A Bold New Narrative for Transit?

Quickly, when you think of “public transit”, what’s the first word that comes to mind? It might be affordable, or green, or slow, or crowded… but maybe it should be safe.

According to a new paper published by Todd Litman at the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, traveling by transit is nine times safer than traveling by car – but the benefits don’t stoli>there. Find out more about how public transit makes communities safer after the break.

There has been solid evidence that public transit is the safest way to travel for some time. Your likelihood of being injured while on a bus or train is much lower than while using any other form of transportation.

image courtesy of UBC’s Cycling in Cities program

But what Litman discovered in researching transit safety is that communities with overall high rates of transit ridership have much safer roads than those with comparatively high levels of driving. Cities where people take an average of 50 trips by transit per year have about half the number of traffic-related fatalities than those in which people take less than 20 trips per year.

Considering the average North American makes about 1,350 trips each year, that means that a relatively modest increase in a community’s transit use – from 1.5% to 4% mode share – will result in a 50% reduction in traffic-related deaths. Litman does a great job of explaining how and why this happens in his article “A New Transit Safety Narrative”, recently published in the Journal of Public Transportation and available to download on the VPTI website. It’s worth a read.

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