Is Public Transportation a Better Alternative to the Personal Vehicle?


Is Public Transportation a Better Alternative to the PersonalVehicle?

The levels of mobility have been on the rise worldwide. As a result,there has also been a rise in the need for people to usetransportation when moving from one place to another. In most casescommuters choose between public transportation and using a personalvehicle. Both modes of travel are readily available to individuals.But, over the years more and more people have been purchasingpersonal vehicles resulting in a proliferation of vehicles on theroads. Individuals that do not have personal vehicles have thealternative of using public transportation. Although commuters havethe freedom to choose between public and personal transportation itis important to consider what alternative is better for our society.Each mode of transportation has its advantages and disadvantages.However, the increase in personal vehicles on the roads has resultedin more congestion, pollution and health problems. On the other hand,public transportation reduces the negative issues linked to personalvehicles.

In the following discussion, the paper argues that publictransportation is the better alternative to commuting than personalvehicles. This is because it reduces congestion on our roads, resultsin less pollution and is cheaper. In addition, public transportationis less stressful, a healthier alternative to commuting and resultsin a decline in accident rates as compared to using personalvehicles.


Public transportation reduces congestion on the roads. This saves thetime it takes for commuters to travel from one place to another andsaves fuel wasted in traffic jams. According to the AmericanPublic Transportation Association (1) public transportation is averifiable way of reducing congestion. The article further indicatesthat “in 2011, public transportation use saved 865 million hours intravel time and 450 million gallons of fuel in 498 urban areas.Without public transportation, congestion costs in 2011 would haverisen by nearly $21 billion from $121 billion to $142 billion in 498urban areas (American Public Transportation Association 1).” Despite the increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, mostroads have remained the same. This means that the roads are unable toaccommodate the increasing private vehicles leading to congestion andtraffic jams. However, public transportation is capable of carryingmore passengers than those that use personal vehicles. A singlebusload is accountable for 40 fewer personal cars on our roads(Transit Windsor 1). This means that with publictransportation fewer cars will be required on the roads and in turnreduce congestion. In addition, when traffic is congested the outcomeis traffic jams that take time to clear resulting in more fuelconsumption. But with public transport, as congestion is reduced onthe roads so is fuel consumption since in one busload it becomespossible to save up to 70,000 litres of fuel (Transit Windsor1).

Motor vehicle emission is a major cause of pollution. It accounts for25 to 51% of air pollutions. Above 140 million Americans work, liveas well as play in regions where air has been polluted by motorvehicle emissions (Public Transportation 1). Such airpollution is dangerous and a serious threat to human lifespecifically to young ones, the old and individuals that haverespiratory diseases. Research indicates that air pollution causes70,000 deaths yearly, which is close to twice the figure of peoplemurdered during traffic accidents. Cities with more motor vehicleshave a 20% higher possibility of people seeking hospital care due torespiratory diseases (Public Transportation 1). Increasedavailability as well as the use of public transportation minimizesmotor vehicle emissions that results in air pollution. In comparisonto personal vehicles, “public transportation produces, on average,per passenger mile, 95% less carbon monoxide, 92% fewer volatileorganic compounds, 45% less carbon dioxide and 48% less nitrogenoxide (Public Transportation 1).” Anwar (76) further assertsthat the pollution produced when commuting using a bus is less ascompared to that produced when using a personal car. The author alsonotes that buses cause less pollution per passenger for distancecovered than personal vehicles. Hence, public transportation is thebetter alternative to personal vehicles because it reduces the amountof air pollution in our environment.

It is cheaper to travel by public means than personal means (Litman2). According to Beirao and Cabral (482) even individuals that ownpersonal vehicles agree that public transportation is cheaper. Fenn(1) also acknowledges that unlike popular thinking that assumespublic transport is costly, close to all types of publictransportation are cheaper. For instance, when planning to visit aplace in advance, it is possible to book and get bus tickets at acheaper price. Contrary, when using personal vehicles, the commutercannot book for seasoned tickets and has to spend money on fuel thatwill be consumed when driving. Public transportation is also cheaperfor the commuter because one does not have to worry about carmaintenance and insurance. Contrary, people who use personal vehicleshave to pay for car insurance, fuel and maintenance (Fenn 1). Owninga car is costly and many people end up taking loans in order toafford having a car. The loan only results in more financial burdenfor the car owner. Hence, public transportation is the mostaffordable for commuters.

