Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash
The on-demand world we live in has had a major impact on the way goods are moved and transported to us. With companies like Amazon offering same-day delivery, goods have to be transported to consumers quickly and efficiently to ensure that these services are living up to their commitment to customers.
Since 1990, Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been reducing in growth in every economic sector except transportation and oil & gas. And this is primarily, because of the transportation of goods and services.
Although bad for the environment, the movement of these goods and services also have a significant impact on the way we travel and commute across our communities. Ever been stuck behind a couple freight trucks? We all know that frustrating feeling. Freight trucks take up a lot of room on our roads and highways, increasing congestion and reducing transportation times. And let’s not even get into how much oil these trucks use because right now we don’t have technology that enables trucks to run via any environmental-friendly fuel sources. Elon Musk has teased a Tesla truck in the near future, which could really be a game-changer in the industry.
I was at a networking event recently, where the keynote speaker was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and I was surprised to hear during her keynote that most transportation trucks that travel through our region are actually only half-filled to capacity. Which means we have way more trucks on the road than we should. The reasons for this are unknown to me but it’s almost the same issue as our single passenger vehicles, which have added to our congestion problem.
I’m not trying to wage a war against freight trucks because I’m a passionate online shopper and love my expedited shipping, but there has to be a better and efficient solution to balance the number of trucks on the road with the demand for moving goods. While Elon Musk’s Tesla truck may help reduce truck emissions it certainly won’t reduce the number of trucks on the road. The demand for the shipment of goods will just keep increasing as more people choose to shop online.
How do you feel about sacrificing your commute time for your Amazon same-day delivery? What are some ways we can help balance both these priorities?
Studies around Canada have shown that commute times are constantly increasing with more workers stuck in cars or vehicles than ever before. Yes that means you’re losing valuable time, but how does that affect our daily lives?
- Your waistline – Apparently, the more time you spend commuting, the more money you may have to spend on your wardrobe. A study of Germany industrial workers showed that long commuting time were directly proportional to workers’ waist circumferences. With more time stuck in a car, bus or train we’re moving around less. And we’ve all been bored enough on a long commute to pick up a snack or bring along a snack to entertain some of the boredom that may come along with the journey.
- Your relationships – Unless you’re commuting with people close to you, every minute spent commuting means less time spent interacting with the people that mean the most to you. A professor from Harvard, Robert Putnam, describes how every 10 minutes spent commuting has significant impacts on our social and community relations.
- Your happiness – The more time you spend travelling between work and home, the less your sense of well-being and happiness. A study from the University of Waterloo showed that people who spent the most time on the road experienced higher stress levels because of the feeling of constantly being hurried. We’ve all been there where we’re rushing back home to cook a meal or even just relax.
We all know the age-old saying ‘Time is Money’ but it looks like the time we spend commuting may have significant impact on our lives. Has your commute had an impact on your life? Would love to hear your story!
Uber app on smartphone (Pexels)
Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have been under heavy criticism in the past few years with municipalities around the world. Although these services have been around for a few years now, the lack of regulation and its threat to existing transportation systems and planning has worried many decision makers. I personally think that both these new kids on the block and public transit can learn a lot from each other and even complement each other, to make life easier for millions of daily commuters.
It’s hard to believe but some societies around the world still don’t have any public transit infrastructure and the car is seen as the only way of getting around. While this may not seem a big deal, this creates lots of barriers to society, especially for kids, young adults and those with disabilities who may not have the means to own a vehicle. Innisfil, a town in Ontario, Canada was under pressure from their residents to bring public transit to their town and after a study found that a single, limited bus line price was too steep. After exploring other options, they found a partner in Uber and are now using this innovative technology as their public transit within their town. Residents pay the base fees for the trip and the town pays the balance. Uber even helps drop people off to their nearest GO stops for $4, which is a great way to feed commuters into the regional transit system. This solution is such a great example of how different transportation systems can collaborate on reducing the number of cars on the road and move people more efficiently.
We live in a world where people want to be connected to more areas than ever before and the reality of public transit is that infrastructure is expensive to build and also takes time if you want to build it right. Governments around the world are spending billions of dollars to connect areas as quickly as possible but there’s still a void while these connections are built. Major municipalities like New York City, San Franciso and Chicago are now starting to partner with or create their own ridesharing services to help fill the void of transit. Ridesharing services have themselves been stepping up to fill in voids for transit users themselves. Earlier this year, Lyft matched the TTC’s fares of $3.25 for rides between any subway stations when Line 1 of the subway had to be closed for maintenance. While this may have boosted Lyft’s revenues and marketing, it also provided transit users with more options and more service so that they could continue to leave their vehicles at home. Now if only a ridesharing service could step up every time we have a subway closure! But that could well become a contingency plan for a lot of transit agencies when people are stranded due to issues that these agencies can’t really control.
