Challenge 4: Public Transport

Green Bus. Source: will perhaps be slightly more of a challenge than the first three, but it still won’t be that difficult.

When you drive yourself somewhere when there is a public transit option available, you waste fuel. If you are the only one in the car, you waste even more!

How often do you catch the bus, train, or any other form of public transport?

  • Never: Possibly the most difficult part of this challenge for you will be discovering the routes and schedules.
  • Sometimes: Your challenge is to use public transit more often than you do already.
  • Always: Great! Your challenge is to spread the word, and encourage others to ride the bus with you.

Can I really make a difference?

Yes! The more people that travel in any given vehicle, the lower the fuel used–and carbon dioxide emitted–per person. This can be seen in the chart below, which also shows that public transportation options generally have less carbon dioxide emissions than cars.

Carbon emissions per passenger over a fixed distance decrease as the number of passengers per vehicle increases. * For the car, average occupancy here is one person, and full is four people. I have seen values of 1.2 people per car as an average, and you can certainly fit 5 or more people in most cars, but data was not provided for that in the source. Source of data:
Carbon emissions per passenger over a fixed distance decrease as the number of passengers per vehicle increases.
* For the car, average occupancy here is one person, and full is four people. I have seen values of 1.2 people per car as an average, and you can certainly fit 5 or more people in most cars, but data was not provided for that in the source.
Source of data:

The US Federal Transit Administration estimates that for one person with a 10 mile (16 km) commute each way, making a switch to public transportation saves 4,627 pounds (2,100 kg) of CO2 per year–more than an 8% reduction in an average annual household carbon footprint (Source).

Taking public transport also reduces congestion on the road. This famous old photo “infographic” (below) shows the space taken up on the road to transport 72 people by car (1,000 m2), bus (30 m2), and bicycle (90 m2).

72 people take up 33 times the road space in cars than they would in a bus. Source: Bicycling in Muenster, Germany.  Disclaimer: I believe this image is in the public domain since it was produced by a local government, please let me know if this is not the case.

You may even gain some unexpected side benefits: you can get some much-needed exercise walking to and from the bus stop, and your stress levels will be lower because you don’t have to battle traffic or weather conditions or fight for parking spaces.


It takes longer to get to my destination.

Sure, this is often the case since you have to wait for it to arrive at the bus stop or train station, and it stops more often along the way. But the journey can actually save you time if used in the right way. When you drive, you have to focus on the road. But when you’re sitting on public transport, you can catch up on emails, listen to podcasts, read a book, watch TV shows or online video lectures, talk to a friend, meditate, or sleep. This means that you gain the time that you would have normally spent doing these activities.

I don’t know the routes/schedules.

Follow the steps below and this problem is solved!

It costs me more to ride the bus.

Are you sure? Have you included parking the cost per km/mile of maintaining your vehicle on top of the cost of fuel? And parking fees?

Driving an average-sized sedan costs 59.2 cents per mile.*

*Cost in US Dollar for average-sized sedan that drives 15,000 miles a year. Includes fuel; maintenance; tires; insurance; licence, registration, and taxes; depreciation; and finance. Source: AAA, Your Driving Costs 2014.

Multi-trip or monthly passes also offer trips at a discounted rate, and often cheaper rates are available for students, seniors, and those on social benefits.

There’s no bus stop or train station near my house or destination.

This obstacle may or may not have a solution. Many larger cities offer “park and ride” lots–transit hubs which you can park your car at all day for free. Another option is van or car pools which will pick you up from your house and drop you off where you want to go. Alternatively, find a friend who lives near a bus stop and doesn’t mind you parking your car in their driveway during the day.

There are no public transportation services where I live.

This is a true hindrance. If there are not enough people in your area to support a public transportation service, then your best option is to carpool where possible, and take public transport whenever you go to the city. If there are enough people where you live, gather together those around you and lobby for a bus route.

Okay, you’ve convinced me. What do I do?

  1. Find out which routes run in your area.
  2. Get hold of the schedules and route maps.
  3. Put the route maps and schedules somewhere handy.
  4. When you need to go somewhere, look at the information that you have gathered and see if you can take public transit instead of driving.
  5. Go out and catch the bus or train!

Sounds Easy. But How can I find the routes and schedules?

The routes and schedules are easier to source in some places than others. Try looking in these places:

  • Google Maps has a transit option when you’re searching for directions. It has the scheduled times embedded, and you can search by departure time or arrival time. This is not available in my current city, but has had at least some of the routes in all other cities that I have lived in.
  • The information booth at the central bus terminal in your town will likely have printed brochures with the maps and routes.
  • Tourist information offices sometimes have the same brochures.
  • City websites may have a link to their public transit website.
  • Websites for the public transport provider(s) to a city.
  • Bus stops often have bus numbers printed on them. Try inserting these into your search engine of choice along with your city name to find out where they go and when.
  • People waiting at a bus stop are another good source.
  • If all of the above fail, get on the first bus that pulls up and ride it to the end to see where it goes, or get off when it starts going in a direction that you don’t want to go. This method works best when you are somewhere with frequent service, and earlier in the day so that you can make sure that you can make it back before service ends for the day.

Bonus Tips

By RailRider (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tack your public transport routes and schedules to the wall near your front door so that you can check it easily as you are getting ready to leave.

If you can get a digital version of the maps and schedules, save them to your smart phone to read offline so you always have them when you need them.

The destination name is often the final destination on the line, so use this to quickly help you figure out which line the vehicle is and the direction it is going in.

Finding out the bus and train routes is more of an adventure when you don’t read or speak the language well. You are in luck if they use numbers, because you can rely on these instead of trying to read the place names before the bus in front of you departs again. If not, tell others at the bus stop where you want to go and ask for their help in choosing the right bus. More often than not I’ve found this method to be successful.


Get involved in your local community. Lobby for more public transportation services where you live, and help make the information on bus and train services easier for the general public to find and understand.

Share this and future challenges with others in your household. Let them know of your intention to take part and encourage them to take part. If you need to, set up some consequence (e.g. clean the toilet, wash the dishes, take the trash out) for each time you slip up.

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Challenge 4: Public Transport

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