Public transportation is better for commuting compared to personalvehicles because it is less stressful. In a study conducted by Beiraoand Cabral (482) to determine if people prefer public transportationto personal vehicles and vice versa, the authors conclude thatindividuals are most likely to opt for public transport to reduce thestress associated with driving. When people use publictransportation, they are able to relax as well as read a newspaper orbook. Also, public transportation does not require one to concentratedue to the lack of restrictions from driving responsibilities. When acommuter is using a personal car they have to be alert at all times.This is because the driver has to observe all traffic lights, stopsigns and ensure that they do not cause accidents. With suchresponsibilities it becomes impossible for the driver to relax as isthe case when commuting using public transportation. Beirao andCabral (482-483) additionally note that public transportation acts as“an opportunity to talk to other people on the bus or meet theircolleagues who also take the same bus, it is a time to have fun andlaugh.” This means that public transportation provides commuterswith a level of comfort and satisfaction that cannot be achieved whenusing personal vehicles (Michal and Tomasz 93). Also, publictransportation relieves the commuter the stress of looking forparking space. When individuals driving a personal car get to theirdestination, they have to drive around looking for parking space,which is in most cases scarce and costly (Fenn 1). The advantage ofpublic transportation is that the commuter alights at theirdestination without worrying about looking for parking space.

People who use public transportation lead a healthier life ascompared to those who use personal vehicles. Close to 65% of Americangrownups are overweight while 30% have obesity. Obesity makesindividuals vulnerable to diseases and chronic health conditions,resulting in unproductive ways of life (Public Transportation1). For instance, obesity results in 300,000 deaths every year aswell as direct health care expenses due to obesity related illnesses(Public Transportation 1). Being overweight and obese isassociated with lack of physical activity. Public transportationresponds to the problem of obesity by ensuring that commuters areless reliant on motor vehicles and instead promotes greater levels ofphysical activity. Morabia et al. (2388) explains that “in 2007,the US population took an estimated 10.3 billion publictransportation trips, a 32% increase compared with trips taken in1995.” When continued, the behavior change might have a positiveeffect on America’s wellbeing. Enhanced use of publictransportation has the potential to generate health benefits due tothe frequent aerobic physical activity, which derives from “walkingand climbing stairs when one is riding buses and trains, and frommoving to, from, and within stations (Morabia et al. 2388).” On thecontrary, when using personal vehicles commuters rarely engage inphysical activity as they are able to move from one place to anotherusing their cars. Hence, people who use personal vehicles are likelyto become obese. Public transportation is better than using a privatecare because the first means of transport promotes a healthylifestyle.

There are fewer numbers of traffic accidents linked to publictransportation than personal vehicles. According to PublicTransportation (1) “in 2000, nearly 42,000 people did invehicle crashes and another 3.2 million were injured.” The loss oflife and injuries associated with motor vehicle accidents are asevere public health problem in the United States, which costs thecountry $200 billion every year. These accidents are as a result ofdrivers driving for long hours and at a fast rate. Most of theseaccidents are common personal vehicle drivers. Research supportspublic transportation as a safer alternative to reducing the numberof accidents. The Public Transportation article notes thatcommuting via a bus is 170 times safer as compared to using personalvehicles. An average American driver spends more than 450 hours everyyear driving, which is equivalent to 11 workweeks. In addition to thestress deriving from driving in congested roads, the driver maybecome frustrated and angry. Public transportation on the other handensures that commuters spend less time driving. This in turndecreases the stress levels associated with driving and as a resultfewer accidents occur.


There is a lot of research supporting public transportation as abetter alternative to personal vehicles. However, this does not ruleout the fact that using public means of transport has itslimitations. According to Morabia et al. (72), while using publicbuses results in health benefits for commuters, the same means oftransport is likely to cause health problems when commuters becomeexposed to pollution. Provided that there are vehicles on the road,air pollution progresses to be a major concern for all commutersincluding those that use public transport. Subway commuters areexposed “to coarse and ultra-coarse particles such as metalparticles released by the tracks and the train brakes.” This is toimply that public transportation exposes individuals to the similarenvironmental hazards as those experienced by individuals usingpersonal vehicles.

