September 04, 2023

Public Transportation and Global Citizenship

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

In addition to travel itself, I enjoy travel planning. One of the first things that I usually do is figure out when to go, how to get there, and how to get around once I am there.

When planning my most recent trip to Germany and Austria, I was excited to get what I thought was a great deal on a rental car, which would amount to about $20 a day. After reading so much about rental car shortages while making plans, I was particularly excited about this, and moved on to figure out lodging for the trip, about 9 months in the future.

Eventually I stumbled upon news stories about the Deutschland ticket, which gave buyers access to nearly all trains and buses in Germany for 9 euros a month during the summer of 2022. As Euronews reported:

It was introduced to try and combat rising inflation as a consequence of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The ticket was also supposed to encourage people to take environmentally friendly transport and reduce fuel use.

German transport companies association VDV said that it saved around 1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions during these three months.

Ridership had been down during the pandemic, and rose during 2022 (although not yet to pre-pandemic levels). These tickets were heavily subsidized by state and federal governments, and after negotiations they came to an agreement to have a similarly subsidized ticket in 2023 for 49 euros a month.

While it didn’t ultimately make sense for me to by a Deutschland ticket (our trip straddled two months, so we would have had to buy two passes and would cost more than if we bought tickets individually), I decided that being a responsible traveler meant helping to reduce inflation and reduce my carbon footprint if possible. So I canceled the rental car.

This required learning about options for buses and trains, changing one hotel reservation that was made based on the presumption that we would have a car, and looking into the guest cards that some towns offer that include free use of local buses.

Being a good global citizen can mean many things; it can be as general as an awareness of the broader world around us or as specific as trying to eat locally-sourced food at home and when traveling. The United Nations describes global citizenship as:

the umbrella term for social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale. The term can refer to the belief that individuals are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks rather than single actors affecting isolated societies. Promoting global citizenship in sustainable development will allow individuals to embrace their social responsibility to act for the benefit of all societies, not just their own.

Search “good global citizenship” and you will get more than 95 million results. This tells us that there are many ways to strive towards being a good global citizen, and that none of us are likely perfect global citizens.  Here are some things I strive for as a global citizen, in no particular order:

  • Learning about people whose lives are different from mine
  • Learning about global events that shape people’s lives beyond the U.S.
  • Learning about cultures that are based on different beliefs from mine
  • Learning and speaking as much of a local language as I am capable of when traveling
  • Learning local customs when traveling, and in some cases conforming to them
  • Respecting natural sites wherever I am (at home and when traveling), trying to leave no trace on trails and avoid interfering with wildlife or plants
  • Minimizing any negative impact that traveling might create, such as environmental or economic effects

Notice that I see learning as central to good global citizenship; this is something we can all do, even if we don’t travel very far.

I am by no means a “perfect” global citizen. I make mistakes, and dilemmas arise.

For instance, in seeking a lower-priced bus fare, is it less responsible to take transportation operated by a private company (like FlixBus or Lufthansa Express) rather than supporting public transportation that might be slightly more expensive (in this case, Deutsche Bahn)? We did on occasion, and weren’t sure if it was the right decision overall, although we saved some money doing so. Taking a private, double-decker coach bus was more comfortable than some of our train rides, where a few times we had to stand. But a bus has a bigger carbon footprint than a train. Critics of FlixBus contend that it has unfair advantages because it doesn’t have to pay tolls, and it is thus partly subsidized by taxpayers.

In the end, canceling the rental car saved us money: no gas to buy (at the cost of nearly $2 a liter, it would have been about $7.50 a gallon), no tolls, no parking fees, and no International Driving Permit, which costs $20 and is valid for a year. I estimate that we saved about $200 by taking public transportation, and other than one travel day we really didn’t need a car.  We also didn’t add to local traffic. Sure, one could argue that flying overseas contributes to a carbon footprint, so there is no way to travel without any impact.

What else makes a good global citizen?


Learners must be adaptable, innovative, and proactive in order to be productive global citizens. They must be able to solve issues, make decisions, think critically, effectively express ideas, and work successfully in teams and organizations.

A country which does not have government level transport does not progress.

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