Two lanes of cars wait in front of a red light with their headlights on

Opinion columnist Brianna Wessling argues for transforming the transportation system of the United States.

Opinion

Climate change is, without a doubt, the biggest crisis our generation is facing. Combating decades of emitting greenhouse gases without a second thought isn’t easy and will require great amounts of innovation.

Many individuals are looking at ways that they can reduce their personal carbon footprint, and many companies are capitalizing on this new demand for environmentally-friendly alternatives. Consumers can buy everything from metal straws to waste-free shampoos and conditioners.

Cars, in particular, can be a huge source of carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that typical cars release over four tons of carbon emissions every year. 

The most popular answer to this problem is to turn towards electric and hybrid cars, which reduce or even eliminate those carbon emissions. Tesla’s new Cybertruck, which was released a few weeks ago, is being hailed as the future of environmentally-friendly travel. It’s completely electric and much cheaper than any other comparable truck on the market.

If you can move past its poor aesthetics, Tesla's Cybertruck seems like a great solution. This, however, is an incredibly limiting view of what travel in the next ten years could look like and what we want our world to look like. 

Instead of focusing on creating electric cars, many of which are not accessible to much of the public, even at Tesla’s price point, we should pivot towards creating more convenient, and more environmentally friendly-public transportation.

Simply the manufacturing of a new car can produce between six and 35 tons of carbon emissions. Public transportation is easily accessible to every person in the United States at every income level. It doesn’t require anyone to buy a new car or gas stations to install new electric pumps. Taking advantage of it, even with buses and trains that run on gas or coal, can greatly reduce our own carbon footprint. 

Here in the Midwest, it can seem like public transportation isn’t a very viable option when it comes to our daily life. Most families own at least one car, and many of us grew up looking forward to the day we would own our very first one.

Many of us don’t think twice about taking our car to the gym or the grocery store every day. However, turning towards public transport, and encouraging our local officials to invest more into it, can be a huge factor in reducing carbon emissions on a large scale. 

Investing in public transportation is the key to making it the future of environmentally-friendly travel. Some cities are leading the way in making public transport more accessible and convenient for people. Kansas City, for example, just voted to eliminate all fares in public transportation. This incredible change will likely make it possible for many people to take advantage of public transport, even if they do have a car.

Brianna Wessling is a junior from Omaha studying English and journalism.