Public Transport’s Journey to Greener World

While on the bus the other day, I happened to notice a sign from the Queensland government, stating that one full bus takes up to 40 cars off the road. That was all. No real information as to what 40 cars off the road means.

For all I knew it could mean one bus could literally ram 40 cars off the road with the sheer force of 50 or more passengers behind it. No car stood a chance with a full bus on the road! Be warned!

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While this was quite the scary thought, and rather turned me away from the idea of riding on the bus again, it got me thinking.

“How does public transport affect the environment? Would it actually help if everyone rode buses, reducing the constant strain of cars spewing their toxic fumes just to deliver one person to their location? Am I helping, or am I hurting our world by my sheer laziness of not getting a license to drive?”

So, I decided to do some research…

Greenhouse gases and climate change are rapidly becoming some of the most talked-about subjects in Australia with up to 73% of people reporting concern over climate change in 2008 [1].

Between the years of 1990 and 2008 in Australia, the annual emissions of greenhouse gases saw a 31% increase, not including the emissions from land use, land use change and forestry [2].

It is believed that these high levels of gases in our atmosphere will begin to affect our climate by causing more heat to be trapped, leading to increased global temperatures, also known as global warming [3].

Julia Gillard’s administration has tried to combat this increase of greenhouse gas emission with the recent unveiling of the carbon tax starting July 2012. The tax will start by charging around 500 companies $23 for each tonne of CO2 they emit [4].

However, large companies aren’t the only producers of greenhouse gases.

The primary producer of greenhouse gas emissions is from stationary energy, such as companies using fossil fuels to provide electricity for homes. This is followed by agriculture, where the gas emissions mainly come from methane gas from animals. And the third largest producer of gas emissions is transport [5].

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Although the gas emissions due to stationary energy and agriculture are hard to change as an individual, transport can easily be affected.

Out of the 13% of greenhouse gas emissions that transport activity adds to the environment, passenger cars are the largest source of the gases, accounting for 53% of the emissions. Buses, however, are the most energy efficient mode of transport per person, followed by heavy rail trains and motorcycles. Passenger cars and ferries are the least energy efficient [5].

There are several benefits to train and bus travel, such as greatly reduced CO2e emissions per person when compared to passenger cars. A full bus also greatly reduces the congestion of roads by removing up to 40 cars from the road – leading to further reduced CO2e emissions [6].

Public transport is also increasing in popularity, as the number of people using public transport for usual trips to work or full-time study has risen in almost every state since 1996 [7] [8].

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Many people still prefer passenger cars over public transport, however. In 2009, 80% of Australians reported using private motor vehicles as their primary method of travel to their work or study, and only 14% used public transport [8].

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When asked why they didn’t use public transport, 52% of people reported either complete lack of services or lack of services at the right time [5].

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Our goal with Transhub is to help make public transport work for everyone, by both simplifying and improving the overall experience. We want to help everyone be able to take part in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by using cheap and reliable public transport without any of the hassle usually associated with it.

And with that my research ends. Now I’m left wondering what the ‘other’ section on the third graph for forms of transport means. My leading theory is transport via unicycle. Time to do some more research…

References

1. ABS Greenhouse Gas Emissions

2. National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2008, PDF

3. Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency – Climate Change Impacts

4. News.com.au – Julia Gillard Unveils Carbon Tax Plans

5. ABS Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010

6. Travelsmart – Travel Alternatives – Public Transport

7. ABS Environmental Issues: People’s Views and Practices, 2006, PDF

8. ABS Environmental Issues: Waste Management and Transport Use, 2009, PDF

Written by Adam Keller on behalf of TransHub

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