In defense of public transportation

Margaret Dougherty, Editor-In-Chief

Whenever someone mentions taking a subway, train or bus to get somewhere, it’s often with a tone of distaste. Public transportation is generally seen as a bothersome roadblock to your intended destination that is full of obnoxious strangers and unidentifiable puddles of liquid wherever you step or sit. However, as true aficionados of cheesy maxims know, the journey is just as important as the destination. 

I grew up in a half-suburban, half-rural part of Pennsylvania where public transportation was not a frequent part of my routine. We used cars to get everywhere we needed to go. The only thing I participated in that slightly resembled public transportation was my school bus. Just like your average train, my school bus often experienced delays. However, this was most often because of a loose cow on the road. 

When I arrived in New Rochelle and started spending time in New York City, I finally got to experience the authentic public transportation experience. There are certainly downsides – delays, odors, frightening people – but I’ve come to enjoy the ride more and more every time I take the subway or hop on a train.  

The first – and perhaps best – reason for my enjoyment is the variety of people and events you get to witness. When I’m driving my car, it’s just me and my Spotify playlist keeping me company. Yet when I take public transportation, the entertainment is practically built in. Watching and listening to strangers is always a fun activity, especially in a place like New York – you never know what you’ll see next. I fondly recall the time a group of men dressed as Vikings rowdily entered the subway and no one gave them a second glance.  

Public transportation can also display the best parts of humanity, such as when a group of passengers helped comfort a woman who was loudly sobbing on an Amtrak. I felt bad for her but knew from prior experience that sometimes the quiet car on an Amtrak is the best place to cry it out.  

Besides the fun of people-watching, I also appreciate that public transportation is also more environmentally conscious. In high density areas like New York, it would be impossible to get anywhere if everyone used a car and air pollution would skyrocket more than it already has in past years. Sharing rides with your fellow passengers is the greener choice every time. 

Furthermore, public transportation takes a lot of the pressure off you and gives you more leisure time. I love reading books or even listening to a podcast and closing my eyes on the train, neither of which would be the safest options if I were driving. I don’t have to worry about getting in an accident on the train; car crashes on highways occur at an incredibly higher rate.  

One final benefit of public transportation is the cost. Why spend thousands of dollars on a car and gas when $2.75 can get you anywhere in the city? I hope to stay in the metropolitan area after I graduate, which means I don’t see myself getting a car anytime soon. 

 The more I’ve come to appreciate public transportation, the more I wish it was more wide-spread. We are lucky to be in an area with so many transit options, but many people don’t have such luck. To remedy this, calls for infrastructure such as a high-speed rail system have gained momentum over the years. It is a monumental task to enact such projects and change most often comes incrementally. However, I will continue to advocate for public transportation as the most sustainable, most cost-efficient, safest (and yes, most entertaining) answer.