Depending on where you live, you might have a decent public transportation system — and if you do, hop on board! Although taking the city transit has been stigmatized as crowded and unpleasant, we can't think of anything more unpleasant than helping heap carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The popularity of train travel varies around the world. In Europe and Japan, train technology is much more advanced than in the rest of the world — their trains are fast, convenient, popular, and affordable. Rail Australia is also well developed and functions in almost every region of the country.
In North America, trains are far less popular — and therefore far less efficient — but their popularity is growing, thanks to high gas prices and airport security concerns. Amtrak, the national U.S. passenger train company, offers the only train service in North America that comes close to the high-speed trains of Europe, the Acela. Travelers can get from New York to Washington, D.C., in about two and a half hours, making it a popular alternative to air travel. In Canada, where ViaRail operates the national passenger rail system, ridership has been growing steadily.
The two main forms of public transportation in most cities are the bus and subway. Most buses run on diesel fuel, but many have already been upgraded or replaced with biodiesel, fuel cells, or electric motors, so they're even more greenhouse gas-friendly. The subway (called the Metro, Underground, Tube, and so on, depending on where you are) runs on electricity, so its emissions depend on the source of the electricity. Efficiency-wise, it's at its best when fully loaded, like any form of mass transit. Adding to the subway's fuel efficiency is the lower friction of train wheels on metal tracks, compared to vehicles that have rubber tires that run on road surfaces. The less friction the wheels encounter, the less energy they need to turn.
In the United States, mass transit use has hit a 50-year high, thanks to rising gas prices, according to the American Public Transit Association. In the past, even when gas prices dipped, many people stayed on board their cities' buses and subways.
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Although not owning a car is the best thing you can do for the atmosphere, we understand that many people do need their own vehicles because of the way that many modern cities and societies are designed. If you do need a car, don't feel guilty — and don't think that you can't help fight global warming. You can ensure your vehicle is as green as possible in several ways, from what you drive, to how you drive it, to how many passengers you bring along. And cars are improving in climate-friendly design, too, with new technologies on the horizon that will leave gasoline-powered cars in the dust.
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