Commuting a Better Way

by Dennis Machicao

To many in this country, public transportation is something that one doesn’t think of taking or rarely sees on the streets of their community. Take Los Angels, Dallas, Houston and the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami area of Florida to name a few cities that almost totally depend on the automobile as a means of transportation. Buses, subways and railroads are just not that efficient or nonexistent in spread out cities such as these. But for those of us that live in densely populated cities like Chicago and New York, this way of going from point A to point B is a very necessary way of commuting.

Public transportation, in itself, is a green way of moving people and taking cars off the roads. But this means of travel had to also be improved in diminishing its polluting ways and making it a more green way of transporting large numbers of people. Gone are the smoke spewing buses that inched their way through the streets of New York, Chicago and other metropolis.

In the old days the answer to gas driven street level public transportation were the electric trolleys that ran on rails and were connected to an overhead electrified cable or buses that did not run on rails but were also electrified from an above cable. As cities grew and became more populated and dense, these means of transportation became cumbersome and not efficient for traffic flow. In came the gas driven bus, but their exhaust after many years crawling through the city streets proved detrimental to the environment.

As the automobiles of today have technologically improved engines, so have the buses in our cities. They now can run on hydrogen or on totally electric motors. In 2009 New York City introduced an electric bus that uses a turbine engine to recharge a lithium-ion battery. These hybrid buses are quieter and less polluting. One such bus is the Orion V11 manufactured by DaimlerChrysler that is a hybrid diesel vehicle that runs on diesel and battery power.

These hybrid buses reduce nitrogen/oxygen compounds by 40 percent and greenhouse gases by 30 percent according to cnet News.

If you walk around New York or any large metropolis, you will see them on the streets due mainly to an initiative by past and current city governments to replace old polluting buses and make public transportation above ground more environmentally friendly.

Another form of street public transportation in New York and other cities are taxis. The New York Green Taxis Act of 2011 will change the type of vehicle that can be used as a taxi and limousine in the streets of New York. They have to be more fuel-efficient and less polluting. There are already fleets of limousines that are 100 percent hybrid. Not only do they help the environment but also save the limo companies by using less fuel in their cars.

Of course the U.S. is not the only country that has invested in green public transportation.  South Korea, in December of 2010, introduced the world’s first all electric commercial bus service. The distinctive double-decker buses of London have also gone through a transformation that uses green hybrid technology, making them run quieter, that will be 15% more fuel efficient than existing hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel double-deckers.

They somehow left off Tokyo, but here is Environmental Graffiti’s list of the 5 best mass transit systems in the world:

5. Chicago – The huge Chicago Transit Authority covers the Windy City as well as 40 suburbs and operates 24 hours a day, moving 1.6 Million people daily. With over 144 stations for the elevated train, not much of the city is out of range for the famed “el.” There are even commuter rail spurs that go as far away as South Bend, Indiana.

4. Paris – The Paris Metro boasts being both the second-most heavily trafficked subway system in the world, carrying 4.5 Million people every day, and having more stations closer to one another than any other system – 245 stations in 41 square kilometers.

3. London – London, which features the oldest subway system in the world, moves 3.4 million people every day on the tube alone, but that’s only part of the story. Transport for London, the comprehensive system administered from the mayor’s office, operates light and commuter rail and buses, and offers comprehensive trip and traffic information in real-time on their website. Traveling on the tube is not a particularly pleasant experience, but is by far the most efficient way to get round.

2. New York – One in every three mass transit users in the entire United States, uses the New York system or if you like, 4.5 Million people a day. They’re so effective as a matter of fact, that New York is the only city in the U.S. where more than half of the households don’t own a car. Up to 75% of the population of Manhattan is without four-wheeled transport.

1. Hong Kong – For sheer volume, Hong Kong is the most effective system in the world: 90% of all traveling is done by mass transit. The 7 million daily riders have access to something known as an “octopus card” which is accepted as currency not just to move them around the city, but also at parking meters, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants.

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