Opinion: The UK Should Increase Access to Public Transit

Imagine if there was a way to save yourself money. To lessen traffic on the streets of London. To decrease pollution and keep the air breathable. Well, there is a way. And it’s not too complex, either.

With the amount of people in the UK increasing by the day, the demand for transportation services is constantly on the rise. As such, road traffic has steadily increased. According to the Department for Transport, road traffic has increased by 25% over the past 15 years – a disheartening reaffirmation that the UK’s roads are not able to accommodate the constantly increasing demand, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Elevated levels of traffic also cause pollution, high fuel consumption, and road accidents, all of which have a cost on human and environmental health.

Public Transit isn’t just necessary to relieve traffic; it allows employment mobility to those who cannot afford to live within city centers like London – where land value is amongst the highest in the world. The London underground enables many people who cannot afford to live in the places they work to have access to employment and moreover, a source of income. It benefits many people and allows people from all walks of life to have freedom of movement, a vital attribution to social equality. However some still cannot afford to take the Tube to and from the place they work due to the fare required to enter the London Underground.

On the subject of traffic, the recent (and unfortunately frequent) Tube strikes in London also serve to show what traffic looks like without public transit, and speaking from personal experience – it was a nightmare. Getting a taxi from Shoreditch in east London to Soho (which usually takes about fifteen minutes), ended up taking an hour and a half… It wasn’t even rush hour! Noting the harsh toll on London’s traffic the Tube strikes caused, I realized how important public transit is for major metropolitan areas like London to thrive. Without the London underground, the city is frighteningly gridlocked. This is just an example of a far greater problem the UK faces if the country does not find a solution to the issue of its road traffic. It seems clear that the easiest way to relieve traffic is to give incentive to the citizens of the nation to take public transit and stop clogging the roads with privately owned cars and vehicles that service few but create problems for many. Public transit is cost efficient, abundantly available, and relatively quick in cities like London; which raises the question – why would anyone with access to efficient public transit want to move around any other way?

Another troubling issue caused by gridlock within urban centres like London is the decreased capacity for emergency vehicles to reach people who need their help. Fires grow, people have longer waits on their way to the hospital, and police have to navigate traffic instead of being able to stop crimes immediately. This costs the people of the UK because emergency response vehicles tend to health, law enforcement, security, and disaster prevention, all of which are threatened by slowing response times of vehicles stuck in traffic.

However, many high-earning Londoners would rather stay in the comfort and freedom of their own cars than deal with the public transit system. Despite taxation for those who drive their own cars within the city’s crowded streets, people who can afford the cost of driving in the city are unlikely to put their keys down any time soon. Moreover, commuters from around the country are also one of the many causes of traffic. Driving from the myriad of communities, towns, and cities throughout the country to work – commuters increase road traffic whilst going to and from the places they live and work. However, many have no choice in the matter. Those living in locations which public transit does not reach still need a form of transportation to get to and from the place they work, and if that place happens to be a city like London, there is little they can do to change the fact that their commute causes traffic.

The solution to this problem lies in extending the reach of public transit and giving incentives to those who choose to utilize public transit that outweigh the benefits of driving ones own vehicle. However, as simple as it is to say, “there should be more public transit,” one can’t simply wave a wand and expect that the government will increase the reach of transportation utilities. The Bureaucratic formalities of developing new transit lines and system extensions would take time, money, and effort; there is no doubt about that. Nevertheless, the reality of the situation is, traffic increases experienced in recent years are becoming unsustainable and dreadful for those who require transportation.

public transit benefit

This picture provides a simplification of the problem at hand. Except what isn’t pictured is what the roads look like when these 60 people take the Tube. If it were pictured, the 60 people taking the Tube would be beneath the street, not attributing to the traffic above at all.

By developing a more widespread and accessible network of railways to population centres throughout the country, the government would alleviate congestion and allow people to go throughout the country without clogging up the nation’s already heavily trafficked roads. This would decrease fuel consumption and pollution by giving an alternative to driving gas-guzzling automobiles. It would allow people who previously had no access to public transit to take the train instead of clogging the roads with their cars. Furthermore, tax reductions for people who carpool or choose not to drive, and increased taxation on those who choose to drive privately owned vehicles in congested areas – would increase public transit use and decrease traffic, fuel consumption, pollution, and car accidents, all of which would undeniably benefit the entirety of British Society.

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