Environmental groups generally agree that public transport is vital for saving the environment. A 2002 US study confirmed that it was about half as polluting as private vehicles, which (at that time) emitted nearly double the VOCs, CO2 and other gases as private vehicles. Technological advances and eco cars have changed that picture a bit and private cars are getting g reener. Still, public transport still has multiple advantages, and everyone committed to saving the environment should be aware of what’s going on in their area.
The thing about green driving and transportation is that it’s never really green, but in a world that relies on people moving around, it’s a question of making it as low impact as possible. In fact, public transportation is still pretty dirty. Under ideal conditions, different modes of transport can be cleaner than you think.
An eco car with four people can be as clean and efficient as the best public transport. But green driving with a full passenger load isn’t always practical. Trains in a metropolis like London, England, are twice as clean as buses and cars, when calculated in terms of carbon emissions per person. But that depends also on how full they are. The factors involved are complicated, and extend beyond narrow green driving concerns. In cities, the need to allocate lots of space for car parks (even high rise ones) makes them less compact, while traffic jams and slow moving vehicles add to overall pollution.
Transport policy is a specialized field, but the public and service users can influence decision-making. Environmental groups have successfully highlighted the need for public transport to switch to eco-friendly fuels and more energy efficient modes of transport. Public concern has certainly helped direct attention to alternatives. Trams, electric buses and buses that run on fuels like hydrogen can be better. Drive and ride, good cycling lane networks and even free bike schemes are other initiatives that can help cut down on pollution, especially in our cities.
Public transport is used by millions of us each day, especially for the commute to work. Good planning means joining up the dots, so workplaces are properly served by public transport and people can leave their cars at home. As things stand, public transport is often run with an eye for profit rather than putting green driving and eco-friendliness first.
The authorities who control public transport are – or should be – accountable to us, the users. Communities have a right to influence policy and do what they can to ensure sustainability in transport. So when there are local authority elections near you, check out the transport related material in candidates’ manifestos, and make sure environmental concerns are heard.