Transportation is definitely a critical input in the economic activities of a nation. The choice or portfolio of the different modes of transportation adopted in a country or region is an important determinant of the proportion of the costs of production which go towards the transportation. In cases where this proportion is too high, then the competitiveness of the country in relation to other nations is highly reduced meaning that the country losses out on trade opportunities in the international markets. This paper discusses issues concerning mass transit.
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Mass transit is mainly composed of the transportation services available to passengers in a public rather than a private setting. In normal circumstances, passengers will pay a fee for the use of public transportation as opposed to purchasing fuel. This amounts to a form of pooling system where a number of people fund the operations of one carrier. The net effect of this is that the amount used by each passenger is drastically lower than the costs incurred by private means.
Indeed mass transit is a fundamental element of the economy. Big cities have millions of people who have to commute to and from work on a daily basis. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the transport mode they use is a big determinant of the wages they receive. If they are not able to report to work due to high flight charges then economic activity will definitely be slowed down. Workers have to get to and from work fast and cheaply, students have to also get to and from school with minimal inconveniences.
The common mass transit vessels used include buses, trains, airplanes and, to lesser extent sea vessels. Buses are a convenient means since they more often follow routes similar to those taken by other private cars. This means they get people closer to their destinations than the train or the airplane thus are more preferred for short distances.
The importance of transportation cannot be over emphasized. Apart from facilitating other economic activities, the transport sector is a significant income generating activity in any economy. In many countries, the transport sector accounts for as much as 10% of the entire economic activity. Income generation means employment opportunities for the people as well as increased tax revenues for the government. This then prompts the need for governments to adopt proper policies and guidelines for the all important sector in a bid to make the economy more efficient (Geist, par4).
The choice of the public transport mode to be adopted by the concerned authorities depends on a number of factors. The first is the cost of developing the infrastructure required. Here, it may be easier to adopt the bus instead of the train due to the infrastructural costs as well as the multiplicity of use of roads as opposed to the rail. However, the bus may not be the best option considering other factors such as congestion. Traffic jams are a common feature of most large cities. This necessitates the development of railway systems as alternatives to the buses. The railway is faster, safer and timelier than the bus. Again, distance is an important consideration in choosing the transport mode. Internal and international flights are a common means of transit between cities which are miles apart. They are fast hence saving valuable time for travelers. The invention of the electric train has also availed a cheaper and reliable method of transportation between cities in the last few decades.
It is however imperative to note that the portfolio chosen is what matters. Combined use of airplanes, trains, buses, and taxis is what defines the efficiency of a transportation system. When one alights from a plane or a train, it is more likely that he/she needs a bus or a taxi to get to the destination. These have to be available at the terminus. Planners hence need to be well informed of the movement of people across the region and their transportation needs in order to develop a plan which ensures that the existing situation improves.
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Notably, developing an efficient mass transit system is a costly undertaking. Funding thus becomes an important consideration for the sector. The primary funding party in most countries is the government. Tax revenues and other levies are commonly used to fund such huge infrastructural developments. However, few considerations have been given to partnerships with the private sector where the users are charged and the money used to repay the private developer as well as maintain the infrastructure. This is mainly done in cases where public funds are inadequate to cater for such important developments (General Accounting Office, par4). The feasibility of such an infrastructural development is determined by a cost benefit analysis. The cost is mainly composed of the cost of building the infrastructure. The benefits are in the form of savings accruing from the use of the new infrastructure over the years in the future. The scale of estimated benefits should determine how much funds should be allocated to the infrastructural project (Kiplinger, p12).
Two major concerns in the use of mass transit include security and the rise of modern day contagious pandemics. Security issues are mainly compounded by the terrorism activities around the world (National Center for Transit Research (NCTR), par6). Terrorists mostly target areas with large crowds which is characteristic of any terminus for mass transit. Airplanes and trains are most targeted (Homeland Security, par4). Contagious diseases are also known to spread fast in areas which host a large number of people. Again, the people in the terminus are on transit meaning that they are more likely to spread the diseases to their destinations. A recent outbreak of bird flu was spread across the world in a very short period of time mainly due to air travel (Homeland Security, par6).
Despite the challenges that face mass transit, the benefits which accrue far outweigh the costs. Most importantly, people are able to share costs of travelling a factor which greatly boosts both business as well as social communication. The costs of international flights can hardly be borne by many individuals even in the rich countries. The cost reduction effect ensures that people are able to travel affordably a situation which improves the economic performance of a country. The main constraints to the development of adequate mass transit channels hinged normally hinged on the funding requirements. This thus necessitates the need to depart from the overreliance on tax revenues as the only source of funding. The need to cut transportation costs more often outweigh the costs incurred. Issues of security and contagious diseases are a rare occurrence and even when they occur, there are experts who are able to guide mass transportation to prevent spread.
Geist, Rick. Mass Transit through the Eyes of a conservative. Cygnus interactive. 2005. Web.
General Accounting Office. Mass Transit: Bus Rapid Transit shows promise. 2001. Web.
Homeland security. Pandemic Influenza. 2008. Web.
Homeland Security. Transportation Security Administration: Office of intelligence. 2008. Web.
Kiplinger. “It pays to ride Public transportation.” Kiplinger’s Personal Financial Magazine. 2009. Web.
National Center for Transit Research (NCTR). Florida Public Transportation: Anti-Terrorism Resource Guide n.d. 2010. Web.