The Top 5: Reasons Why Public Transport Offers the Fastest Decarbonisation Solution for Transportation

Highlights :

  • Public transport has a direct impact on a community’s sustainability goals, such as reducing existing traffic congestion, providing low-carbon fuel options, energy efficiency, universal accessibility, etc.
The Top 5: Reasons Why Public Transport Offers the Fastest Decarbonisation Solution for Transportation

Owing to the increasing private vehicle fleet, Indian cities are suffering from the twin problems of road congestion and emissions. While the story of vehicular emissions is well known, the situation isn’t good in terms of traffic congestion either. For instance, the optimal travel time for a 10 km trip is around 16 and a half minutes in the Indian city of Bengaluru – the second slowest in the world. Improved public transport has the potential to not just reduce congestion, by making private transport less attractive than public, but it also offers the fastest decarbonisation solution for the Transportation sector.

Public transport already has an upper hand when it comes to fares for a ride. However, the sorry state of public transport due to compromise on quality and safety parameters make them less attractive than the flexible commute offered by private vehicles.

Transportation has perhaps the most direct impact on a community’s sustainability goals. Providing people with alternative transportation options to private, combustion-engine vehicles, can mitigate the root causes of climate change – the emissions. Here are the top 5 reasons, why!

#1 Reduced Car Usage

Better public transport can reduce the number of cars on the road, which reduces emissions from the transportation sector. Making public transport more convenient and affordable than driving will make people more likely to use public transport, which can significantly reduce emissions.

Private vehicles, especially cars, take up a lot of space on road. Consider just how much space 30 individuals travel by their cars take, compared to the same 30 people travelling on a single bus. While some may argue that a bus takes up twice the space of a car, it must be noted that it can carry 20 times as many people. The traditional methods of diverting traffic or finding ways of making driving more convenient aren’t solutions to the problem. These only encourage private car use, creating an endless loop.

#2 Low-carbon Fuel Options

Transitioning public transport to low-carbon fuels, such as electricity or biofuels, can significantly reduce emissions and contribute to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Buses and trains, in particular, are well-suited for adopting these sustainable fuels, as they often operate on fixed routes and can make use of dedicated infrastructure.

Electricity is a clean and renewable energy source that can power electric buses and trains. Electric buses are becoming increasingly popular in many cities around the world, as they produce zero tailpipe emissions, have lower operational costs, and can be charged using renewable energy sources, further reducing their carbon footprint. The mindless growth of private transport without improving public transport led to a needless increase in vehicular pollution.

#3 Energy Efficient

Compared to individual cars, public transport options like buses and trains can transport many people using a single vehicle, resulting in lower per-passenger fuel consumption. This makes public transport a more energy-efficient choice, as it can accommodate a significantly higher number of commuters compared to individual cars, which have limited seating capacity. In addition, less people using public transport means less number of vehicles on ignition during intermittent stoppages, like traffic signals. This would help reduce considerable emissions.

Railway transport is one of the most energy-efficient transport modes. Further, urban rail networks, such as metro and light rail, can have significantly lower emissions than other motorised urban transport modes, especially private cars.

#4 Encourages Sustainable Behavior

Convenient and accessible public transport can play a crucial role in encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices, such as walking, cycling, or using public transport instead of driving. By providing reliable, affordable, and well-connected public transport options, cities and communities can reduce dependence on private cars, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.

The majority of the population may go for economic and comfortable public commutes instead of self-driven, yet costly, private vehicles. The only obstruction is the customer experience. The improvement in public transport may have a domino effect on sustainability in other areas of livelihood.

#5 Accessible to everyone

Last but not least, public transport is increasingly being made accessible to everyone, regardless of income or mobility. It includes people with disabilities or limited mobility, which can promote inclusivity and reduce disparities in transportation choices, leading to a more sustainable travel behaviour of the mass. In India, rural penetration is still lagging. An improvement in the public transport system will help develop last-mile connectivity that is still missing.

Furthermore, women are amongst the biggest users of public transport across Indian cities. The World Bank estimates that about 84 per cent of trips taken by women for work were by the public, intermediate-public, and non-motorised transport. However, these  services are not traditionally designed considering women’s safety and their travel-specific needs and can be improved making them a first choice even for the well-off.


The transportation sector in India is a significant contributor to emissions, accounting for approximately 14 per cent of energy-related direct CO2 emissions. Among the various modes of transportation, road transport has the highest share of overall emissions. To achieve the global goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the transportation industry must reduce its CO2 emissions by around 3 per cent annually by 2030, as recommended by an IEA report. Embracing technological advancements such as electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen combustion engines could potentially replace conventional fossil fuel-based vehicles. In addition, improving public transportation systems and integrating these technological innovations can offer a rapid decarbonization solution for transportation while also reducing the number of vehicles on the road.

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Junaid Shah

Junaid holds a Master of Engineering degree in Construction & Management. Being a civil engineering postgraduate and using his technical prowess, he has channeled his passion for writing in the environmental niche.