Is Public Transport Still the Right Choice for You?

Can something be too good to be true? Overall, public transport is a force for good when it comes to the environment and urban convenience. For millions of people, transport networks have opened up countless opportunities due to their scheduled reliability and fast networking. Roads are less congested due to the shared spaces, and their cost-effectiveness is matched by their abundance. Rarely do we consider the drawbacks of public transport, but more often than not, they can have a significant impact on people's lives. For some, these apparent benefits are completely overshadowed by their unforeseen drawbacks.

If you are a frequent public transport user, it is worth considering these counterpoint points below. You might even find out that a more balanced lifestyle can come from mixing up your ways of getting around rather than just sticking to public transport.

The Unspoken Inconvenience of Public Transport

No matter how you handcraft your daily schedule to account for public transport’s slower travelling speeds, longer waiting times, and fixed travel paths, it’s never quite ideal. While this may be fine for some, those relying on the system must factor in a degree of uncertainty in their travels which is not ideal for high-pressure work environments, social meetings, or interviews. Even at the best of times, staff strikes, and route delays will always be lurking somewhere to throw a spanner in the works.

If this sounds familiar, it might be worth asking yourself - are the benefits of public transport truly outweighing its impact on my social and professional life? Let’s have a look at some stats to put things in perspective.

  • In Central London alone, public transport delays cost on average over £800 per working person per year!
  • The Office for National Statistics reveal that 417,000 working days were lost due to strike action in October 2022, the highest since 2011
  • It was found that those who depend more on bus networks are more likely to turn down employment due to transport limitations

This is not to diminish the benefits of public transport since they work like a treat in cities (usually), but to simply highlight whether you might be unknowingly getting the bad end of the stick. If your availability and reliability are the keys to getting that promotion at work or supporting those close to you, it might be worth looking back and considering whether public transport is supporting that goal or not.

A London bus in the winter
Woman sitting on a COVID-restricted bus

Public Transport Can Be ‘Too’ Communal for Some

For those lucky enough to end up with a public transport service that never falters and is conveniently aligned with your schedule, you may still struggle with the consequences of its communal areas. We can ignore the lack of privacy you get or your inability to transport more than a few bags of groceries because that’s something you must accept when boarding. The real problem which typically gets overlooked is the lack of on-board hygiene which can be dangerous to those who are vulnerable.       

A lack of hygiene in these communal areas becomes particularly worrying with global pandemics going around. To put things in perspective, a group back in 2015 wanted to get a better idea of what crawls around in trains. So, in a study, they took 1688 bacterial samples from railings, seating, and benches on the New York City subway trains. Of that sample, 31% of the bacteria could be dangerous towards injured or sick groups, while another 12% of the samples were found to be known pathogens, like anthrax. Uh oh…

The Public Transport Sector isn’t Always Growing

Public transport is undoubtedly the right direction to move in, but it sure hasn’t reached its utopia and still has a long way to go. UK public transport suffers acutely due to its lack of funding, overpriced fares, and unmistakable fickleness. Presently:

  • UK train fares are five times more expensive than many other EU countries
  • Rail fares in the UK have been annually increasing and it has been confirmed that they will increase again for 2023
  • Bus services are susceptible to cuts this coming year and historically, have been cut by a quarter in the last decade

So, what may be affordable now might not be in the future. Likewise, what may be convenient in an urban centre may not be elsewhere and rurally. The scale of benefits and drawbacks of public transport is sensitive and tips differently for each person. It’s important to recognise that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ system and you should consider your situation individually.

An overcrowded bus with a man standing up

For Many, Public Transport Shouldn’t be Your Only Option…

Public transportation is an incredibly useful service within the correct contexts, but sole reliance on the industry to go about your daily life may or will be costing more than you think. With this new information at hand, it is worthwhile considering what public transport costs you in terms of your health, personal/professional opportunities, freedom, and money. Alongside public transport, car-sharing, cycling, or learning to drive a used car will relieve some of the drawbacks which will save you more than you think in the long run.