By Natalie Sherman
During our time in D.C., we have been no stranger to public transportation. The Metro has become a daily routine, and the maps that used to be confusing now read like a book. Along with the Metro system, public bike rentals and Lyft scooters litter the streets. No matter what your preferred mode of transportation is, it is here. These forms of public transportation cut down on the necessity for individuals to own their own cars and drive privately, upping the number of vehicles burning fuel in the streets. These modes of transportation should be utilized and more accessible in more cities.
In Des Moines, Iowa, these public transportation options look different. While the DART bus is an option, I have never quite mastered its schedule enough to rely on it as my source of transportation, and the peers who have used it claim the schedule to be unreliable and difficult to navigate. Whether or not the DART bus is an optimal source of transportation, public transportation in Des Moines should be improved as the city grows so as to cut down on our carbon footprint.
Public transportation plays a valuable role in confronting environmental issues all over the world. It has many benefits, and I would like to discuss just a few of them. First, there is improved air quality. Public transportation can be beneficial by reducing overall vehicle emissions and the pollutants that create smog. Air quality is worst in the areas with large amounts of congested traffic, such as large or growing cities without viable public transit, and there are health risks associated with poor air quality. Rail transit, such as metros or trains, emit little to no pollution because they are powered by electricity. Public transit is a better option to many individuals taking multiple cars to the same areas of town and causing congestion.
Next, public transportation helps to eliminate greenhouse gas. Transportation accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Moving more people in fewer vehicles can cut down on this emissions, and national averages support this.
Public transit saves energy. A shared ride saves fuel and decreases the need for constructing more transportation infrastructure and extracting more fossils, meaning there are more energy savings and less environmental impacts. The congestion relief benefit also saves fuel, because cars in gridlock waste fuel and generate emissions. The transit department relies heavily on electricity rather than scarce resources. Public transit saves fuel, and although a transit vehicle may consume more energy than say a car, the average energy per passenger is much less.
Transit can also serve other benefits, like affordable mobility, congestion relief, and economic development.
All in all, Des Moines needs to up its game. As a growing city with a large number of people commuting to work regularly, Although DART bus and bike share is a great start, Des Moines is spread out, with many commuters who could easily be utilizing a shared ride on their way into the city. Des Moines needs to do more to provide reliable and inexpensive sources of public transportation. The benefits are clear, and big cities seem to have public transit down pat – Des Moines should take after this model so we can do our part to improve our environment.