Let’s take this idea as a starting point: cars pollute the atmosphere. They emit CO2 at a tremendous rate and heavily contribute to greenhouse gases. Add to that the fact that our roads were never designed to cope with the amount of traffic now on them which means slower travel and even more pollution, and you’ve already made an excellent argument for public transport.
It’s true that buses and coaches also emit a lot of carbon, but the more people use them, the fewer cars on the road, which gives a big overall savings in emissions. Also, with fewer vehicles around, traffic can move more quickly and smoothly, which increases the savings.
Buses and Coaches
Buses can certainly be the best option for getting into town and back again, where parking places are not only rare but also expensive. However, they rarely carry enough people (averaged out across the country, it’s just nine people per journey), which means we’re not making enough use of this resource to cut our carbon footprint.
For longer distances coaches are an option, and can lower the overall carbon footprint. There are ways to calculate your public transport savings, although it requires quite a bit of calculation. First you need to establish just how far you travel by bus – make it over the course of a month. Then convert that distance to kilometres (multiply by 1.61), and after that multiply the figure by 0.71 for buses (if you’re in London that figure should be 0.09) and you have your carbon cost for the month. Multiply that by 12 to give your yearly total. If you’re figuring out your coach total multiply the kilometres by 0.08.
What exactly does that tell you? Without something to compare it against, very little. You need to see what your carbon cost would have been if you’d made the same journeys by car. You’ll see that in most cases the savings can be quite significant (and you can give yourself a pat on the back).
For Londoners, the Tube is definitely the best alternative in terms of carbon footprint. It runs on electricity, which means it’s not carbon neutral (which is true for other cities with underground and light rail systems), but still much better than a car – and faster. For the amount of carbon you use travelling this way, take the distance in kilometres, as above, and multiply by 0.07.
We moan a lot about our rail services, not least about the crazy pricing structures that seem to make no sense. But rail is a fast and relatively carbon-friendly way of getting from city to city (certainly compared to the alternatives). Also, since stations are almost always in city centres, they offer a great geographical advantage over planes, for instance. Nor, if you’re going to London, do you have to worry about paying a congestion charge. To see your savings, take the distance in kilometres and multiply by 0.11. Rail can be an excellent alternative to planes for getting to Europe, too.
You shouldn’t forget ferries as a way of going abroad, either. They emit far less carbon than planes – although you should stick to the slower ones to be sure of that.