Importance of Public Transportation in Large Cities

By Sterling Xie. Edited by Swastik Patel


In today’s day and age, public transportation, especially in the US, is seen as slow and unreliable. However, is this commonly held view a reason to avoid public transportation, especially in large cities? Public transportation still holds a critical role in the development and resilience of large cities despite the COVID-19 pandemic and other outstanding factors. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of public transportation to urban sustainability and its implications on societal values.


Public transportation is more reliable in terms of costs. Especially now, with highly fluctuating gas prices, public transportation is more reliable for our daily budgets, as it remains constant despite outside factors such as the trade crisis between Western nations and Russia. Most people do not consider the extraneous costs associated with owning a vehicle whether that be maintenance costs, parking fees, or gas bills. Indeed, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) explains that if a family switches just one of two personal cars with a public transportation option, they would be able to save over $10,000 annually.


Using public transportation is also key to protecting the environment. Even now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data indicates that public transportation cuts America’s carbon footprint by 37 million metric tonnes annually or over 7% of the total carbon expenditure. The EPA continues that if every American converted to using public transportation, we would be able to cut carbon emissions by another 30%. Public transportation has a massive impact on urban commuting and allows us to create sustainable cities, green cities that are not constantly emitting toxic gasses. 


While many commuters would use public transportation, the inefficiency and speed of the system often drives consumers away. Despite hundreds of billions of dollars of investment by state, local, and federal governments into public transportation, buses and train companies across many American cities are falling apart under the stress of an increasing market. Eric Jaffe of Bloomberg News confirms that American public transit subsidies have totaled over $10 billion annually, a staggering amount considering the inefficiency of buses and trains that use such subsidies. Public transportation vehicles often do not take efficient routes and thus require far more vehicles than what is expected. As such, concerns over time often drive commuters away. 

Still, millions of commuters across America rely on the ease of access of public transportation to move around cities. They remain a defining part of urban life. 


Through the COVID-19 pandemic, a combination of fears of the transmission of the virus across public transit and the ability to work from home decreased the use of public transportation drastically. However, public transit remains essential for commuters to move around in a post-pandemic world, such that in the coming months, public transportation will likely spike again. 


Although there are certain obstacles in the way of public transportation in the world we live in today, it still is a key feature of American urban centers as a method of transit. Historically, culturally, and societally, public transit is here to stay and certainly will simplify the lives of hundreds of millions for years to come.

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