It goes without saying that public transit is very near and dear to our hearts at the PART Agency. While it’s not our only activity managed here at PART, it takes up a large portion of our efforts and attention. For many who use our PART Express bus routes or Vanpool program on a daily basis, we are an integral connection to other parts of the Piedmont Triad community. Many of these riders understand the benefit that public transit can play in our lives because they live that reality every day.
But for people who have never utilized PART services, or any other public transportation service; they may struggle to recognize the benefits of a public transit system that doesn’t directly impact their lives. More specifically, when the issue of using federal, state and local funds (i.e. your tax dollars) comes into question.
So in order to expand the knowledge of how important and beneficial public transit can be for a community like the Piedmont Triad, we’ll start by breaking the equation down into two key parts: 1) the financial benefits to riders, and 2) the short and long-term economic impacts on the region as a whole.
Using PART can result in any number of savings for our riders. To begin, there is the amount of money you save on fuel costs even if you only take the bus once or twice a week — especially for longer distance commuters. We have been fortunate to enjoy lower gas prices in the past few years, but there is no control in managing the price of fuel at a global level, or how long those prices will remain low. Based on AAA statistics it cost 46.4 – 61 cents per mile to operate your personal vehicle. Compare that to the cost of a single ride bus fare, and you can immediately see the cost savings.
Public transit allows you to greatly reduce the overall wear-and-tear on your vehicle. Driving an automobile daily can exert quite a toll on your vehicle. When you use public transit to take daily work trips, you are extending the overall life of your vehicle, as well as increasing the length of time between oil changes, repairs, and needed tires.
Another recurring cost that is usually overlooked is the price for insurance premiums and parking fees. And though many of these costs may seem nominal, when taken as a whole, you are likely spending more on your daily commute using a car than you might think. (Want to find out just how much? Check out our free Commute Calculator to see exactly how much you could be saving by using PART Express or Vanpool.)
So this much is clear: riding public transit can save you money. And most people like to save money. But how does that benefit the economy at large?
Simply put, every dollar saved by a public transit rider is another dollar that can be put back into the economy. This sets in motion what our Executive Director Scott Rhine refers to as “economic cycle”:
“The economy — whether that’s here in the Triad, statewide or nationally — is stronger when a dollar has more opportunities to cycle between businesses,” he says. “As a society we strive to become financially stable, and with every new opportunity to save money; our savings open up new ventures on how we spend money. Call it the vacation we have only dreamed of, or becoming a homeowner versus home renter. The money we can save by utilizing public transit yields an economic benefit for the cycle of our dollars we now spend for what was not there before.” Rhine explains.
This reality underscores the notion that even people who don’t ride public transit benefit from the service. The savings it generates for its riders mean there is more money to be put into other businesses, and all of society can feel the effect of the overall yield in savings.
The connection between public transit investments and their economic benefits is so strong in fact, that a study by the American Public Transportation Association found that for every $1 spent on public transit, there are approximately $4 generated in economic returns.
In addition to the economic benefits, there are also health benefits not to be overlooked. In 2018, PART helped remove around 1,900 cars a day from our roadways; which equates to over 20 Million miles of single occupancy travel in our region. Helping to reduce congestion, and the traffic congestion frustration we all experience.
Improvements in our local air quality are also a huge benefit of public transportation. Studies have shown that bus systems like PART Express “emit only 20% as much carbon monoxide per passenger mile as compared to a single-occupant auto.” Those reductions can go a long way towards reducing illnesses associated with polluted airways, such as chronic bronchitis, increased asthma complications and more.
For both riders and non-riders alike, the benefits of a robust public transportation system can do wonders for our collective lives. From the economic benefits both big and small, down to improved mental and physical health and better, less polluted roadways, public transit isn’t just about moving people from one location to the next. It’s a vital piece of a larger mobility network, and the more we invest into it, the greater our communities will be.
PART has been connecting communities in the Piedmont Triad since September of 2002. For the past 17 years we’ve been dedicated to serving the community with quality transportation that enhances our region. Visit our About Us section to learn more about PART and our history. We would invite you to join our email list to keep up with What’s Happening at PART, simply email [email protected] to join.