The Benefits of Taking Public Transportation: Why I’m 20 and Still Don’t Drive

San Francisco is renowned for its cultural, commercial, and financial success. People from all over the world flock to admire the city’s wonderful landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies Houses (featured on Full House), Golden Gate Park, and Fisherman’s Wharf. While some other attractions may be less popular, they provide a sense of what San Francisco is all about—cultural diversity.

The Mission District is decorated with colorful murals and a taqueria on almost every street corner with the smell of freshly marinated carne asada drifting out the door for all the passersby. You could walk by the setting of an important time in San Francisco history in the Castro District where a young Harvey Milk decided to run for supervisor. You could watch in awe as the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory makes it cookies using a cast iron rotating wheel. You could drive through all these beautiful places but it may be hard to find parking. Your next option? Public transportation.

Image via TripAdvisor

At 6 years old, I learned to take public transportation. When my parents went to work, my grandmother took care of my sister and me. She loved to go out and explore the city so she often took us with her. She taught us how to look both ways when we crossed the street and to always make sure to be aware of our surroundings at all times. Once we got on the bus, she advised us both to never sit at the back of the bus and sit near the front or the middle so long as the driver can see you through his mirror. Make sure to stand up and give your seat to a pregnant woman, a disabled person, or a senior. When you’re ready to get off the bus, pull the little cord near the windows and always make sure to thank the driver when you exit.

Image via Red Tricycle 

Taking the bus became a part of my childhood and my daily routine. On the weekends, my parents took us all on outings with our car. But on the weekdays, the bus was our best friend. We took our grandmother’s tips with us for the rest of our lives. My sister and I took the bus to our kung fu lessons right after school. Every day for high school, I hopped on the 29 bus at 6 a.m. and rode it to school and back home at 5 p.m. I used the bus to go to work, my doctor’s appointments, and to hang out with friends.

Image via SFMTA

I felt blessed to live in a city where the buses and metros came almost every five minutes and covered so many nooks throughout the city. Anyone could get from point A to B thanks to the reliable MUNI system. Taking public transportation taught me to be street smart—to be aware of my surroundings. After having my phone snatched from my hand one day on the bus, I learned to keep my phone lodged in my backpack and to place my backpack and/or bag in front of me so I could have a clear view of it. I also learned courteous manners like learning to give up your seat in the front for someone who needs easy access to the entrance and exit and to thank the driver for their service to the city.

Image via Pinterest 

Sometimes, I got off on the wrong stop or even got on the wrong bus when trying to get somewhere. However, these situations were more of a blessing than a curse if anything. I would get off the bus and take some time to explore this area of the city that I have not yet experienced before. I would either walk a few blocks and try some treats at a bakery or stop by a consignment store for some window shopping. I met new faces and became more knowledgeable about my city.

Image via Flickr

While these benefits of public transportation reflect my own personal experiences, taking public transportation has more benefits for the general welfare. First, taking public transportation reduces air pollution. By transporting people more efficiently, public transit produces significantly less air pollution per passenger mile than a standard car carrying a single driver. Since they also carry more passengers than individual cars, this also reduces traffic congestion. For places like San Francisco and Los Angeles, traffic congestion is a huge issue during the early morning commute so this benefit will be especially helpful. While owning a car is convenient in so many ways, so is taking the bus.

Image via CityPass 

Whenever people ask me why I never learned to drive, I am not ashamed to tell them that I was raised to take public transportation. If anything, I learned to be more independent, to be aware of my surroundings, and to appreciate my wonderful city. I also save money on gas and car insurance while also not having to worry about parking. It’s not to say that I will never learn to drive, but I have grown accustomed to having my Clipper Card on a lanyard around my neck, peering out the window to see the sights, and thanking the bus driver when I exit.