It’s no secret, here at RATP Dev, we are amongst the biggest advocates for public transportation. You name it – bus, streetcar, light rail, van pools, commuter train – we’re all for it! Public transportation is great because it is a safe and efficient way to move lots of people to various destinations, ultimately getting them from Point A to Point B. But you already knew that. Everyone knows public transit can get you from your point of origin to your point of destination, but did you also know that it can provide communities with a big economic boost, help protect the environment, save you money, and improve your quality of life? It’s true. Every day, public transportation is quietly moving people while also providing some hidden benefits to the greater community.

We can all agree public transportation is important. Very important. Many people choose to travel by mass transit, but for others it is the one and only practical mobility option. So, it’s no surprise that a lot of people depend on a variety of public transit services. In fact, in 2017 alone, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reported that Americans took 10.1 billion trips on public transportation.

Environmental Benefits

Every time someone forgoes their car for the bus, train, or streetcar they reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the sustainability of our environment. Because they are sharing a vehicle with other travelers, they reduce their personal consumption of energy.  APTA estimates that using public transportation rather than a personal vehicle means that, as a country, we save 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline a year.

By curbing our gasoline usage, we not only decrease our dependence on oil, we also cut back on our carbon dioxide output. According to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), public transportation “produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger mile than private vehicles.” Statistics show using public transportation results in 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide NOT being leaked into the atmosphere annually. Given these statistics, it’s clear that public transportation is an environmentally friendly mobility choice.

But we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to public transportation as an ecologically responsible decision. Public transit gets cars off the road. It’s as simple as that. With fewer cars clogging the roads, there is less traffic. Less traffic translates into less road congestion. With fewer cars on the road, traffic moves at a reasonable pace, so cars idle less, consuming less fuel and emitting smaller amounts of greenhouse gases. And perhaps just as important, less traffic is a time saver; everyone gets to their destinations faster when they are not spending time sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Furthermore, cut down on the number of vehicles on the streets and you curtail both noise and air pollution. According to the FTA, public transportation can help cities meet air quality standards by reducing overall vehicle emissions which can contribute to an increase in health risks such as asthma.

Economic Benefits

We think those are pretty compelling reasons to support public transportation. But let’s assume you are moved more by greenbacks than by being green. Public transportation is still the answer because mass transit is an economy booster. Consider these facts from APTA:

  • Every $1 invested in public transportation generates $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates more than 50,000 jobs.

Even though these numbers are impressive, some researchers argue that conventional economic evaluations undervalue the benefit of public transport because some of that benefit is difficult to measure. Consider this, businesses located near public transit have better access to potential employees. They are able to expand their labor pool because they can attract all workers – those with private transportation and those without. In fact, an article on the Scholars Strategy Network points out that cities with better public transit tend to have lower levels of unemployment among young people. The researchers argue that investing in public transit services is an important economic strategy for addressing inefficiencies in the labor market by linking entry-level jobs to neighborhoods where people live. Furthermore, businesses on public transit lines report that their employees tend to be reliable because they have a dependable means of transportation.

So that’s a look at some of the community-minded benefits of public transportation. But just in case that’s not enough to convince you to hop on board, our next blog post will look at some of the benefits you can reap personally from switching up the way you travel. We’re not saying public transportation will change your life … but it could!


Photo Credit: Kilarov Zaneit on Unsplash. 

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  • Sustainibility