activism

Why you should care about your city’s public transportation

I don’t have a driving license. In fact, I don’t have a car. I’d like to say that the choice to not go to driving school while all my high school friends were signing up for it was based on environmental reasons, but I wasn’t that woke at eighteen.

The actual reason why I didn’t see a point of getting a driving license and later buying a car was that the city I live in has an incredibly good public transportation that’s relatively cheap and reliable.

Even as a teenager, I couldn’t understand what would be the point of spending a small fortune for a driving course, on top of all the exam fees (most of my friends were taking the exam more than once before passing), then chain myself to a machine that would eat up money every month for gas, insurance and mystical other costs I couldn’t comprehend at the time. It didn’t make sense to waste money like that when I could get anywhere in the city (in the country, if I really wanted) for a fraction of the price.

There are buses and trams capable of getting me from one point to the next within the city, there buses going to all the nearby villages, as well as privately operated shuttles that compliment the public buses’ timetables when it comes to getting from the city center to the villages outside of Krakow.

If I wanted to travel anywhere outside of Krakow (say go to the sea), there are cross-country buses and trains that will get me where I want to go, without break the bank.

Hell, if I really wanted to, I could get to anywhere in Europe using the train system.

And so, getting a car was never on the list of things I wanted to have.

It was always surreal for me, an idea of a city with little to no public transportation. I mean, I know that cars might be more convenient, but at the same time: at what price?

When I was writing about Earth Overshoot Day, I learned that between 70% and 80% of all people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050. At the same time, if we reduce our Footprint from driving by 50% around the world and assume one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 11.5 days.

We need to rethink how our cities function. Right now, personal mobility makes up 17% of humanity’s carbon footprint. The better the public transport in your city and in your country, the more likely it is people will share the attitude of my teenage self: there’s no need for a car and all the environmental harm it brings because my city and my country offers a perfect substitute.

Unfortunately, there’s still a terrifying amount of work that still needs to be done. According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11, “Sustainable cities and communities”, in 2018 only half (53%) of urban residents had convenient access to public transport.

For poorer communities, public transport can improve mobility and as a result, improve their chances of education and employment. For richer communities, it can encourage them to leave their cars, use public transport, improving the traffic situation as well as air quality.

And yet, public transportation in some countries is pretty pitiful. I mean, I couldn’t believe my own ear when I watched Hasan Minaj’s segment on public transportation in the US and why it’s been so horrible.

Take interest in your city’s urban planning and attempts to improve public transportation. Every little bit helps and the time to improve our environment is slowly running out.

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