- Hero Photo by Nikita Lebedev on Unsplash. Text and errors by: Chris Breeden

Opinion: The absurdity of rural public transportation

Come along with me on a hypothetical, all public transport, rural commute.

Up first... The Fantasy...

Picture it... The good ol' U S of A, sometime in 2075. Internal combustion engines have been phased out in favor of public transportation and short distance electric vehicles. Now everyone simply commutes to work on buses, trains and EVs. Cities are rolling forward like never before, since all those pesky, fuel burning dinosaurs have been replaced. Clean sky's and no traffic jams brought forth a whole new optimism to city dwellers all across this great nation! Let's take a look at one citizens daily commute.

Step 1: Getting to the train station...

Our example citizen doesn't live in an urban center, he's one of our country cousins that lives in a rural area of middle Tennessee. He lives in an unincorporated community, that is a pretty typical example of the kind in the eastern US. His commute begins every day around 4:00 AM. He'll either walk, ride a bike or drive his EV the .5 miles to the nearest, government subsidized, train station. Every morning he says hello to the other 15 passengers on board the 75 passenger train.

Step 2: Getting to the nearest large town...

Heading south west the train makes two short stops on the 15 mile trip from Rock Island to the town of McMinnville, Tennessee. Arriving at 4:40AM, the train has a 25 minute layover here before continuing on to the next stop. Our commuter usually spends this layover by getting a cup of coffee from the station.

Step 3: Getting to the next town...

At 5:05 AM, SHARP!, the train is off again, this time making three short 10 minute stops in Smart, Morrison and Summitville, before arriving to Manchester, Tennessee at 6:00 AM.

Step 4: The end of the spur, changing trains.

After another 20 minute stop the train once again sets off for a short trip to Tullahoma, Tennessee. Tullahoma, coming from the Native American word, "Tulla", meaning mud and "homa" meaning more mud, is the end of the line for the spur railroad we've been on. Our commuter will have to change trains here. The "Rock Island Express" pulls into Tullahoma at 6:45 AM. This gives our commuter 20 minutes to jump onto the northbound local, that departs Tullahoma at 7:05 AM.

Steps 5 and 6: Two different trains, that still stop... everywhere...

The northbound local pulls out on time and makes a stop in the town of Normandy and then a stop in Wartrace, Tennessee. This is where our commuter gets off at 7:35 AM. He then grabs the Shelbyville spur train at 7:50 AM. Thirty short minutes later he is at the Shelbyville train station.

Step 7: The end of the tracks and work...

He then gets onto one of the many city ran buses and, after another 30 minutes at 8:55 AM, he is at the nearby bus stop and walking to work with a cool, 5 minutes to spare!

The Reality...

Our hypothetical travelers day started at 3:30 AM. His commute took 5 hours to cover 65 miles. He spent an average of 12 minutes setting at 10 different stations during his journey. He'll get off of work at 6:00 PM and then have to repeat the 5 hour journey home. After arriving home at midnight he will have to repeat the process all over again at 3:30 AM the next day. That's 3.5 hours of "home" time. Will he be able to catch a few minutes of sleep during the 10 hours he spends on a train? Maybe, but he will most likely be one cranky dude after 3 or 4 days of this. So he will look at the options he has and will be forced to make a change in his lifestyle. He could attempt to locate a job that is closer to home, but well paying jobs are difficult to find in rural areas. So the next option would be to move to a larger population area and seek employment there.

A fundamental change in how people live their lives...

The U.S. Census Bureau tells us that only 20% of adults in the U.S. live in rural areas. That's 47 million (47,000,000) people. If major urban areas are already experiencing over crowding, then how could they possibly absorb another 47 million people in under 50 years? The answer is they can not. The pro EV drum beats get louder everyday, but the practicality of EVs doesn't get any better. EVs are neither suited to operating in rural areas, nor are they priced in a way that makes them available to rural people. Remember: What is considered cheap in Orange County, California, is a hysterical joke in Van Buren County, Tennessee and a vast majority of the rest of the country.

I make the above journey ten times (twice a day) every week. The commute takes about an hour and a half to complete in my fossil fuel burning truck. Is my truck really burning more fuel and creating more pollution, than the trains, buses, EVs and the power plant that would have to be constructed to charge all of them? If you have bought into the era of the New Green Deal and proclaim yes to that question, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Most people are under the impression that by 2075 EV technology will have progressed to the point of acceptability in rural areas and, just like all tech, the prices might even be affordable, but banking on both things magically happening isn't "educated guessing" it's more like "wishful thinking". I prefer neither. I prefer knowing facts. The facts, as they stand, point to EVs being more than a risky bet.

Also of interest:

About the Author:

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."

Join In

Comments (21)

  • Not everyone can afford personal transportation, and bus service maybe sparse at times, but it’s better than nothing.

      1 year ago
  • You certainly say everything I believe on

      1 year ago
  • I think the reality of EVs is that battery tech hasn't truly advanced in decades. We've been improving on old tech this entire time, but promising developments ARE starting to happen.

    Tesla has nearly achieved parity with gas/diesel in range vs charging but not on price. Generation of power from any power plant is far more efficient than the energy used to refine fuels and then convert those fuels into mechanical motion via the automobile. The problem is that we don't generate enough electricity to convert all transportation to EV.

    Once battery technology actually advances, EVs can have parity on range, charging, and cost. But we can't do that with lithium based batteries.

    And if there is demand, electricity generation will increase. Eventually. Though what we see in California is people with EVs tend to have solar power as well, which offsets some of the additional demand.

    So if you are looking out 50 years, I think the likelihood of change is great.

    I would say the following assumptions are unrealistic when taking a 50 year view:

    EVs will be short-range.

    People seeking jobs in the cities won't just move closer.

    Public transportation won't improve.

      1 year ago
    • Hello Jon! Yes, predicting the future IS difficult. That's why I'm amazed when people attempt to do so. I say in the article above that EVs will be sort range, because that's what most people attempting to paint a picture of their Utopian...

      Read more
        1 year ago
  • I have to commute to work by bus every day and most of the time someone has to get me, because one bus came 10 minutes too late and the other one left 5 minutes early.

    I can't wait until March the 3rd next year when I get my license.

      1 year ago
  • What are you on about? You can’t project 50 years ahead on the basis of only one or two of the multiple interconnected factors changing. You take out fossil fuel private car commuting but leave everything else unchanged. You can’t do that! When fossil fuel and cars became cheap the USA very rapidly adopted surburban sprawl, hideous shopping malls, and a collapse in pleasant city centre living. So today you have an overweight car-dependant population shooting at each other on the rare occasions you leave your back yard and get out of your car.

    If you end your car and gas dependency, you might repopulate your urban areas, rediscover walking and cycling, loose some weight, get to know your neighbours, and maybe even stop shooting them.

    Try it! All across Europe we have great urban living, great public transport, great walking and cycling, slim and fit citizens, and very few drive-by shootings. Barcelona, Vienna, Cologne, Geneva - try them and see what your future really looks like.

      1 year ago
    • Well let's be honest, you have a large suburban population as well. Many cities here are being revitalized and updated - but a foreigner wouldn't know that, and shouldn't attempt to tell us our business.

      Also shooting our neighbors is...

      Read more
        1 year ago
    • "A foreiner wouldn't know that and shouldn't attempt to tell us our business."

      That's what I say to every American I meet.

        1 year ago