Climate change and environmental problems are some of the biggest challenges that we are currently facing. Just imagine a planet, where every country and its citizens are environmentally conscious about how their decisions and daily choices may affect the environment. Even so much so that they actively seek choices and options that minimise or reduce impact. In such a case, we could ensure a sustainable, inhabitable living environment on Earth for future generations to come.
One way to contribute to nature conservation and help tackle climate change is to use more public transport services. Why not travel shorter distances inside the city on foot or by public transport instead of a car and by doing that save time and the environment, and even stay healthy? Peep Mardiste, a member of the Estonian Green Movement board, talks in more depth about the beneficial impacts public transport has on nature and the environment.
Public transport helps to save the environment
Most of the emissions from the transport sector are produced by private vehicles such as cars. Although emissions from car production and vehicle use are not growing as fast as, for example, in aviation or shopping, it’s still a problem that needs to be addressed.
Greater utilization of public transport services over personal vehicle use is one of the best ways on how to reduce emissions and helps to save the environment. Many cities have successfully managed to reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 50 percent by reducing or limiting the flow of private cars.
Cleaner air to breathe, and better health
The excessive number of cars coming into a city does have harmful effects on nature and human health. Exhaust gases are damaging air quality and emitting harmful particles, which increase the risk of respiratory diseases and can also negatively affect people’s mental health. Air pollution is particularly dangerous for children, as the developing brain is extremely sensitive and vulnerable to environment’s negative effects.
Cities are running out of space for cars
The number of cars in cities cannot grow indefinitely, because, at some point, space runs out and people and their vehicles will not fit. Let’s face it, cars take up a lot of space – imagine just how much space 20 individual people traveling by car take, when compared to the same 20 people traveling on a single bus. You get the picture – the difference is significant – and the less space there is for the traffic, the slower the traffic becomes. Due to this increasing lack of space, congestion occurs more and more, and counter-measures, such as diverting traffic or finding ways of making driving more convenient, aren’t solutions to the problem, these only encourage private car use, creating an endless loop – as car numbers continue increasing the city must keep finding more space.
Cityscape and other commuters
In addition to congestion and the increasing lack of space in cities, cars also ruin the cityscape. As more cars flow into city centres, the less room there is for cyclists and pedestrians, and with cars parked in areas, which are linked to sidewalks, the road space, which is meant for cyclists, becomes too narrow and dangerous to ride safely.
On the other hand, greater adoption of public transport would help to reduce air pollution and free up space in the urban areas, making city traffic significantly more pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians, in addition to making cityscapes across the world more beautiful and peaceful.
Save time and money, reduce stress
Due to vehicle congestion many cities have dedicated bus lanes, so using public transport within the city can be not only cheaper, but also faster. Especially when you don’t need worry about finding a parking space, or how much will it cost, when traveling on public transport.
If public transport can meet the commuter’s needs, it will undoubtedly, over time, attract even more private vehicle owners to use public transport. Thankfully, the use of public transport is becoming increasingly popular – you can sit, relax, read a book or even get some work done on the bus or train, which is a much more practical way spending your time while commuting.
What to do?
It is always challenging to induce change within cities, and we need to figure out ways to encourage and motivate people. First, we need to offer high quality public transport service and make these benefits available to everyone, so that people would consider choosing a bus or a train over their car. Making car travel less desirable, more expensive, slower, and inconvenient could also work, but punishing people, in general as history has shown, tends not to go well.
In order to reduce the use of cars and their negative impacts, the principles of urban planning must also be changed. When planning for suburban streets and city spaces, driving comfort should no longer be a priority.
In a democratic society, people’s choices cannot and must not be unduly interfered with. However, people can be directed. The aim must be to prioritize the needs and comfort of people, who use or rely on public transport and those that commute walk on foot, because if more people choose public transport, the better chance we have at saving the environment and the lives of future generations.