Public Transportation Systems: Initiatives and Effectiveness

By Amanullah Khan

The social need of Public transport is that it helps foster a sense of community. For example, people travelling together are more likely to feel a community connection than those travelling in cars, in isolation. Public transport also encourages people to have a more active healthy lifestyle and is less stressful. Rather than driving in traffic or wasting time looking for an elusive car park, public transport passengers can relax play games or read a book. Economically, using public transport is cheaper than owning and operating a car. It reduces the need for building vast car parks on valuable land that could have otherwise been used as highly prized office or retail space and reduces reliance on rapidly decreasing oil supplies. Environmentally, it reduces pollution and road congestion. Moreover, the more people travel by train or bus, the fewer cars on the road requires less land use for road infrastructure. There are other allied benefits of public transportation:

1. Safety: Riding a bus is 79 times safer than riding in an automobile, and riding a train or subway is even safer.
2. Health: Studies have shown that people who use public transportation regularly tend to be healthier than people who do not, because of the exercise they get walking to and from bus stops, subway stations and their homes and offices.
3. Cost savings: According to an APTA study, families that use public transportation can reduce their household expenses.
4. Public buses keep air cleaner: Pollution is estimated to cause as many deaths per year as traffic accidents. However, buses produce less pollution than cars per passenger mile by utilizing advanced technologies and higher standards-potentially.
5. Travelling via Public transportation saves money.

Growing traffic congestion, the need to preserve the environment, and the problems of road safety are the main reasons for many cities worldwide to consider new initiatives in public transportation. These decisions are often sending mixed signals to the public transport passengers and potential users while failing to recognize system-wide and integration implications. This work attempts to provide the current state of the PT practice and to cover the issues of why or why not to use Public Transportation including the willingness to pay, viability and projection perspectives.

Use and No use of Public Transportation:
The evolution of lifestyles, more free time available, more revenue, activities and greater dispersion of activities, low density peripheral developments favour adoption of the car as the universal mode of transport, making full use of its flexibility and availability. The choice between public and private transport is an individual decision that is influenced by government/community decisions. These decisions are often sending mixed signals to the Public Transportation systems and potential Public Transport passengers while failing to recognize more system-wide and integrated implications. Generally speaking, the majority of large cities have effectively encouraged the use of a private car, through planning dispersed land use in the suburbs, infrastructure available parking and circulation traffic flow, pricing, and financial decisions. Consequently, in many of those cities there is growing and moreover confusion about what to do. One way to handle the decline in Public Transportation use is to retain a high level of satisfaction of Public Transportation users while fully retaining the protection of access to the less affluent citizen.

Viability perspective:
One of the predominant motives of new urban Public Transportation systems is the general continuous decline in Public Transport patronage; the two main reasons for this: poor level-of-service and better competitors. New roads, bridges, and tunnels are serving the cars and to some extent rails, whereas the investment in PT terminals is relatively at a lower level. On one hand, there is no need to promote PT in a free market environment, but on the other hand Public Transportation has the best safety record, can relieve some traffic congestion, and can preserve the environment. The Public Transportation viability can be looked through perspectives as:
When there is no alternative:
When there are features such as short travel time and extra comfort e.g., preferential and priority treatment, availability of newspaper and magazines:
When the Public Transportation can be linked comfortably to a door-to-door trip chain with smooth and synchronized transfers.
Hence, more people will be willing to travel through public transports rather than private cars if proper public transportation service can be offered.

The author is M.Tech. in Transportation Engineering, from LPU, Jalandhar. He can be reached at: