A common problem or “blind spot” that defines our country in regards to safety in travel and sustainability is confusion about public transit. Breaking through this blind spot are the Millennials who choose the multi-modal transit option… and also Todd Litman in “A New Transit Safety Narrative.” Basically, the point is: mass transit is safe, when compared to other travel options. It is especially safer than travel in automobiles. Many people do not realize this. In part, this is due to media exaggerating of public transit risks.
If you ride the bus, you are about 60 times safer than in an automobile in the US, according to analyst Todd Litman’s findings published recently in the Journal of Public Transportation. If you travel via commuter or intercity rail, you are about 20 times safer than in an automobile. And if you hop on the metro or light rail, you are about 30 times safer.
Considering the US, Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute explains a bit more: “Various factors contribute to this excessive fear, including the nature of transit travel, heavy media coverage of transit-related crashes and crimes, and conventional traffic safety messages that emphasize danger rather than safety.”
Many governments in other countries, even with very cold climates, focus attention on well-operating infrastructure of mass transit and protected bike lanes. Perhap, in the US, we fall short as mass attention falters when thinking outside the box of a countrywide addiction to the heavy automobile. Many well-developed countries choose mass transit as a way of life — even if they are wealthy and can afford a car. Prime examples that come to mind are Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
Litman addresses and breaks through the fallacy of crime linked to transit with a multitude of well-researched sources including FBI data. As far as the danger of leaving an area of transit, he acknowledges and notes,“The greatest risks occur when passengers walk and wait in isolated areas, but these risks are no greater than what motorists encounter walking to and from isolated parking lots,” he writes.
Why is it the media do not point out the safety of bus and rail? This is a key issue that Litman addresses.
Media sensationalism preys on irrational fear. Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog advises that we bear the above chart in mind, “the next time a high-profile train crash generates more press coverage than a year’s worth of car wrecks.” Considering another widespread fear — terrorism — Litman reports that 360 times more people are killed in auto collisions than in acts or real experiences of terrorism, and that’s internationally. Litman calls it time to break free of misinformation due to inaccurate media persuasion.
One does not understand the taste or experience of a pure fresh fruit from the vine or tree if only eating only a processed imitation. Perhaps it is the same in enjoying a different lifestyle of travel. Check out this short film of a world-class transit metropolis, a city where cars are not welcome. Norman Garrick alludes to his joy of living in a mostly car-less city after spending two years in Zürich, Switzerland: “You have to really live it to appreciate it.”
Another grateful traveler in the film points out: “Part of the really cool things about living in Switzerland, especially in Zürich, you get a sense that the government really wants to do good things for the population.”
The media and our government need to pay attention to this film and mature their information and support. There could be more support for the comfort and safety of mass transit.
Unfortunately, the US is behind in a number of regards here. An earlier CleanTechnica post informs us that US tax code rewards automobile use, not mass transit or bicycling. So many countries are ahead of the US in understanding the viability, enjoyment, and practicality of mass transit — not to mention the value of sustainability for the planet. We must catch up and realize that public transportation & mass transit are keys to smart cities.
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