America has long been a nation of highways. The highway system owes its creation to cheap gasoline costs and the affordability of personal vehicles in the 20th Century. This diverged America from Europe, which massively expanded its public transportation network across the continent. As Europe’s rail and subway networks flourished, non-urban Americans made most trips by car. In recent years this trend has begun to change. With the rising cost of gasoline and the realization that fossil fuels are not as practically limitless as once thought, America has begun to rethink public transportation. But why should everyday Americans abandon their personal vehicles for crowded train cars? The answer is in the numbers.
The advantages of public transportation are not just in terms of energy. Public transportation also saves a large amount of money. The national average for a tank of gas is $2.63, while an unreserved parking spot costs an average of $154.23 each month. Over the course of the year, this can add up to approximately $9,167 in savings. Especially in today economy, where everyday Americans have not completely recovered from the recent recession, this much money in savings cannot be overlooked.
-I would like to put these savings into human terms and do a calculation here that exemplifies that.
Turning more towards energy, however, public transportation clearly has many advantages here as well. In terms of energy consumption per passenger mile, hybrid electric buses, intercity rail, and electric light rail services all consume far less than traditional personal vehicles. Another factor in energy efficiency, however, is traveling conditions. For instance, a bus proves to be the most efficient means of transportation at peak travel hours, while off-peak, it is the most inefficient.
-Here I plan to include graphs detailing the information that I have talked about in this paragraph and do some sort of conversion to put the energy difference between different types of public and private transportation into perspective.
So obviously public transportation is more energy-efficient and much less expensive than operating a personal vehicle. So why are more Americans not switching over to public transportation? Well actually they are. Slowly but surely, public transportation rates have risen in recent years, with 2013 seeing 10.59 billion passenger trips. Now all that is left is for state governments, and the federal government to construct more means of public transportation outside of America’s major cities. If this is done, America could see a public transportation boom modeled on Europe’s success.
Hurdle, Jon. “Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches Highest Level Since 1956, Advocates Report.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/us/use-of-public-transit-in-us-reaches-highest-level-since-1956-advocates-report.html>.
Litman, Todd. “Evaluating Carbon Taxes as an Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction Strategy.” Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 2139 (2009): 125-32. Vtpi.org. Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <http://www.vtpi.org/tran_climate.pdf>.
“What Is Match & Ride?” PACommutes. Pennsylvania Department of Institute, 2016. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. <http://www.pacommutes.com/public-transit/benefits/>.