America’s public transit systems stink, literally. If you’ve ever been on a subway, bus, or metro train than you know the miasma that circulates through those congested boxcars. You think you’ll just find a seat on the train and put on a pair of sleepphones to drift off until your next stop. Then you find that you’re pushing over people to even make it on the train like it’s a rugby match and now you’re using the two guys next to you for a trust fall each time the train makes a turn.
America’s public transit systems are crumbling and they no longer serve the greater community at large. Not a single metro subway system in the country connects to another and if you live in New York or Washington DC than you’re already aware of how undependable they can be for work.
The US currently ranks 16th in the world for infrastructure and this power ranking will only keep falling without massive investment in the nation’’s infrastructure. The American Society for Civil Engineers predicts that the US will require $1.7 trillion to fix its surface transportation infrastructure alone (e.g. bridges and roads).
Public transit is directly connected to the commercial value of downtown real estate and helps to facilitate the exchange of commerce and help the general economy. While our terrible public metros may seem like old news, very little is being done to fix the problem. Here, we’re going to identify the problems plaguing public transportation across the country and some solutions.
Public transportation was practically put into a position to fail. As many metro trains and subway systems began to sprout in the 1970s, suburban sprawl had already been infecting America. Automobiles were also becoming more affordable to lower and middle class households.
Suburban development effectively decentralizes a city. Couple with improving technology, people can choose to work from their home or virtual offices and instead drive cars whenever they want to make it to the downtown area. This discourages city planners from expanding public transportation routes, meaning poorer people are cut off from more opportunities outside of the limits of public transportation.
Only 5% of Americans use public transit everyday and this number is only expected to decline. Of this number, a majority are poorer to lower middle-class Americans who rely on public transit to make it to work. Unfortunately, many politicians view public transit as disingenuous to the economic interests of poor Americans, essentially as encouraging a welfare state.
In cities like New york and Washington DC, only temporary solutions were being put into place. With all of the structural and political issues facing public transit, there is one long-term solution that could truly slingshot our nation’s public transit into a 21st century powerhouse.
Over 80 cities across the world offer free public transit, while close to none in the US do. One city leading the way is Baltimore, which actually offers free public transit in the form of hybrid buses.
Federal initiatives are seeking to foster green public transit by allocating more federal grants to cities in need of repair. The US Department of Transportation recently awarded $55 million to 39 states across the country to operate cleaner, electric powered metro buses that are more efficient and less costly to maintain.
In fact, 41% of buses across the country are now using alternative fuel sources to encourage sustainable transportation solutions. With the backlog of maintenance issues and the sheer congestion of public transit in major cities, the federal government can greatly accelerate the process of repairing our nation’s public transit issues by investing in new, green technology.
The fuel savings derived from green technology allow cities to offer cheaper services and pool more capital to invest in long-term maintenance and repair solutions. With reduced emissions, cities that invest in green technology and transportation also enjoy a better quality of life.
Cities like Philadelphia have begun taking new initiatives to make their cities more green and advance their economic development. From energy aggregation to new transportation projects that carve out green space, Philadelphia is leading the way green technology that saves the city money and seeks to fix its own infrastructure problems.
Unfortunately, these investments only scratch the surface to a larger problem. More money will be needed to institute this across the country. Until green technology or autonomous vehicles become more affordable, the public transportation system will continue to break down without any help from federal or state funding.
Our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. Americans lose $109 billion a year by driving on bad roads, and for owners of buses, RVs, or trucks, this number is multiplied by the increased amount of having to repair busted tires and bad axles. Often, surface infrastructure takes precedence over public transportation because far less people in the US actually rely on public transit. Cities and the federal government need to recognize the importance of this issue, especially if they want to foster economic growth for the lower class.
The most obvious solution to this is cost-effective green transportation. With less congested public transit and by burning cleaner fuel, maybe people in major cities can begin to breathe a little easier.