Research has shown that ridesharing users are more likely to use public transit and own fewer cars. If ridesharing, born from the idea of carpooling, can help reduce our congested highways and roads then these services should be more than welcomed into our transportation networks. I strongly believe that these services play an important role in moving people, especially at night when transit services are limited and people may be intoxicated and wanting to get to their destinations.
Do you use ridesharing services? What do you think of future partnerships between transit agencies and these services?
Wifi by PHD Comics
In 2 of my previous blog posts (Making Transit Sexy and 5 Tips To Make your Commuter Better), I mentioned GO Transit (regional transit in Ontario) beginning to pilot WiFi on trains and buses. I’ve had a few discussions with friends and family that thought WiFi on public transit didn’t matter. While for most people this may not seem a big deal, I think it will prove to be a game-changer in attracting more ridership and making transit an attractive option.
If you’re reading this from outside Canada you must be thinking, what’s the big deal about free WiFi on public transit when mobile data is widely available. In Canada, we pay some of the highest mobile data costs in the world with limited thresholds and high overage fees. I could write an entire post about the Canadian telecom industry but that’s outside the scope of this blog.
Bringing WiFi to trains and buses now gives riders an option to continue working on the go. Whether you’re still in school or even if you’re in the workforce and take transit, your average trip is probably enough time to catch up on a few emails or if you want to relax, catch up on that Netflix show or Spotify podcast. For students, having access to WiFi can even be useful to study or catch up on homework while getting to and from school. I believe that students are the next generation of public transit users and making transit attractive to them will drive them towards using more public transit options even when they’re not in school or in the workforce.
We live in a world where we’re consuming more data on our devices than ever before – because the internet can be a beautiful place to work, play and engage with the things you love and are passionate about. Making it easier to bring these passions along for a ride on your bus or train can definitely change rider’s perspectives about public transit.
Autonomous Vehicles aka self-driving vehicles aka driverless cars have been making rapid progress over the past few years and are already starting to change the way we view transportation. From Google to Uber to Tesla, major technology companies are spending millions of dollars on research and development of this form of transportation and why? So that we can spend less time focusing on driving and more time doing other stuff, which is one of the reasons I choose to use public transportation. I wanted to share some thoughts on how these vehicular robots will transform the way we commute in the future and how this can be both good and bad for our society.
In places like Canada, where all 3 levels of government are spending billions of dollars on developing better infrastructure for transit across the country, many community members are skeptical that this infrastructure is needed because they believe that autonomous vehicles will replace public transportation. While autonomous vehicles are definitely the future of our transportation industry, I think the chances of it replacing public transit is very slim. Imagine a world where everyone had an autonomous vehicle pick them up and drive them to work, or even if ridesharing services like Uber were autonomous, you’d still have the exact same issues with congestion because our highways can’t get much bigger and these vehicles don’t have any express way of getting you from point A to point B.
Furthermore, where are we going to park all these autonomous vehicles? Parking lots aren’t getting any bigger – in fact most future developments are actually limiting the amount of parking spaces built into them. A new condominium development down the street from me doesn’t even provide parking with the purchase of a unit because the number of spots are limited and people have to pay a premium to buy out a spot.
I do however see a place for autonomous technology in public transit – I can imagine an autonomous bus. Of course, I’d miss the interaction with a bus driver and having someone there to ask questions if I’m lost or need directions but this would definitely increase reliability levels (which annoys most people about transit) and allow transit agencies to reduce costs over time. The same case can be made about trains, although automated train systems have existed for many years and have been very reliable. Autonomous vehicles do increase safety and although most transit agencies have high standards for safety, this would raise to an even higher level.
There’s plenty to discuss about autonomous vehicles and its exciting future but I wanted to start a discussion about how this will revolutionize the way we commute and the impact on public transportation. I’ll hopefully cover more posts on autonomous vehicles in the future.
Have you ever considered taking public transit to get your destination but then wondered how to make the most of your time while getting there? Are you a commuter thinking about how you’re wasting precious time trying to get to your destination daily? Well I’d like to share some of my tips and habits to make your commute a little more enjoyable:
Working on the GO – As mentioned in my first blog post “All Aboard!”, I used to commute from my home in Hamilton, Ontario to Toronto, Ontario every day, which is about an hour and half (sometimes even longer) one way. After my first few days commuting, I made an agreement with my supervisor that I would leave an hour earlier and work for an hour on the train. I would basically compile a list of tasks and work that required the least online functionality and get myself on an earlier train and complete this work offline. If you haven’t heard, GO Transit is bringing WiFi to its fleet of buses and trains in the near future and I think it’ll be a big game-changer for transit riders (I’m going to discuss this in a future blog post). Although this tip may not work for everyone depending on your organization and work situation, it may for some and I strongly encourage you give it a shot if you can.
