10 Reasons Why You Should Use Public Transport

eco-friendly public transit tips

Treehugger / Catherine Song

Public transportation eases congestion, reduces emissions, and gives you plenty of quality time to people watch, as well as get to know your "neighbors." In addition, public transportation allows you to relax, read or nap during that commute instead of fighting and stressing and feeling the road rage.

So, what do we mean by public transportation? Well, for this article we are focusing on buses, trains, planes and ferries/boats, whether used for the daily commute or just to get around. For those of you interested in leaving that car at home, these tips discuss the merits of public transportation as well as offer suggestions for how to expand and improve public transportation in your community.

Top Public Transportation Tips

A (hu)man with a Plan

busy four way intersection in brooklyn with large group of pedestrians at crosswalk

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

If you're not sure you can do the public transportation thing, start small with one a goal of taking public transportation at least one day a week until you figure out the system. Before you know it, you'll be making friends and riding along with everyone else.

Come Fly With Me

commercial plane flies over congested highway and city

Wachirawit Jenlohakit / Getty Images

Try to reduce the number of plane trips you take and try not to use a plane for any trips under 600 miles. Plane trips are way more environmentally destructive than automobile trips.

Get On the Bus

people wait in line outside on brooklyn city street to take city bus

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Write to your city representatives to request that your community upgrade their diesel buses to fleets of electric or biodiesel buses. This will reduce the CO2 emissions generated, reduce dependence on imported oil dependency, and in the case of biodiesel engines actually run cleaner and more efficient than petrochemical diesel. Even diesel buses are worth getting on.

Try the bus or train for longer trips

pedestrians walk up and down stairs of underground subway station nyc

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Buses, trains, light rail and ferries generally have dedicated travel paths that are quicker than sitting alone in your car, which can cut down travel times. If you need to use a car, see if you can car-pool. Each of these options is much better than flying. In a car, four people would only be collectively responsible for emitting only 104 kilograms of CO2, whereas in a plane they would generate some 736 kilograms of carbon dioxide. A cross-country train trip would generate about half the greenhouse-gas emissions of driving a car.

Walk to school

Mom and two kids with backpacks walk to school with yellow schoolbus in background

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Many children live close enough to walk school, but few do. Instead of driving your children the few blocks, walk with them or allow them to take the school bus. Take it step further by helping organize a walking bus for other kids in your neighborhood.

Catch a taxi

pedestrian goes to grab door handle of green NYC taxi

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Really these are a form of public transport because you don't own them, and when you don't need the service they are made available for others to use. Look out for hybrid or pedi-cab taxis, or book with Zipcar or Uber for an even greener option.


home office with large computer monitor for telecommute for work

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Don't drive to the office, or fly to that conference, if you can arrange to complete your work/presentation electronically, or via video conferencing. Video conferencing uses at most just 7 percent of the energy used for an in-person meeting. In this age of the internet, there are so many tools that make telecommuting an effective and efficient way of working.

Buy fare saver tickets

person's hand loads up nyc metro card at subway station

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Return, weekly/monthly, or off-peak bus/train tickets are often significantly cheaper than single ride tickets, which will encourage you to use said bus/train more often.

Plan your trip

group of kids with backpacks walk toward nyc subway station entrance

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

Obtain timetable and route-maps for your journey to know what to expect in advance. Many municipal public transport systems now have free online databases than will take your staring point and destination and calculate the fastest times and best route for your trip, not to mention the wonder that is Google Maps. This can take the uncertainty out of public transport travel.

Be a Change Agent

mother and child in helmets ride scooter bike through busy nyc street

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

If you don't use public transport in your local area because the service doesn't work for you, for whatever reason, then get it changed. Write letters to your city newspaper, comment on their online stories that address urban travel, join a public transport advocacy group, and meet with your local government representative. Things won't change, until you inform people you want them to.

Public Transportation: By the Numbers

guy in foreground wearing helmet on bike with nyc street in background

Treehugger / Lesly Junieth

All data below comes from the American Public Transportation Association's 2020 fact book.

  • 9.9 billion: Number of trips Americans took in public transport on public transportation in 2019
  • 40 percent: Reduction in U.S. reliance on foreign oil that would occur if one in ten Americans used public transportation daily.
  • 10: Number of times safer that riding public transportation is compared to riding in your own automobile.
  • 4.2 billion: Gallons of gasoline saved from people taking public transportation each year.
  • $10,000: The amount of money saved per household by using public transportation and living with one less car
View Article Sources
  1. Electric Vehicle Benefits and Considerations.” U.S. Department of Energy.

  2. Biodiesel Benefits and Considerations.” U.S. Department of Energy.

  3. Ong, Dennis, et al. “Comparison of the Energy, Carbon and Time Costs of Videoconferencing and In-Person Meetings.” Computer Communications, vol. 50, 2014, pp. 86-94., doi:10.1016/j.comcom.2014.02.009

  4. Public Transportation Facts.” American Public Transportation Association.

  5. "Welcome to the WRTA." Worcester Regional Transit Authority.