The rationale for public transport

I am an unlikely proponent of public transport, not having been a practitioner for a very long time (the last time I used public transport for personal work was when I studied in business school).

In fact, I used to enjoy the freedom of personalized transportation, which allowed customization of available time for suiting a variety of tasks on hand without external dependence. I loved the manner in which I could maneuver around things to suit my time with the capability offered by personal transportation viz., a car of my own.

Now in my second innings, I am more concerned about the future of the world and environmental sustainability. I am worried that we are going to exhaust fossil fuels in less than a hundred years. I am bothered about the fact that less costly and more environmentally friendly cars have not yet arrived on the scene despite a lot of research in the field.

I have experienced the benefits of public transportation over the past nearly a year, with a different kind of freedom afforded by it. I don’t have to use up fuel for my own personal use, I share an efficient transportation used by millions thereby optimizing fuel consumption, I don’t have to look for personal car parking space, I do not have to pay road tax and other charges, and I am free to walk out of a train station and do different kinds of things without the baggage of a car.

Of course, this should be sounding strange. Why should I be doing this when I can actually afford a car ? Most people who can afford a car actually end up buying a car, there are few exceptions. The logic goes like this – let me focus on my own and my family’s convenience first, let me not worry about this world, the world can come later. Nothing wrong with that logic though. Think about it for a minute – it is the same logic which is the basis of capitalism. If I can improve my own efficiency and productivity by adopting appropriate tools for which I am prepared to pay, others should not complain. I am prepared to pay all the attendant taxes in order to improve my quality of life. What can be wrong with that logic ?

Well, while no one can fault such logic easily, the development of a rationale for sustainable global development has led to a different perspective and thinking.

How can one demand that the proletariat alone should contribute to such a sustainability model, while the folks who are above them could insist on their logic of personal life improvement as the basis of going against that some model ?

Think about it for a minute.

While the elite would never agree (and never have to agree for that matter), it is critical for them to realize that some demonstration of commitment to the global goals is called for, from everyone on the planet irrespective of their political, social or economic affiliations.

Well, we can argue along these lines, but I took upon a personal commitment to demonstrate that I could continue to use public transportation (which includes taxis of course !) to myself and to my family, who are still wondering why I am compelled with such a logic.

Apart from the sustainability logic, it is also critical for everyone in the middle and upper crests of society to experience what the proletariat is going through. That experience is what begets useful and implementable feedback from the ground (like in old times when the king wears a mask and goes out to find what the people on the ground think about his rule).

Think about it mates !


Vijay Srinivasan
8th February 2014


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