Public transit is a frequent mode of transportation used by college students, and Willamette students are no different. The Amtrak Train Station, located just across 13th St., and the Cherriots Bus Station, about a twelve-minute walk northwest of the campus, are both accessible options to students without cars, or to those travelling in large groups. Just as any mode of travel, public transit has its pros and cons and Willamette students can attest to both.
For students from the Pacific Northwest, the train is a convenient way to get home for the holidays or for a quick visit on the weekends. Throughout the year, Jade Macer (‘23) has used the Amtrak train to get home to Seattle: “I would definitely use it again. It was a long ride, but it was worth it to get home and it’s so convenient because it’s so close to campus.” Train ticket prices vary based on distance and how early they are booked. In Macer’s case, tickets were around $100, which is similar to the cost of a flight. However, the trip across the street to the station is much easier and less expensive than finding a way to PDX.
Sara Teigen (‘23) and Riley Cook (‘23) recently took a bus from the Amtrak Station down to Eugene for a concert and though they had a good experience, they also encountered a common issue surrounding public transit: “The bus was very clean and the trip length was about the same as a standard car, but the Amtrak Station closes earlier than we thought,” Teigen said. “So after the concert ended, we had to get a very, very expensive Uber back home.” Relying on public transit for trips, especially late-night trips, requires much more planning and preparation than driving a car but it comes with benefits.
While many enjoy the autonomy of their having their own car, there are considerable benefits to taking public transit. Environmentally, buses, trains, shuttles and light rails help to significantly reduce air pollution by decreasing the amount of separate trips that commuters and travellers make. According to the Federal Transit Administration, transportation like subways and metros produce an average of 76 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions per passenger per mile than a normal car. Light rail systems produce 62 percent less and buses produce 33 percent less. The air quality is increased further because traffic congestion is significantly reduced.In addition to improving air quality, public transit also supports land conservation through compact development. Railways and metro systems take considerably less space to build than freeways and roads, which not only reduces land use, but also decreases distances people need to travel from destination to destination. Moreover, the American Public Transportation System (APTA) states that America saves about 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year through decreasing the amount of individual transportation which also helps decrease transportation’s overall carbon footprint.
Economically, public transit is incredibly beneficial. For every dollar invested in the industry, $4 in economic returns is generated. With every $1 billion dollars in investments comes 50,000 jobs which are created and supported. APTA states that a $10 million investment generates a $32 million increase in business sales. Residential property values surrounding frequently used public transit station have “performed 42 percent better on average.”
Individuals who use public transportation can save an average of $9,823 per year in gas, parking prices and other expenses. Disability accommodations are also very common on public transit, so those who are unable to drive have much more mobility and freedom to travel. The Americans Disabilities Act (ADA) ensures that public transit has boarding information in enlarged words or braille, assistance equipment such as ramps and lifts, adequate boarding time, priority seating and accommodations for service animals.
Additionally, public transit is significantly safer than being in a car. Transit operators are trained much more extensively than the average driver and the vehicles are cared for and inspected more frequently than an individual’s car.
Lastly, public transit saves time. According to the U.S Department of Transportation, Americans as a whole spend about 84 billion hours driving per year. Instead of focusing on the road ahead, individuals who take public transit are free to read, work or study.
The benefits of public transit are extensive, though its convenience varies from user to user and also depends on the time of day. Availability and service hours must be taken into consideration when planning for trips, but the general consensus from Willamette students seems to be positive.