We’re in a dark moment for public transportation, and for what we think of as normal life in general. As COVID-19 tightens its global grip and squeezes the air out of all of us, it’s hard to see the path ahead for public transportation. There are just so many obstacles to overcome before we can return to anything resembling the everyday habits and routines that used to fill our country’s buses and trains.
And yet, when we consider two of transit’s biggest benefits – a healthier environment and improved quality of life – it becomes clear that we’ve been offered, in this moment of stillness, a beautifully illustrated reminder of how public transportation can contribute to tomorrow’s “new normal” in a truly meaningful way. I’m here to argue that not only do we need to return to previous investments in public transportation, but that we need to take this time to examine the outcomes and double down.
So what outcomes are we seeing right now? Far fewer people are driving their cars, and our atmosphere is quickly responding. For many typically congested and polluted cities around the world, air is suddenly clean and breathable – offering us an incredible vision of what we can all aspire to when we focus on environmentally responsible transportation options.
My beloved Venice, for the first time that just about anyone alive can remember, hosts lively fish in these canals that we can now see so clearly. I would never have wished for these circumstances, but what a treasure to uncover in this most unusual moment.
These environmental improvements can do more than simply give us pretty pictures to look at. When the world around us gets healthier, we can too, spending less of our lives responding to avoidable health challenges that arise from greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
And what about all the time we used to spend sitting in, and contributing to, traffic congestion? With so many of us skipping our daily commutes right now, we have an amazing opportunity to think about the true value of our time. How much more of it do you have in your days now that rush hour isn’t part of the equation? Are you using this time to be more productive working from home, or cleaning out your closets (or maybe binge-watching every last show in your queue)?
Perhaps more important than what you do with your time is who you spend your time with. And being forced to stay home right now – either with the ones you care about most, or apart from them – gives us plenty of time to think about how we want to stay connected to others when the current crisis finally passes. We can choose new ways to maintain relationships with loved ones. We can reconfigure our lives to spend more time with them. And spending less time commuting can be a big part of that.
To be sure, transportation is just one aspect of our pre-pandemic lives that could use improving. It accounts for just under a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and people have found plenty of other ways to waste their time. But in the midst of this explosive international crisis, we’ve been given something special – a moment of pause to reflect on how things could be different, fully illustrated by nature for us to absorb.
I am grateful to lead a team of talented communicators who understand that there are robust challenges ahead, and who are ready to tackle them head on. As circumstances change, we’re changing with them, meeting today’s immediate needs, preparing to help get our communities back on track tomorrow, and building enthusiasm for the exciting task of improving all of our lives in a lasting and meaningful way.
Featured Image: LA Metro Bus. Photo by LA Metro via The Source