In the context of transportation, public transit, not only does it fulfill a need but it plays a vital role.
Think of it this way: In America in 2012, there were 10.5 billion public transportation trips taken. In the same year American drivers drove 2.939 trillion miles.
Figure at least another 52.5 billion more driving miles added. This, of course, would be based on an average public transit one-way trip length of five miles. But what if not all these trips were one-way and some or most were round-trip? Put it this way: the miles of extra driving would be considerable.
Not only this, but I can’t help but believe that the bulk of the trips, if not on public transit, would be made in emissions-producing motor vehicles, and the reason I feel public transit plays a vital role. (See: “Uptick in road congestion in 2013 means worsening air quality?” for additional perspective).
Moreover, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Americans using public transportation save gasoline and carbon emissions to the tune of 4.2 billion gallons and 37 million metric tons, respectively, each year.
Let’s be clear: Sustainable travel, whether motor-vehicle- or public-transit-centered, hands down, has it all over the alternative. Think advantages like greater energy efficiency, less waste, reduced pollution, and presumably, reduced transportation expenditures. Interestingly, some interests have already gotten with the program. In fact, in the public transportation arena, a number are being recognized for their sustainability achievements.
The APTA in a July 24, 2013 press release, states: “The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced today that nine public transportation systems and businesses will be recognized for their outstanding sustainability achievements. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro) is the first public transportation system in North America to receive Platinum recognition level in the APTA Sustainability Commitment program.”
Specifically, the APTA notes: “In large part due to its conversion to a vehicle fleet powered 100 percent by clean fuels, LA Metro has achieved a 38 percent reduction in criteria air pollutants per passenger mile traveled (PMT), a 15 percent reduction in fuel use per PMT, and a 9 percent reduction [in] greenhouse gas emissions per PMT from 2008-2011.”
Meanwhile, among those earning the Gold recognition were Hampton Roads Transit (Virginia), King County Metro Transit (Washington) and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (California).
Vehicle pollutant emissions and energy usage reductions per transit VMT of 58.8 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively, was achieved by Hampton Roads Transit through the procurement of hybrid buses and the opening of “its first light rail line,” likewise, in the 2008-to-2011 period, APTA noted in the release.
There is more on the APTA Sustainability Commitment program here: http://www.apta.com/resources/hottopics/sustainability/Pages/default-old.aspx