars. Furthermore, it reduces the amount of vehicles on the road and therefore the overall emissions produced in that area will decrease. "Trains emit the lowest of CO2 per passenger mile at 177 grams per passenger mile. Buses come in at 299 grams per mile, second-worst only to cars at 371 grams." So while buses rank as the second-worst, they still have cars beat, and trains are producing less than half the amount of emissions per passenger compared to cars. Yet almost everywhere you look, cities, towns, and everywhere in between are littered with cars.

"A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation" - Enrique Penalose

Everyone hates traffic

Fewer cars means less traffic congestion. Traffic congestion is an issue because emissions are increased due to the stop-and-go nature of driving in traffic. "For urban road networks, carrying increasingly large numbers of vehicles results in increasingly large amounts of tailpipe emissions, including both greenhouse gases and pollutants detrimental to air quality, with the problem exacerbated by the stop-and-go nature of congestion increasing emissions yet further." So that is to say that a decrease in the amount of cars driving about not only reduces emissions per passenger, but it also decreases traffic congestion, saving us the agony on waiting in it and the atmosphere the damage that these emissions cause. Of course, people still need to get where they need to go, which is why investment is needed into public transport, when public transport is convenient, affordable, and reliable, people are more likely to use it instead of driving.


The ripple effect

Investing in public transport can lead to better urban planning, which is to say that when cities prioritise public transport, they often also prioritise compact, walkable, and bikeabe urban design. Now, for one, this just sounds nice to me, I love a good walk, but more importantly it shifts the culture of a city from one where everyone drives to one where people are more likely to travel by other means, whether its walking, biking or getting the tram. This, as we now know, reduces carbon emissions while also promoting a less sedentary lifestyle, sounds like a win win to me. It also reminds us that relatively small changes can have a ripple effect, leading to big, often unexpected changes both positive and negative, and its up to us to forecast these and either encourage them or protest them respectively. Speaking of the importance of our actions to create change, here is another post regarding climate action that I found quite interesting: How Are Indigenous Communities Affected by Climate Change?

"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects." Dalai Lama


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