Debate about public transport versus private

trainWhat we know that what we should do, and what we actually do are not always the same.

I’m afraid to say when it comes to transport, this is my ‘green’ downfall.

I use the car more than I should and am reluctant to use public transport, despite knowing it could reduce my carbon footprint and is a more sustainable way to travel.

Public transport

To be perfectly honest I find the thought of  waiting for a bus, carrying my shopping, contending with a child and gasp, being surrounded by loads of people, perfectly daunting.[amazon-product align=”right” small=”1″]1906136289[/amazon-product]

I want to go where I need to go, do what I need to do and get back home again.

Not very Zen like and not very environmentally friendly or sustainable is it?

I have done a couple of things like swap my 4×4 for a People Carrier which gets us 60 miles to the gallon. We also drive less than 6000 miles a year by using local shops and not travelling very far.

But still, as my school report card frequently said, I could do better.

Sustainable travel

I’ve read the Sustrans book “Do Humans Dream of Electric cars“, watched ‘Who killed the electric car’ and heard about people managing perfectly well without a car with a family of about 6!

I’ve heard that buses run every 10 minutes, rail travel allows you to sit back and  relax and coaches are a great way to meet people, but I’m still not ready to give up my car.

Public versus private transport

[amazon-product small=”1″]B000MGBPHO[/amazon-product]Over on Sustained magazine, David North the editor, took a holiday to Cornwall and decided (even though it was more expensive) to use the train rather than his car.

17 hours later, and after a night spent roughing it after being given wrong information by CrossCountry, he arrived at his destination.

Not the relaxing travel I was envisioning.

David was locked out of Exeter station at midnight and left to fend for himself until 5am when train services began again. He asks what would the policy have been if he had been elderly, a single young female, disabled in some way or it had been the dead of winter – sub-zero.

Join the debate

He’s chasing this up with the government, public transport watchdogs and sustainable travel advocates to see what can be done.

As he writes in his article, “I can accept lateness. I can accept grumpy staff. I can accept all sorts of little hiccups on a long journey but I would like to know that when big things go wrong I will be looked after. At the moment that isn’t the case and, until it is, then I don’t see how the public can be expected to support public transport over private”.

Please tell me about your experiences with public transport in the comments below and let’s help David build a case for change!


  1. Ben on October 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    I would consider public transportation if it were convenient. Living in a modestly populated upper-midwest location, it is not feasable for many of us to take the bus (which is the only public transit option). For me to take the bus, I would have to walk five blocks, switch buses and spend approximately an extra 2-3 hours a day commuting. The winter months do get below 0 often enough for the walking part to be very undesireable.

    Thanks for the post and have a great day.

  2. Mrs Green on October 30, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    @Ben: Hi Ben, I hear you on this. Although we don’t have those temperatures here, the additional 2-3 hours travelling time makes public travel no go. Let’s hope in the future things change – near to us we now have a bus lane built. There are no busses on it yet mind you!

  3. Sam on October 31, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I can’t drive (yet!) so I’m heavily reliant on public transport, with my two sons.

    We don’t mind the trains, although in the rush hour it’s horrible. But at least they run to an exact timetable, there’s usually a decent shelter on the platform, and with a family railcard, they’re good value for money.

    I don’t like using buses. I always have at least one bag, plus a small child’s hand, and there is no room to get down the aisle, they’re always busy, often there is no shelter, usually they are late (or very late) and around here, they are very expensive.

    By train, or train and “PlusBus” (which is an excellent idea), we can get from my local station to the *next* city for about £6.
    By bus, to get us all to a local country park costs £7 now, and will cost £9.50 when my youngest is 5 years, even though it’s almost walkable.

    Buses are too expensive and I’m having to learn to drive to make travel affordable.

  4. Mrs Green on November 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

    @Sam: Hi Sam, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting that you need to learn to drive to save money – that seems absurd doesn’t it? In order to make public transport work, we have a long way to go I think.
    Good luck with the driving lessons.

  5. Max on November 20, 2009 at 5:10 am

    I think the number one factor when choosing public versus private transportation is simply convenience. The second factor would be price. I currently live in Seattle where there is an excellent bus system. Taking the bus allows you to avoid traffic, not have to worry about problems associated with driving, and allows you to not have to pay for parking. These advantages are great, put paying two dollars for every ride (with rates going up next year) can often cancel out parking costs.

    I think for our country to make a move towards more public transportation we need people to move out of rural areas and suburbs and into cities. Public transportation can never work efficiently if we live in such spread out areas. That is why you see such success in Europe and in Asian cities. By living in closer quarters, we can not only be more efficient in travelling and transportation, but we can conserve a lot more land.

  6. Mrs Green on November 20, 2009 at 9:40 am

    @Max: Hello Max; convenience and price would be top of the list of considerations for most I’m sure, if they were honest. It sounds like you have a great service, but it needs to be cheaper to entice more people.
    Your thoughts about people moving in to cities is radical LOL! I live in the country and I would never consider moving to the city; I would be so miserable. But I guess you’re right; we’re not as spaced out here as you are in the US. We can get to a small town within 5 miles and a city within 10, so it’s not so bad 🙂
    Thanks for joining in the discussion.

  7. vw camper hire on March 7, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I think public transport varies so much even accross one county let alone the country. For example i used to visit manchester alot and the buses , trams etc… were great and i’d use them all the time. However in the smaller towns and rural locations the service isnt as good and not as frequent. I think it depends where you are and your reason for travel as to what you’d choose. For shopping i always drive, for visits around town its public.

  8. Mrs Green on March 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    @vw camper hire: Yes, you highlight a very real problem. Where we live (rural) there is no way we could rely on public transport, so we just use our car the minimum amount we can, which is around 6000 miles per year. We do this by car sharing and combining errands. We’re lucky to have local farm shops, which is a good aspect to living in an area like ours 🙂

  9. Cameron Benz on August 22, 2010 at 7:04 am

    It’s not always feasible to go with public transport. I know in the greater Seattle area of Washington state, USA, the public transit system is unreliable at best. There are things you can do however. As you mentioned, the economical vehicle is a major one. I own 2 vehicles. One is a Geo Metro that gets about 50 miles per gallon and, with 300k miles on it, is so far not scrapped. My other is a Jeep Wrangler. I know the Jeep isn’t the most environmentally friendly vehicle and I do use it as an OHV (Off Highway Vehicle), but I rarely use it as my regular transportation due to it’s lack of fuel economy. It does to be a bit more environmentally recyclable in the end and it’ll probably be very well worn out when it finally does get scrapped. It doesn’t get treated as disposable. I feel that fuel economy is only one metric we need to look at when we consider how “green” a vehicle is.

  10. Ms Tubb on September 30, 2010 at 11:52 am

    We are exploring Private vs. Public Transport at school in our Geography lessons and our teacher gave us a link to your blog. I myself don’t like public transport because it takes too long but I have no transport of my own so use it once a fortnight or even once a month and I prefer private transport myself because you can get to where you want to quite easily and don’t have to take detours.

  11. Mrs Green on December 24, 2010 at 7:07 am

    @Cameron Benz: great points Cameron. We would like to run two cars but can’t afford to insure and tax them both. We’ve back to the 4×4 now but that’s so we can gather wood to heat our home. It’s not an easy choice!

    @Ms Tubb: I understand that public transport can be time consuming and not very convenient but there are positive benefits for the environment. I guess it’s better in some areas which makes it more attractive to use 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the lesson at school