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Do buses pollute more than cars?

This may seem like a question with a simple answer, of course cars pollute more than buses, right? Well, not always. The issue here is occupancy and our dependence on cars.

The average car emits something like 180g per passenger kilometre. If you were to compare this to a short-haul flight then the car is actually less environmentally friendly with the plane emitting 150g/km per passenger. However, the issue here is that a car is often used by just one person.

The local bus emits a little over half the greenhouse gases of a single occupancy car journey. As soon as you start to add more passengers the car actually becomes a far greener option. The average car weighs over a tonne, the average passenger weighs about 70kg if you look at national averages.

So every additional passenger only adds about 7% extra weight working out at just over 12g/km per extra passenger.

For many people, public transport is clearly the best way to reduce transport emissions. According to UK government figures travelling on light rail or the London Underground emits something like a sixth of the equivalent car journey.

However, outside of London this isn’t a transport option available to everyone.

However, taking As well as reducing the greenhouse gases, taking the bus will always remove congestion from the roads.

So, do buses pollute more than cars?

The answer isn’t actually a straightforward yes or no. Yes, buses do pollute more than cars if they are not at a good capacity. And no, if compared to a car being used solo. And then, yes if compared to a full car and an empty bus. What’s the solution here?

Pick the most efficient car

For some, taking public transport just isn’t an option, particularly in rural areas. In this case, choosing the most fuel-efficient model available can make a big difference. There is a disturbing trend for using SUVs over smaller cars.

Just a decade ago SUVs made up 17% of global yearly car sales - it now stands at 39%. Electric cars emit around a third of the CO2 of a petrol car, a large car emits on average 85% more greenhouse gases per km than a small vehicle.

Car share

There are an increasing number of car sharing initiatives where you are able to rent a car, eliminating the need to own one. Again, this is something more readily available in urban areas.

Studies have shown that these can dramatically reduce the number of cars on the road, and can reduce parking issues. If you can’t use a car rental service then there are also a number of carpooling services out there.

Use public transport

The fact is, public transport is designed for peak use. Meaning that in rush hour they are packed with people and then continue on their routes mostly empty for the rest of the day, turning these journeys into a negative for their greenhouse emissions.

A public service needs to run continuously so people can rely on it. Local bus companies could swap in smaller buses at quieter times but this may not always be possible.

The fact is, those buses will be running whether you use them or not. So if you can, use them.

Use greener public transport

OK, this isn’t down to the individual taking the bus. However, there are many greener forms of public transport that can dramatically reduce carbon emissions such as electric buses using the Traktual system.

As the UK Government begins to ban diesel buses within city centres electric buses could be used to replace them. As Traktual vehicles are non-polluting at the point of use they eliminate the issues of empty seats during quieter times of use.

If you would like to know more about Traktual and how it can be used to reduce carbon emissions then please do get in touch.

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