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July 11, 2019

Three Major Benefits of Public Transportation

Mandi Renshaw

SolTrans bus serving Route 1

If you are uncertain about whether or not you should take public transportation, then this article is for you. Below we explore three major areas: safety, environmental impact and convenience where public transportation can be more beneficial for a rider than other means of transportation.


According to an American Public Transit Association (APTA) study conducted in 2016, “a person can reduce his or her chance[s] of being in an accident by more than 90 percent simply by taking public transit opposed to commuting by car” and according to the APTA 2019 factbook, in 2017 there were 77 times fewer transit fatalities than highway passenger car and motorcycle fatalities. This is in part due to the fact that transit operators receive regular and substantial training, much more than the average driver. Furthermore, transit centers, such as our transit hubs and BART stations have high levels of security monitoring and lower crime rates than other areas and bus stops are generally in very public locations so that there is a very low risk of an incident occurring while waiting for your bus to arrive.

Environmental Impact

In efforts to mitigate the impact of global warming, car manufacturers have been increasing the fuel efficiency of their vehicles every year in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, however simply using public transportation over a personal vehicle can help much more as it can and often does transport more people for the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. You have probably heard this before but don’t just take our word for it, we have gathered the facts for you to digest below.

By using data compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists, we can estimate how efficient buses can be compared to personal vehicles. Their data uses the unit CO2e g/mi which should read as the grams of “carbon dioxide equivalent” emitted per mile, here we will just refer to this unit as “emission units”; a lower number of emission units is better. We can compare how efficient a bus is to a personal vehicle depending on the number of riders by measuring the emission units per rider which we will hereafter refer to as “rider emission”.

The average gasoline car emits 381 emission units, an average hybrid emits 177 emission units and an average electric car (indirectly) emits 95 emission units. Meanwhile natural gas buses, which is what most SolTrans buses are, emit 2,364 emission units and electric buses, of which there are two in the SolTrans fleet, emit 1078 emission units. That seems much worse than a car but when dividing this by the number of riders to measure rider emission, buses can very quickly outperform cars. The following table displays the number of people that if riding a bus will result in lower rider emission than that of one person driving a personal vehicle.

Gas CarHybrid CarElectric Car
Natural Gas Bus71425
Electric Bus3712

As you can see one bus transporting seven people is resulting in less rider emission than a gas car transporting one person, therefore you are especially doing the world and the future a favor by taking the bus if traveling alone. In general public transportation is more efficient if more people use it; this also of course helps reduce traffic levels and subsequently travel times which benefits everyone.


If you have not used public transit in a long time then you may be worried about having to study time and fare tables, learning routes, figuring out transfer windows, etc. however in 2019 coordinating travel on public transit is just as easy as plotting directions for a car trip. Requesting transit directions in Google or Apple maps provides detailed travel information, including fares and transfers. More dedicated mobile apps such as myStop even allow for near-real time tracking of buses so that you can be informed when a bus is running early or late and plan accordingly.

Contactless payment methods such as the Clipper card make using public transit much more seamless as you don’t have to worry about carrying cash or loose change and can use the same card on practically any Bay Area transit. These options will only improve with time; in fact, by next year you may even be able to pay for fares via a smartphone.

While travel times for a local bus trip are usually higher than for a car trip, the time spent traveling can be used to do other activities instead of having to focus on the road. Additionally when arriving at your destination you do not have to spend time finding and/or paying for parking. As for longer distance routes travel times can be shorter if drivers are not able to ride in the carpool lane during peak traffic hours and paying bridge tolls, etc. can be avoided.

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