Tag Archives: public transit

Public Transportation Means Freedom, Opportunity, & Autonomy

2 Sep

In addition to the ways in which excellent public transportation can be a wise investment that yields valuable returns, public transportation is a moral issue. It’s about freedom, opportunity, and autonomy,

Public Transportation Means Freedom

Citizens have a basic right to participate in society. This includes the ability to go to work, to engage in commerce, to fulfill civic duties such as voting, and to leave home to enjoy recreation. While freedom of movement is important to all citizens, excellent public transportation extends this freedom to citizens that otherwise might be unable to get around on their own due to disability or advanced age.

Public Transportation Means Opportunity

Not everyone can drive. Excellent public transportation enables employers that have located their businesses on transit lines to hire workers that might not be able to drive to work. Not only do these employers gain employees, excellent public transportation enables workers to escape poverty and improve their lives.

Public Transportation Means Autonomy

Because it provides a safe, affordable, convenient way to get around without having to drive one’s own vehicle or ask someone else for a ride, excellent public transportation increases autonomy. It allows us to decide how to make a trip based on logistics or personal values. For example, if I want to spend less on gas or car maintenance, excellent public transportation could help me achieve that goal.

Even citizens who never use transit themselves benefit from others’ choice to do so. For example, if I don’t want to drive my car on icy roads, I could make the streets safer for myself and others by taking transit to work. If I hate rush-hour traffic or searching for a place to park, transit could spare me those and reduce congestion for others.

Because excellent public transportation expands freedom, opportunity, and autonomy and benefits, not only individuals but those around them, it’s about American values. It’s the right thing to support. See you on the bus?

The Value of Public Transit

20 Aug

Officials in Papillion and La Vista are considering cutting funding for the Tri-Communities Express bus line (route 93) from their cities’ 2014 budgets. Riders have mobilized against the cuts, including creating an online petition. A public hearing regarding the budget is tonight.

Supporting public transit makes economic sense, the benefits far outweigh the relatively minimal cost. This recent article on Atlantic Cities describes research that shows “the hidden economic value of transit could be worth anywhere from $1.5 million to $1.8 billion a year, depending on the size of the city.” Other research shows that:

  • Every dollar communities invest in public transportation generates approximately $4 in economic returns.
  • Every $1 billion invested in public transportation supports and creates 36,000 jobs.
  • Every $10 million in capital investment in public transportation yields $30 million in increased business sales.
  • Every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales.

Everything in our transportation system is subsidized by tax dollars; the issue is how we choose to distribute these subsidies. Today’s transportation policies focus on moving and parking cars not on supporting transit, which means most of us have little choice but to drive a private vehicle for transportation, the cost of which is an average of $8,776 per year according to AAA (a de facto tax because we are forced to purchase and maintain a vehicle in order to participate in the community).

Conversely, public transit provides many benefits to the community, including increased mobility and improved quality of life for citizens, creating jobs and economic opportunities, saving individuals money, and reducing congestion and energy consumption. It also reduces the need to build parking lots, highways and interstate exchanges, which come with exorbitant price tags (new highway lanes are estimated at $1 million per lane mile).

We should also consider that travel demand patterns are changing. Nationally, younger generations have substantially reduced their average annual number of vehicle miles traveled while increasing their use of public transit. A report by the Frontier Group (Transportation and the New Generation) shows that from 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by 16 to 34-year-olds on public transit increased by 40% while vehicle miles traveled decreased by 23%. Locally, surveys done by the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Young Professionals have found that YPs consistently call for better public transportation options. There will soon also be a pressing need from aging baby boomers for public transit when they are not able to drive.

Given the data and trends, we should be talking about ways to ADD more bus routes rather than eliminating them.