How Public Transportation Leads to Less Pollution

By Natasha Petrenko and Gianni Hrobowski

Katie Polanski is a sophomore at DePaul University who lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. 

She takes the Red Line and the No. 5 bus seven times a week to get to classes and run errands. Public transportation is a big help for those like Polanski who may not have a car or just avoid driving in the city.

“Parking is hard to find in Lincoln Park and buses and train will get you pretty much anywhere you wanna go,” Polanski said. 

Polanski is one of 3 million people in the greater Chicago area who use public transportation to get to work, school or just have fun. In doing so, it reduces the number of cars on the road and, as a result, pollution.

According to the Federal Transit Administration, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation. It also states that trains produce 62% less and the bus produces 33% less when compared to cars

Kate Yoshida who works in the Office of Sustainability at The University of Illinois at Chicago stated, “We are in a non compliant zone here in Chicago for a certain size of particulate matter and those are triggers for asthma and other respiratory diseases so anything we can do to reduce diesel emission will help people breathe.”

Ryan Reyes, a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, lives in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and takes public transportation everyday to commute to school and work. During his commute, he rides his bike to save time and gets on the Red Line. 

“Being without a car in the city makes it harder to get to places quicker, but with the CTA it helps a lot,” Reyes stated. 

Reyes said, “The CTA helps me a lot and gets me to my destinations faster. If I had to walk everywhere in the winter it would be a pain.” 

The Chicago Public Authority that has been providing Chicagoans rides on trains and buses since 1947. Another form of public transportation are the Divvy Bikes, which were introduced in the summer of 2013. 

Both companies are great ways to start creating a more sustainable city. This is not something that could be easily fixed but if Chicagoans narrow their focus down to neighborhoods within the city then progress can be made in making Chicago more sustainable. 

Lincoln Park is a well known neighborhood in Chicago that offers all three options. It includes the Armitage and North and Clybourn CTA red line stops, the Fullerton and Sheffield CTA bus stops and a handful of Divvy Bike Stations. 

The Numbers

The Community Data Snapshot, Lincoln Park from June 2019 provides data from surveys that have been taken from 2013 until 2017. According to the study, 40,668 residents that commute to work, 18,874 who use transit, and 4,118 who either bike or walk. These numbers seem great however, 14,662 still drive alone and 1,736 carpool on a daily basis. 

The Community Data Snapshot also provides statistics on the methods that Chicago use as a whole. There are 1,228,651 total commuters, 363,149 who use transit, and 107,662 that walk or bike. There are still 633,387 commuters who drive alone and 101,904 that carpool. 

More individuals, especially those near many transit options, such as in Lincoln Park, should utilize other forms of transportation instead of driving to help improve the environment. In addition, the amount of traffic would also be reduced in the city overall.

 

Buses and trains are a lot more efficient cars, according to Dr. P.s. Sriraj, the Director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

He explained that there are about 40 seats per bus and if we know how many riders there are per car, which he said is about 1.2 then we can calculate to see how many cars are not in use just from buses alone. 

“When buses are operating in mixed traffic,” said Sriraj, “they are stopping and going, there’s a stop on every block, every stop and start comes with more pollution, and that’s then the same thing you will find in the cars.” 

Sriraj explained that it would not be a good idea to create more bus stops due to all the pollution that is emitted when stopping.  

Sriraj added that El trains are a cleaner option than buses because they are electric. 

“Even with all of that the CTA bus system coupled with the train system will be far better to the environment than having that many cars on the street,” he said.

Applying this calculation to Lincoln Park provides more specific insight. There are around 18,874 individuals who use transit, after dividing that number by 1.2 the number of cars that are not on the streets is about 15,728.

Edward Bury, who works with Sriraj, said that programs such as Divvy allow many individuals to get to a destination where a bus or train may not be able to get to. This is called the last mile and transportation methods such as Divvy Bikes allow many more individuals get to where they need to go.  

In addition, Bury mentioned that the city as a whole is trying to make biking safer by installing bump-outs in the street to prevent vehicles from making sharp turns. 

Another good reason to utilize forms of public transportation, especially in Lincoln Park where there are a handful of stations there and in surrounding neighborhoods.

Photo by Natasha Petrenko

Kate Yoshida who was mentioned previously provided good information on how people in the community can get involved and improve how the environment is in our interview.

If you live in the Lincoln Park area and want to start helping the first step is to be aware of the harm that goes on in the environment and let others know about it. Being self aware and having the ability to spread the message to others is a way the problems can get fixed. 

“We need to not see easy solutions as a solution because at some point we need to come to terms with the harm that’s been done,” said Yoshida.

This statement states that people are looking for an easy solution to fix problems that have been going on for many years. The things wrong in our society can’t be fixed overnight and will take a lot of work to rebuild. 

“Start by looking at the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and how we get from place to place. Those are all parts of sustainability,” she said.

Photo by Gianni Hrobowski

 

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