Public Transportation, Private cars, and CO2 Emission: The case of Europe, Turkey and Switzerland

Public Transportation, Private cars, and CO2 Emission: The case of Europe, Turkey and SwitzerlandMohamad Ali NasserBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingMay 24This study takes a dive into Europe’s choice of transportation methods (Bus, train and cars) — exploring the evolution of that preference over the past 26 years (1990–2016).

We will then take a look at Europe’s CO2 emission data by country and compare both results.

Before making any assumptions, we will explore the data and gain some insight on Europe’s transportation sector and CO2 emission.

The observations will focus on two countries, Turkey and Switzerland, both have undergone major, opposing, shifts in their transportation sector.

The former went from a 72% of total passengers relying on public transportation in 1990 to 30% in 2016 — marking a 29% decrease.

While Switzerland marked a 10% increase, the biggest in Europe.

In the first part we will explore the data visually and then draw a conclusion in regards to the relationship that exists between these two variables.

Turkey’s shift from buses to cars — 26 years in the making:The graph below represents a visualisation of Turkey’s rapid shift away from public transportation (Fig.

1):Turkey transportation sector — emphasis on public transportation 1990 and 2016.

Data source: (https://ec.


eu/eurostat)While Turkey moves towards a bigger reliance on cars as a mode of transportation, it is still ahead of the curve in comparison with the EU’s average percentage of car passengers.

The graph below (Fig.

2) shows that Turkey’s public transportation sector is converging towards the EU’s mean.

EU and Turkey’s public transportation trend line.

Data source: (https://ec.


eu/eurostat)Adding Switzerland into the previous visualisation (Fig.

2) gives a better picture on how Switzerland’s public transportation fares in comparison with Turkey and the EU (Fig.


EU, Switzerland and Turkey’s public transportation trend line.

Data source: (https://ec.


eu/eurostat)CO2 emission: How many tonnes of CO2 does a person in Europe (EEA) produce?The short answer is around 6.

8 tonnes per year in 2016.

The next step is to calculate the CO2 emission per person (tonnes/capita) for each year respectively.

The raw data for the air emissions is provided by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the population statistics by the EU National Statistical Institutes (republished by EUROSTAT).

The below plot (Fig.

4), shows a sharp increase in CO2 emission in Turkey and a decrease in Switzerland, a trend that is in line with the shift both countries witnessed in their public transportions sector (in Fig.


While we can’t draw a definite conclusion from observation— these charts reflect each country’s policy towards CO2 emission and other environmental concerns.

The charts signals a conscious effort from Switzerland.

It’s worth noting that despite the EU’s active policy to curve its CO2 emission it is still 1.

6% above Turkey.

EU, Switzerland and Turkey’s CO2 emission.

Data source: (https://ec.


eu/eurostat)In order to make better sense out of all of these graphs and data, it is important for us to be able to see the see the evolution of cars as a means of transportation in relation to CO2 emission in Europe.

In Fig.

5, we observe two movement over the last 26 years, Europeans moved towards cars as means of transportation, and despite this, their CO2 emission per person decreased over this period.

Animated graph — Europe percentage car usage by CO2 emissionThe charts tell us a story, do the statistics tell us the same narrative?We use two basic statistical models to verify our hypothesis, the increase in car usage and the CO2 emission do have a relationship — Pearson’s correlation and linear regression.

While we do not imply causation, Pearson’s correlation indicates that indeed, the choice of using cars as a means of transportation does positively, despite a low score of 0.

25, correlate with CO2 emission.

Moreover, the p-value is near Zero which indicates a relation between both variables.

Let’s plot a regression line and try to visualize this relationship in Fig.

6 below:What does all of this mean?While the plots and the Pearson’s correlation indicate a slight relationship between the two variables, the linear regression plot above gives us a better overall view of that relationship, and shows us that the effect of higher car usage on CO2 emission is strongest at higher percentages of car usage.

ConclusionThe above study shows some relationship between the two variables, while we can’t talk of causation, we can argue that the results of this study can act as indicators of the environmental policy of the EEA countries and of their success in implementing those policies.

Especially in the case of Turkey, who, as the data shows, puts little effort to curb its CO2 emission and car usage, in comparison with Switzerland who seems to be evolving on both fronts.

If you want access to the raw data and the code please visit my Github.


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