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Public Transportation

Learn about the many benefits of public transportation.

Trolleys, buses, commuter trains and water taxis are just a few of the various U.S. public transportation options. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Trolleys, buses, commuter trains and water taxis are just a few of the various U.S. public transportation options.

Public transportation includes a variety of different vehicles, including buses, trolleys, commuter trains, streetcars, cable cars, van shuttle services, ferries and water taxis. According to the United States Department of Transportation, there are more than 6,500 providers of public and community transportation in the country. In 2007, Americans took 10.3 billion trips on public transportation, the most in 50 years. The nation's transit systems carry over 29 million passengers on an average weekday. Public transportation benefits individual riders, their communities, the economy and the environment.

Benefits for Individuals

Individuals who regularly use public transportation enjoy a number of benefits, not the least of which is financial. According to the American Public Transportation Association, a person can save up to $8,411 per year by choosing to travel via public transport rather than driving his or her own vehicle. In difficult economic times, choosing public transportation can be a great way to save money and stretch the family budget. Using public transportation also creates a healthier, more active lifestyle for individuals. Walking to and from public transit stops allows people to gain additional daily exercise. Public transportation also increases mobility options for non-drivers, especially senior citizens. When given access to public transportation, older Americans are much more likely to attend doctor's appointments, social or religious gatherings, and shopping and dining excursions. In highly congested areas such as Los Angeles, commuters driving their own vehicles can spend up to 72 hours annually stuck in traffic -- three entire days per year! Using public transportation can cut down on commute times, lightening people's schedules and affording them more spare time.

Benefits for Communities

Public transportation benefits the communities that it services. For starters, public transportation provides easy and convenient access to all that a city has to offer. In large cities where parking expenses are high, public transportation allows individuals to visit local businesses and attractions more frequently for less money. In rural areas, public transportation fosters the growth of business districts and shopping malls. The American Public Transportation Association estimates that every $1 invested in public transportation generates about $6 in economic activity.

Adding public transportation within a community also creates jobs. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $1.25 billion invested in public transportation creates 35,000 jobs.

It also encourages more interaction between residents, which results in a stronger, more unified community. Public transportation helps communities financially -- if individuals can save money on transportation, they can spend more at local stores.

Public transportation makes those within a community feel safer, since they travel in groups. In emergencies, public transportation allows for millions of people to be evacuated from highly populated areas safely and quickly. It can also be used to support a city's first responders by delivering additional emergency personnel and equipment efficiently.

Environmental Impact

The growing popularity and use of public transportation makes a lasting, positive impact on the environment. Regular use of public transportation by Americans has significant environmental benefits, such as a reduction in the use of gasoline and oil. Public transportation use in the United States saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline annually -- roughly 4 million gallons each day. Public transportation also saves enough oil each year to fill 34 supertankers. Every year, public transportation reduces the nation's carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons. Public transportation also emits 95 percent less carbon monoxide per mile than a private vehicle, resulting in less pollution and better air quality.

Economic Impact

Not only is public transportation saving Americans thousands of dollars each year in personal expenses, it is also boosting economies in cities where public transportation is frequently used. According to the American Public Transportation Association, every $1 invested in public transportation generates roughly $6 in local economic activity. Real estate served by public transportation is more highly valued than similar properties that do not have access to public transportation. Capital and operating investments in public transportation yield an increase in business sales almost three times the original investment. The growth of public transportation also supports the creation of thousands of new jobs across America.

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