Public Transportation

In class this week, Ralph Buehler delivered a lecture discussing the differences in the use and availability of public transportation in the United States and abroad, specifically in Germany. The main point of emphasis was that usage rate of public transportation in the United States is well below the rest of the developed world. This has many consequences such as high pollution rates and dependence on foreign oil. Americans dependence on automobile transportation is difficult to change. Americans travel further daily than most Europeans, gas and registration fees are lower, and parking is generally more readily available. This combined with the fact that our public transportation infrastructure is behind many other country’s results in a country that relies on personal automobiles as it’s primary mode of transportation.

This link leads to a study done by National Geographic on public transportation usage in developed countries. The report found that only 5% of Americans use public transportation daily, 7% use it at least once a week and 61% never use it. Internationally, 25% of people surveyed use public transportation daily and 41% use it at least once a week. Germans are more than five times more likely to use public transportation and Russians are over ten times more likely. Americans were also in last place when surveyed on their likelihood to walk or bike to a destination. The number one reason for Americans not using public transportation was lack of availability. The lack of public transportation along with urban sprawl has lead to an unsustainable transportation system.

The following link leads to a U.S. News report that discusses what’s being done in America to reverse this trend along with the top 10 cities for public transportation. To improve the public transportation systems in America, President Obama called for $8 Billion to go towards high speed rail as part of a six year $53 Billion plan. Obama recognizes the importance of public transportation and the benefits it provides. In the last 30 years the number of public transportation systems in America has increased from from 1,044 in 1980 to 7,700 in 2009. These systems have made great returns on their investments to their areas and have reduce transportation costs for commuters by providing an alternative to driving.

Sources:

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/natgeo_surveys_countries_trans.html

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/02/08/10-best-cities-for-public-transportation

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