Over the past few months, this series has explored the quantitative reasons why public transportation benefits communities. We looked at the reduction in traffic volumes and daily miles driven, the economic development impacts from enhanced transit service, and the benefits to air quality and the environment. In the final part of the series, we will explore how public transportation can increase the quality of life for those living in the Central Oklahoma region.
Reducing traffic makes great economic sense. Fewer cars on the road mean less taxpayer money that is spent on road improvements, less money spent on gas, and a myriad of other issues that cost us money. Sitting in traffic during a commute takes extra time and adds incredible amounts of stress to our lives. Those extra minutes add up each day and can amount to a significant number of hours each year. As an example, if a driver’s commute is delayed by 15 minutes each way due to traffic, they will spend an extra 130 hours (5.5 days) per year in their car. With a quality public transportation system, riders can get some of that time back and reduce stress, by either working during their commute or bypassing the traffic altogether.
Increased economic development from transit oriented development (TOD), especially in Oklahoma where sales taxes fund cities, is another reason why public transportation benefits everyone. Increased funds from sales taxes can be used for improving transit, new parks, increased public safety, and many other types of public investment. Well-designed transit oriented development increases the quality of life and offers residents a compact, walkable neighborhood, the ability to drive less, a large number of activities within walking distance, and the excitement of an interesting and active community. Studies have shown that people who live in walkable, active communities are much happier than those who have to drive everywhere because of the increase in “social capital”, such as socializing with friends, higher civic engagement, trust in their community, and the ability to walk places.
Finally, public transportation expands opportunities and transportation choices. This benefits not only the residents of the city but also those who are here to visit. Being able to explore a city without a car is becoming a huge draw to travelers today. Tourists look to public transportation to save them money on parking and car rental fees, as well as not having to navigate a new city by car. If Oklahoma City wants to be a true “Big League City”, easy and reliable public transportation is a requirement.
The expanded transportation choices do not stop for those visiting a city. Quality public transportation is a great benefit not only to those who don’t have access to a car, but also their employers. With reliable and frequent transit, they don’t have to worry about an employee showing up late because of a delayed bus or train. Public transit increases the transportation choices of those who have cars as well. Not only does a car owner have the choice of riding the bus or train whenever they want, but can also take transit if they are unable to drive. Someone with their car in the shop can still get to work, on time, with the use of public transportation. Transit offers residents the ability to traverse the city without the use of a car.
The quality of life in Central Oklahoma has increased significantly in the last few years. Oklahomans have access to world class sporting events, jobs, food, universities, and events, and there is only more to come. With great public transit, everyone in the region, with or without a car, will have access to these amenities. Supporting transportation initiatives will increase the quality of life of everyone in the entire region.