The Freedom High School junior was one of 50 high school students selected to partake in a recent five-day, all-expense-paid trip to the nation’s capital to learn about developments in public transportation design and technology that will help shape future advancements in transportation.
“A lot of people are under the impression that public transportation is for the poor and disadvantaged, but public transportation is something that should be utilized by everyone because it’s a green way to get wherever you need to go,” Mills said. “The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is trying to find ways to change people’s perception of public transportation so that more people will take advantage of it and keep their cars off the road.”
Mills doesn’t live near a bus stop so she doesn’t take advantage of Tri Delta Transit, but she does take BART when she goes to Oakland to catch an A’s game or to San Francisco to do some sightseeing. The summit heightened her awareness of the advantages of public transportation and motivated her to use it more.
Not only does taking public transit save money on gas; it saves money in general. According APTA, households in the United States could save more than $8,400 every year if they relied more on local bus systems, commuter trains, high-speed rail, ferries, cable cars and light rail.
“Public transportation is a green technology and I don’t think people even realize that it is a technology,” Mills said. “At the summit we learned that if one person switches to public transportation, the carbon footprint is reduced by about 20 pounds daily, which is 4,800 pounds of carbon emissions a year. When you look at it that way, taking public transportation seems like a no-brainer if you have access to it. It’s just better for the planet.”
And public transportation is doing its own part to reduce carbon emissions by looking into solar and electric power. During her trip to D.C., Mills met Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and learned about the latest news and advancements in the public transit industry. She also got to tour Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metro headquarters to see what it takes to efficiently keep a public transportation system functioning.
Mills enjoyed the program so much that she plans to apply to next year’s summit. In addition to learning about the inner workings of the American transit system, she also met teens from all over the country who share this common interest.
“It’s like we’re in on a little secret – even though it’s not a secret. I think more young people should be learning about what’s going on.”
Mills said the trip furthered her interest in design and architecture, and if all goes according to plan, she’d like to attend college on the east coast to be near more historic buildings, such the ones she was surrounded by in D.C. Her ultimate goal is to become a restoration architect.