Public Transit Saves Lives … A Lot of Lives

Published on September 30th, 2016 | by

How long since you passed a sad traffic accident? Consider this: A person is 10 times safer taking public transportation for a commute than driving. You are 90% safer if you take public transportation (for commutes). The finding comes from a new study by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The study, The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation, builds on many other such studies.

Communities that use mass transit enjoy less tragedy. They have about 20% the per capita traffic casualty rate (fatalities and injuries) compared to communities primarily using automobiles. People who do not use public transit still benefit, of course.

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“It is time we employ public transit as a traffic safety tool because it can dramatically reduce the crash risk for individuals as well as a community,” said APTA Acting CEO and President Richard White. “While no mode of travel is risk free, the safety of public transit is striking when observing the number of fatalities that are a result of auto crashes.”

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Crash risk is cut in half with more public transit, with fewer auto miles traveled and safer speeds in such communities, according to the findings.

Todd Litman, director of the Vitoria Transportation Policy Institute and a contributor to the report, notes recent data released by the US Department of Transportation: 35,092 fatalities as a result of auto accidents in 2015, an increase of 7.2% from 2014, which was the largest increase since 1966.

“While APTA officials note that even one death is one too many, the small number of fatalities related to public transit travel pale in comparisons to the tens of thousands of lives lost on our roadways every year.”

The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation

Fact Sheet

  • The Problem

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 35,092 fatalities as a result of auto crashes in 2015.
    That is an increase of 7.2 percent from 2014, the greatest increase in deaths in 50 years.

  • The Solution

    Public transportation is a safer way to travel than auto for an individual.

  • A person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90 percent
    simply by taking public transit as oppose to commuting by car.
    Traveling by public transportation is ten times safer per mile than traveling by auto.

    Transit-oriented communities are safer than automobile-oriented communities.

  • Transit-oriented communities are five times safer because they have a fifth the per capita
    traffic safety casualty rate (fatalities and injuries) as automobile-oriented communities.
  • Public transportation allows more efficient development, reducing the length of car trips
    and encouraging safer speeds.
  • Cities that average more than 50 annual transit trips per capita have about half the
    average traffic fatality rates as cities where residents average fewer than 20 annual trips.
  • Americans average about 1,350 annual trips on all modes. An increase from less than 20
    to more than 50 annual transit trips represents a small increase in transit mode share, from
    about 1.5 percent up to about 4 percent.
  • Americans would need to only increase their transit mode share of fewer than 3 trips a
    month per person.

Public transportation can help address high-risk and vulnerable driver groups.

  • Efforts to reduce higher-risk driving, such as graduated licenses for teens, senior driving
    testing, and impaired and distracted driving campaigns, become more effective if
    implemented in conjunction with public transit improvements.
  • Urban teens, for instance, take five times as many public transit trips and drive half as
    much and have about half the per capita auto death rate.
    Traffic Fatalities Versus Transit Ridership for U.S. Urban Region

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This graph illustrates the relationship between per capita transit ridership and total (including pedestrian, cyclist, automobile occupant and transit passenger) traffic fatalities for 101 U.S. cities. As transit travel increases, per capita traffic fatality rates tend to decline. Cities, where residents average more than 50 annual transit trips, have about half the average traffic fatality rates as cities where residents average fewer than 20 annual transit trips. Public transit passengers have far lower traffic casualty rates 

Appreciation to Todd Litman, APTA, and all contributors for this life-saving information.

Remember to vote for funding for quality public transportation in November. Get out, walk, travel by train, bicycle, and take the bus. Enjoy the sights from outside of a car.

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