Sunday, April 19, 2009
If there was a well connected public transportation, I would have been home by now
I recently polled many of my friends about the pros and cons of living in Austin (many of them who moved to Austin from other cities). One of the biggest cons seems to be the terrible traffic in Austin during peak AM and PM.
Many of these people whom I polled have big, guzzling autos, two per family at least. You see what happens next. Hideous traffic. Building more freeways never solves that...it just gives people more places to fill up with cars.
Based upon currently projected growth rates, the Austin area could become one of the most congested in the nation by 2025.
If you ride the bus, you waste a lot of time waiting hours when you need to go somewhere. You must be poor [paradoxical, considering the cost of a car] or stingy [paradoxical, considering the cost of gasoline].You have to ride in dumpy, old buses. You certainly can’t get a date. These are some of the false judgments people make about the small minority of Americans who still use public transit.
Ironically, politicians and planners make the same judgments. Like most Americans, they drive. They love transit, as long as somebody else is using it.
I come from a country with a population of a billion people, where public transportation is the biggest of mode of transport. Some of my best travel experiences have taken place inside crowded, non-air conditioned buses and trains with my fellow passengers. Every time I travel, I made a new friend by sharing a conversation with a local passenger. With public transportation, you save money, and you make a lot of friends. Plus you get to where-ever you want.
Apart from just saving the environment, public transportation could save the purse too. While actual costs vary from place to place and depending on fuel prices, after some analysis I’ve have some cost estimates due to driving. While multiplying the average cost per mile of 48.5 cents per mile (based on what IRS uses) by 2.9 tillion yearly vehicle miles traveled (VMT) estimate for 2008 in the US (source: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/tvtw/08dectvt/index.cfm), we get total yearly cost of driving to be approx. $1.4 trillion, which is about 10% of our 2008 US GDP (14.3 trillion). Sit back and think for a second: one of every 10 dollars in America is spent on driving. Should Americans be spending that much on transportation? Only 9% of total U.S. work trips use mass transit, compared to 38.8% in Europe.
Public transportation could take about twice as long as driving. Even so, it’s useful time: you can work on your laptop, watch a DVD, read a book, or sleep. Think about a public bus or train which provides WI-FI, in some cases even a small cafeteria kiosk (where you can get breakfast, snacks, coffee and sandwiches), magazine kiosks.
Even after the public transportation system is in-place, like in few American cities, people still use their cars. Worse thing is even couples going to the same work place don't seem to ride-share (I see that all the time at my work). Maybe cities in the US (which have good public transportation system in-place), should start charging fees (some roads have tolls which indirectly does the same thing) from people who don't use public transportation system. Cities like London charges a fee for some motorists travelling travelling within those parts of London designated as the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ).
Maybe the next time you take your car, you will pause for a second and at-least think about using your feet (you burn a few calories plus saved the planet and your purse).
(Image sources: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_jQ2O0DsVS68/RyXbHaSAFcI/AAAAAAAAApM/ILVuTZOOu1A/s400/91%2Btoll.jpg