Yesterday I spent the afternoon at GreenFest Philly, and I took public transportation from South Jersey to get into Philadelphia. I then walked about 12 blocks to get to the festival. I wavered back and forth on taking the public transportation. Since I live in the suburbs it’s not usually how I get places because there isn’t a good system in place, but there is a high speed line station in my town that takes people between here and Philadelphia so I decided to use it.
When I got to the train station, my first thoughts were “it would be so much faster just to drive over the bridge.” But I wanted to do the right thing. Then the stupid ticket machine kept spitting out my dollars and gave me only a two second window to ask for a receipt which I missed. I was rather annoyed by the time I sat down to wait TWENTY minutes for the next train. Again I thought, “I could have driven and been there before the train even arrives.”
By the time I actually got to the festival, however, I realized that my whole attitude had changed. The environmental benefits of taking public transportation are well known. Less cars on the road mean less pollution. Less fuel used by individual motorists means less of our natural resources consumed. But I realized by the time I hit Headhouse Square where the festival was being held that there are other benefits to taking public transportation.
- Time to be alone with your thoughts – Sure I would have been alone with my thoughts in my car, but my thoughts would have been different. They would have been thoughts about navigating the Ben Franklin Bridge or the crazy city drivers or where to find a parking space. Instead I got to actually think through things like ideas my pastor had brought up during the sermon earlier that morning. Taking public transportation can take the mental stress out of a commute.
- The ability to listen to podcasts or read – After I got done thinking, I turned on my iPod. I love the More Hip than Hippie podcasts, but I rarely get a chance to actually listen to them. On the train and on my walk from the train to my destination I got to listen to More Hip than Hippie and learn some green stuff that really interested me. I also got to read some of the literature that I picked up at the festival on the train ride home.
- Forced exercise – Almost all of us need more exercise. The twelve block walk to and from the festival helped me to get some in without hitting the gym or popping in an exercise DVD.
- A chance to discover new places and things – I would have never found the independent bookstore I discovered as I was walking or noticed the charming row homes with their beautiful flower boxes on Locust Street if I had been whizzing by in my car.
- A sense of confidence and accomplishment – I successfully navigated the pubic transportation system and walked through the city without getting lost. For some people those are every day occurrences. For others of us, it’s a big accomplishment. I was so pleased with this little success that I’m thinking that next time I use public transportation to go into the city, I may actually ride my bike the mile and a half to the train station instead of taking my car. How pleased will I be with myself then?
- Money saved – My round trip train ticket cost $4.30 (once the stupid ticket machine took my money). Crossing the bridge would have cost $3.00. Parking would have cost at least $5, probably more since the parking garages near the festival were likely to take advantage of the increased Sunday business. Taking the train cost almost half of what driving would have.
How about you? What benefits do you see from taking public transportation that are beyond environmental?
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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Another Argument for Public Transit
This is a FANTASTIC post. I can relate to it so much!
Since moving to a bigger city (albeit a suburb of said city), I’ve been trying to take public transit more often. It’s so easy to come up with a million excuses why not, but every single time I’m SO grateful I’ve taken the bus/subway/train.
My biggest benefit is STRESS! It saves me the stress of navigating in a city & finding parking. Peace is wonderful.
Ashley.marie – Thanks. I almost always find the end result is an unexpected satisfaction when I do a “green” thing that I almost talked myself out of doing. You’re right – there are a million excuses. A lot of it is retraining yourself to think differently about how important getting places quickly is and changing your habits to give yourself the extra time.
Pamela J. Betz-Baron
You interact with a lot more people when you take public transit. Of, course, that isn’t always positive, but it often is. If you take the same train(s) or bus(ses) every day, you might even make a couple of friends.
Pamela – I can see how that could be a benefit to someone who commutes regularly. You might even get the opportunity to help some people in need instead of just flying by them in a car.
The reduction in stress and additional walking helped me lose weight. Stress hormones contribute to weight gain… and hair loss, as I’ve found out.
I’m also in a much better mood when I get to work.
Bob – I can imagine there is a reduction in stress. I know how steamed I get when I’m stuck in traffic. If it were a daily occurrence, I think I’d go nuts.
I went from a job with an hour and a half commute to taking the train into the city everyday, and I can definitely agree with what you’ve written here. The reduction is stress is a major factor, and in addition to the obvious savings in gas and toll money, there is far less wear and tear to my car. Traffic in Center City is nasty in the morning, and taking PATCO lets me avoid putting all of those hard miles onto my car. Plus, I find a lot of joy in walking around the city.
Lisa – Traffic in Center City is nasty most hours of the day. Have you noticed an increase in Patco passengers since gas prices have gone up?
Robin- I work for NJ TRANSIT, and I can tell you that PATCO this past year went through a process of replacing their early 1970’s ticketing technology, and they had two systems. It is not very friendly for non-regular users, which is why I used to bring a lot of change for using PATCO. They now have a smart card called the Freedom card, which I think costs either $5 or $10, and you can load on different amounts of fares, so even if you only use it once or twice a month it is worth it. Not as easy as an EZ-Pass for tolls. Unfortunatly, the DRPA which runs both the bridge and the PATCO system has tended to favor the highways and pork barrel projects for development like funding soccer stadiums in Chester and minor league baseball in CAmden instead of renewing the system until now. hope you will keep using transit Tom
Hello, sorry I’m late to the party; I came across this blog entry while researching for a speech on public transit and its benefits.
I definitely agree with these points, but unfortunately #6 is not quite relevant to me, as in order to take the bus route I take, I have to pay $2 a day at the train station to park. =/ This kinda cancels out the money I save by using my student bus pass.
Other than that, public transit is awesome. I use the time on the bus to study, read, play video games, or take a nap. I also don’t have to drive or fight for parking, both of which can be frustrating activities.
A couple years back I decided to take advantage of my bus/light rail pass to ride light rail for the heck of it. I came across a nice bike path that I would end up riding down a year and a half later.
Finally, I’m doing fellow commuters a favor by having one less car on the road to clog up the streets. 😉
Point #6 is all the more true when you consider the hidden costs of driving–easily $0.50 per mile. (In 2007, AAA calculated it at $0.52 per mile: http://www.aaanewsroom.net/main/Default.asp?CategoryID=4&ArticleID=529 . Other data is here: http://www.aaaexchange.com/Assets/Files/200948913570.DrivingCosts2009.pdf )
Fifty cents a mile is a pretty steep price. Makes you want to reconsider public transit.