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Public Transportation

By Sterling Xie


Public transportation is often overlooked because of the US’s supposed car culture. However, is it really because of car culture? Or is it just because our public transportation infrastructure is appalling? Many often avoid public transportation because it is slow and unreliable. Despite this, public transportation still holds a critical role in the development of large cities despite how economic slowdown and work-at-home culture would seem to have slowed public transportation use.


Public transportation seems to be more cost-effective for most people. Especially now, with highly fluctuating gas prices reliant on outside parties like OPEC, public transportation’s cost seems to be more reliable. In fact, most people do not consider the costs associated with owning a vehicle—gas costs, maintenance costs, parking fees, etc. Ultimately, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) explains that if a family with two personal cars switches just one of them with a public transportation option, they would be able to save over $10,000 annually on average.

Environmental Concerns

Outside of personal finance but equally important, using public transportation is also key to environmental sustainability. 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 even with minimal ridership. However, the EPA continues that if every American used public transportation instead of personal cars and other means of transportation, we would be able to cut carbon emissions by another 30%. Public transportation has a massive impact on urban commute both in terms of congestion and emissions.


While many commuters would use public transportation, the time inefficiency of the system drives consumers away. Waking up earlier for work seems less than ideal. Despite the trillions of dollars of investment by authorities on every level into public transportation, bus and train companies across many American cities can no longer keep up with rising demand. Eric Jaffe of Bloomberg News confirms that American public transit subsidies have totaled over $10 billion annually on average, a huge cost that has failed to solve the broken system American public transit relies on. Public transportation vehicles often don’t take efficient transportation loops and thus require not only far more vehicles than what is expected, but also far more time to reach your destination.

What does this mean for personal finance?

Everyone’s personal finance situation is different. Based on your geographic location, consider how much public transit alternatives could cut down on your costs for commuting. However, make sure you consider other factors outside of just finance such as health, sleep, convenience, etc.

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