Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

iCar or weBus?

Does the accentuated presence of the I in society cause unethical transport choices?
I have always believed Public Transport is a good choice for the environment. However, recently it dawned on me that this is only the case as long as ‘we’ are many who choose this option. In Dublin so few people are now opting for taking the bus, that it is more energy efficient to travel in a personal car with a driver and one passenger, than it is to take the bus...

I must here warn the reader that the following is to be thought of as a discussion queue on the subject of citizenship and public transport, not as a contribution on carbon calculations. Currently the most commonly registered car in Ireland has a B Band engine capacity which is estimated emitting around 140g CO2/km (Link). Divide this emission figure by two (driver plus one passenger), and it gives us around 70g CO2/passenger km. A Dublin bus with 90 passengers emits about 1,450g CO2/km (‘Surprise carbon offenders’, Link ). This would equate to around 16g CO2/passenger km if the bus had a constant of 90 passengers. However at current usage the emissions using Dublin bus is an unimpressive 77g CO2/passenger km (Link). Using this information, estimation calculation tells us that if we want our public bus service to be more energy efficient than a B Band car with a driver and one passenger, then we have to ensure that there is on average a minimum of 21 passengers per Dublin Bus at all times (1450/70).

Without shying away from the fact that the public transport system may need to change numerous aspects of its current service to make this more appealing, my question for the forum is not in terms of how Dublin bus can please us. It is rather philosophical in nature and asks if it is ethically sound to always embrace the ‘personal choice’ theorem? If the bus transport service in Dublin is losing some of its viability as a sustainable transportation method due to insufficient number of passengers, then is there an argument for public transport to be formulated more as a ‘citizen obligation’ for the better of the ‘we’, rather than as a ‘service’ available at the leisure of the ‘I’?

Elin Haettner

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