A few years ago I visited Munich and was impressed with the city’s public train system for its cleanliness, reliability, and efficient ticketing process. But what struck me most was the fact that pets were welcome passengers. Initially I was shocked to see a Great Dane board Munich’s equivalent of the EL and have a seat on the floor next to its owner. But then I started to think, why not? If the dog – or any pet – is well-behaved, up-to-date on vaccinations, and the owner pays for them to ride, it makes sense, especially for those of us who are pet owners in the city. I know it would make getting to the veterinarian, visiting family, or stopping by the “dog wash” much easier and cost-effective if I could take Hank, my Labrador Retriever, on the CTA or Metra.
Today is “Take Your Dog to Work Day” – started domestically in 1999 as a way to celebrate the great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from humane societies, animal shelters, and breed rescue clubs. I have to wonder how many more local employers would participate in this now global event if their employees had the option to commute with their dog(s) on the region’s public transit system? Making local trains and buses pet-friendly would benefit the region in a number of ways. Pets represent an untapped revenue stream – especially if an annual “pet transit pass” was offered; the cost could be scalable in proportion to the size of the pet. Giving pet owners the option to travel with their furry companions on public transit means less congestion and better air quality through fewer vehicles on the road. It would also promote healthier, more active lifestyles as more people opted to walk with their pets rather than sitting behind the wheel.
Pets – especially dogs – are welcome in an increasing number of public places, including shops, bars, and most recently, on restaurant patios in Chicago with special licensing. As people look for more ways to go green in everyday life, this is one option that makes sense for everyone, not just pet owners.