Breakfast on the GO – One of the inconveniences of using public transit to get to work is that there’s very little flexibility if you’re running late and need to be somewhere at a particular time, especially in the morning. Hit the snooze button a few times and you now have just a few minutes to run out the door and catch that bus or train therefore missing one of the most important meals of the day – breakfast. And if you’re like me, lack of food = grumpy Josh. What I started doing is preparing breakfasts that I could eat comfortably on the train the night before. My go-to was always different types of overnight oats. I would prepare this in a container that’s spill-proof and easy to carry and eat on my daily train. Considering I had a long journey before I got to work, this allowed me to eat my breakfast comfortably and not stress out every morning (and not buying breakfast = save $$$)
Reading on the GO – Last year I really wanted to get back into reading and set a goal for myself to read at least a book a month. Rather than scroll through my Facebook and Twitter feed for over an hour, I started reading books on the train. I was making really good progress with these books and signed up for a library card so that I wasn’t spending money buying multiple books every month. Something that slightly bothered me is the noisy train and having to carry the book with me to work, especially if it was a bigger/thicker book. After exploring my library’s website further, I found an audiobook section! I soon resorted to audiobooks which made the experience so much better for me personally – and I got through even more books!
Blogging on the GO – Most of the blog posts I compose are actually written while I’m on my daily commute. I also use this time to think about content I want to cover for future blog posts. It helps that I’m actually writing about transportation and commuting but why not start a blog to kill some time if you haven’t yet?
Napping on the GO – And if none of these other tips work for you, why not just take a quick nap? Seriously though. If I’m exhausted and I’m out of it, I just make sure I grab the right spot on the train/bus and take a quick nap. Sleep is important and and if you’ve been falling behind on it, why not catch up on it. Side note- be respectful to your fellow commuters aka don’t drool on them or invade their personal space. AND don’t forget to set an alarm because, trust me, you don’t want to miss your stop and wake up when you’re at the end of your bus/train line.
A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport – Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia
Have you ever received a weird look or comment from a colleague/friend/family when you said you were going to catch the bus/train to your destination? I have a lot of family and friends who have never used transit and don’t entertain the thought of using it. Still riding on waves of the American dream, many people still believe that public transportation is only used by low-income demographics or those that cannot afford a car. But is that really true in today’s world? Definitely not.
I use transit as my primary mode of transportation- not because I can’t afford a car but because I love being able to relax and multi-task while getting to my destination ( I actually draft some of these blog posts while I’m sitting on a bus/train). I also live in a downtown core so getting to amenities has never been challenging. And of course, if I can’t get to my destination via public transit or foot, there’s always the option of a bike, ridesharing app or even renting/borrowing a vehicle.
While writing this blog post, I discovered that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way and studies were showing that personal vehicular use is decreasing. A summary below from a study by University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute shows the top 5 reasons why young adults are choosing not to get a driver’s license. What’s interesting here is that the top reason is the lack of time to get a license- again the financial aspect is not the primary reason. A large proportion of the working class even state that they prefer to use alternative modes of transportation instead – which shows a shift in perspective on public transit. My generation is often considered the multi-task generation because we’re doing way too much with not enough time on our hands but that’s what makes public transit so attractive to me. I frequently find myself being able to catch up on work, reading or even watching my favourite TV show while I’m on a bus/train.
Back to the stigma behind public transit- how can we make it “sexy” for those that think it’s far from it? Here are some of my thoughts-
- One way is by making people realize how not “sexy” cars are for daily commutes by pointing out how congested our roads really are and how long it takes to get from point A to B in rush hour
- Free transit days – Who doesn’t love free stuff? I’ve rarely seen free transit days here in the GTA but I think by giving people a better opportunity to try transit, lots of minds can be changed. How do you think Netflix reeled me into a membership?
- More upgrades like trains and transit priority signals, which are not affected by collisions or traffic, making the riders trip a lot faster
- More amenities – many public transit agencies now offer free WiFi to their riders, making the idea of working/relaxing on-the-go easier (coming soon to GO Transit). And you don’t have to worry about your phone data bill
- Keep increasing the size and reach of public transit networks – if public transit can get you to where you need to get, then it’s really hard to say no
- Cost – by keeping costs of fares low, it’s hard to ignore it as an option. Think about how much your car and insurance cost you in a year
- Using more public transit scenes in movies and TV shows can definitely increase the “sexy” factor. I mean who wouldn’t want to hop on a bus or train if that’s how James Bond got to work every day?
- Better marketing and customer service – transit agencies need to resonate with their riders through their marketing and customer service just like ridersharing services like Uber and Lyft do
Most countries are spending millions (if not billions) of dollars to enhance their transit infrastructure to fight congestion but if transit is not a “sexy” enough option for riders, they will always revert back to driving a vehicle. And I’m not saying everyone needs to start using transit, because that’s just not realistic, I’m saying that if we can rid of the stigma around public transit, we’ll have less cars on the road for those that can’t use transit as an option.