‘Safe’ public transport saves money as well as lives

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‘Safe’ public transport saves money as well as lives 

When thinking of the economic benefits of public transport, issues such as capital investment, contribution to local employment and facilitating access to the job market are the obvious ones. But there are less obvious ways in public transport saves public money, specifically: a reduction in the costs to the public caused by road accidents.

By comparing the rate of accidents involving the private car compared to public transport, it is very clear that travelling by public transport is much safer and produces far fewer accidents (estimated as 10 times safer by Todd Litman, 2009). A modal shift from the private car to public transport would not only save lives but save public money too. Crashes cost money, not just to the private car owner but to the public purse (think health service, first responders, infrastructure damage and so on).  

As pointed out by Todd Litman in his recent publication “Safer Than You Think! Revising the Transit Safety Narrative, crash costs, at least in the USA, exceed the costs related to traffic congestion or vehicle air pollution and as such should be taken into account when evaluating mobility planning options.

“For example, when comparing potential traffic congestion reduction strategies, a roadway expansion that reduces congestion costs by 10% but increases crash costs by 2%, due to higher traffic speeds or induced vehicle travel, is a poor investment; congestion cost savings are offset by increased crash costs. In contrast, a transit improvement that reduces congestion costs by 5% but also reduces crash costs by 2% is worth more overall when congestion and crash cost reductions are totaled.”

 The public transport sector continually undersells its safety and security record, especially when compared to other modes. “A safe and secure public transport system makes a positive contribution to public safety, as well as the local economy,” says Lindsey Mancini, UITP Security Expert.  “The feeling of safety and security should be emphasized as one of the big advantages of choosing public transport. Passengers consider it just as important as the traditional requirements such as reliability, speed and efficiency.”

“Investing in a system which gives a high security perception (clean, well lit, staff presence and so on) is increasingly important in encouraging citizens to choose public transport.”

 To read more about safety and security issues in public transport, join the interest group on MyUITP (UITP members only)

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