City trip by bus is least harmful to society
According to a study by the Dutch Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (Kennisinstituut voor Mobiliteitsbeleid, KiM), a city trip by bus is the least harmful to society. Other means of transport, like train, plane, or car, present more ‘social’ costs when it comes to infrastructure and climate.
Air pollution and noise
Imagine a trip from Amersfoort (Netherlands) to Paris (France). Traveling by plane would be the most expensive way for society due to the high climate costs. Also, the cost of air pollution and noise are higher for planes than for other means of transport.
The costs for the use of the infrastructure, however, are low. In the example, only the train trip to Schiphol and from the French airport Charles de Gaulle to the city center of Paris have to be accounted for.
The KiM also analyzed and compared city trips to Brussels, London, Düsselfdorf, Frankfurt, and Berlin. In any of those trips, traveling by bus implies the least costs. Flying is most damaging, except for a journey to Berlin. In that case, going by car represents the highest social costs. But as always, the bus is by far the least ‘damaging’.
In these comparisons, not only the use of infrastructure was taken into account but also greenhouse gases and maintenance. When the government pays for the infrastructure, the situation changes partly. Traveling by bus remains the least harmful transport mode, but going by train then becomes the most expensive because the installation of railway infrastructure is costly.