Commuters may prefer to use personal vehicles to avoid uncertainties,which are possible when using public transportation. Public transportmeans such as trains and buses are most likely to make a number ofstops before one arrives at their destination. Also, using publictransport means that the commuter must be aware of the time schedulesfor example the pickup time when using a bus. Beirao and Cabral (483)explain that many commuters do not have such information. In a studyconducted on commuters, the authors noted that most lackedinformation about bus routes as well as timetables. Also, when buscompanies decide to change their timetables without prior notice, itmeans that a commuter who depends on the bus becomes stranded and maybe late to maybe work. There are many uncertainties that one has toput into consideration when using public transportation, which areuncommon when using personal vehicles.

While it is less stressful to use public transportation than personalcars, it is important to consider other stressing factors such assecurity, which limit public transportation. It is imperative thatany means of transport ensures the security of its commuters.However, some of these security issues are unpredictable. Theseinclude “criminal and terrorist attacks, physical hazards,including noise and possible transmission of infectious diseases intightly packed spaces (Gershon 8).” Criminals are likely to targetpublic transportation because buses or trains carry many people. Forinstance, terrorists are likely to target places where there are manypeople, which is the same case for criminals. At the same time whenpeople travel using public transport, commuters sit next tostrangers. Some of the strangers may have infectious illnesses liketuberculosis. Such issues are avoided when using personal vehicle.This is because a commuter driving a car is most likely to be alone.When the commuter is in the company of another person, it is usuallysomeone well known when using personal vehicles.


The paper demonstrates that it is better to use publictransportation. However, people are less likely to be willing totravel in for example buses due to fear of contracting illnesses. Toencourage individuals to use public transport, money should beinvested in increasing the public transportation alternativesavailable (Parks and Rabon 12). This way, commuters do not have tosqueeze in a single bus as there is an option of more than one bus.It also enhances the safety that commuters desire to feel and reducesthe possibility of contracting infectious illnesses. Also, publictransportation service providers need to revise how they providetheir services. For instance, they should not change their timetableswithout informing their commuters in advance. It is always importantto ensure that a bus arrives at the picking point on time and thatstops made by a single public transport means are reduced to avoiddelays. With proper changes and policy implementations, publictransportation will result in more benefits for commuters thanpersonal vehicles.

Works Cited

American Public Transportation Association. PublicTransportation Benefits, 2016. Web. 12 June 2016.

Anwar, Mehbub. Paradox between Public Transport and Private Car as aModal Choice in Policy Formulation. Journal of BangladeshInstitute of Planners, 2 (2009): 71-77.

Beirao, Gabriela and Cabral, Sarsfield. Understanding Attitudestowards Public Transport and Private Car: A Qualitative Study.Transport Policy, 14 (2007): 478-489.

Fenn, Kelly. Public Transport vs. Private Transport. Energy SavingSecrets, 7 June 2016. Web. 13 June 2016.

Gershon, Robyn. PublicTransportation: Advantages and Challenges. Journalof Urban Health, 82.1(2005): 7-9.

Jaśkiewicz, Michał and Besta,Tomasz. Heart and mind in public transport: Analysis of motives,satisfaction and psychological correlates of public transportationusage in the Gdańsk–Sopot–Gdynia Tricity Agglomeration inPoland. TransportationResearch: Part F, 26(2014): 92-101.

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Morabia, Alfredo., Amstislavski,Philippe., Mirer, Franklin., Amstislavski, Tashia., Eisl, Holger., Wolff, Mary and Markowitz, Steven. Air Pollution and Activity DuringTransportation by Car, Subway, and Walking. AmericanJournal of Preventive Medicine, 37.1(2009): 72-77.

Morabia, Alfredo., Mirer,Franklin., Amstislavski, Tashia., Eisl, Holger., Werbe-Fuentes,Jordan., Gorczynski, John., Goranson, Chris., Wolff, Mary andMarkowitz, Steven. Potential Health Impact of Switching From Car toPublic Transportation When Commuting to Work. AmericanJournal of Public Health, 100.12(2010): 2388-2391.

Perks, Rob and Raborn, Craig.Driving Commuter Choice in America. NRDC Issue Paper, (2013): 1-15.

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Transit Windsor. Personal Vehicles Versus Public Transit,2016. Web. 12 June 2016.