transit to trail

Using public transit to explore nature– it’s easy and energy efficient.

train susan ask

take the train to explore nature– it can be easier than driving, especially in rough weather. photo by susan ask

The Chicago Wilderness region is rich in biodiversity and there are diverse conservation areas, forest preserves, parks, restoration projects and beaches to explore.   Most of these can be reached easily by car, but driving—and burning fossil fuels—for the sake of nature study seems counterproductive.  Driving just one mile releases about a pound of CO2 ¹ and releases other pollutants including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulates²— all of which can harm nature.  Add to that the environmental cost of road construction and maintenance—and the total cost of driving to a conservation area can seem too high.  Maybe it’s better to stay home.

Fortunately, living in an urban area has the distinct advantage of access to public transportation.  Trains, busses, even the el, can take you to natural areas full of beauty, wildlife, calm and inspiration— without the higher emissions of driving a personal vehicle.  You can cut CO2 emissions by riding the train (using 0.40 pounds per passenger mile), el (0.60 pounds/passenger mile) or bus (0.74 pounds/passenger mile) compared to travelling by car (using 0.96 pounds per passenger mile). ¹

Transit to Trail provides a (growing) list of conservation areas that can be reached by public transportation.  Periodic blog posts, based on the travels of one urban ecologist, will explore some of these natural areas and how to leave a smaller footprint travelling to them.



author:  Susan Ask


¹ US Department of Transportation / Tina Hodges.  2009.  Public Transportation’s Role in Responding to Climate Change.

² US Environmental Protection Agency.  2012.  National Emissions Inventory (NEI) Air Pollutant Emissions Trends Data.