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American Public Transportation Association

 Transit News



Mantill Williams
(202) 496-4869

Virginia Miller
(202) 496-4816

 Fact Sheet Public Transportations Contribution to Energy Savings and US Greenhouse Gas Reduction


Background on Transportation, Energy and CO2 Emissions

  • Between 1982 and 2006, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the U.S. have increased by 47 percent per person, from an average of 6,800 miles per year for every man, woman and child to almost 10,000 miles per year.
  • During this same period, national consumption of oil for transportation rose from 3.4 to 5.1 billion barrels per year - every additional barrel consumed results in more fuel imports, more money spent by consumers on fuel, more money sent over seas and more carbon dioxide and other pollutants emitted into the air.
  • U.S. greenhouse gases (GHGs) from transportation represent 33% of total U.S. GHG emissions -automobiles and light trucks are the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources.

The National Picture – Public Transportation Contribution to Energy Savings and CO2 Emissions Reduction

  • If public transit systems had never existed in American cities and their effects on our urban landscapes were completely erased, American households would drive 102.2 billion more miles per year.
  • The “leverage effect” of public transportation, supporting transportation efficient land use patterns, saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline – more than three times the amount of gasoline refined from the oil we import from Kuwait.    
  • This “leverage effect” reduces the nation’s carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons annually - equivalent to the electricity used by 4.9 million households.  To achieve a similar reduction in carbon emissions, every household in New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles combined would have to completely stop using electricity.

The Community Picture – Implications for Communities that Embrace Transit

  • Communities who choose to invest in transit will reduce vehicle miles of travel, reduce energy consumed and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Transit systems allow areas to support more travel, with fewer roadways, in less space.  This means jobs are closer to people, people are closer to shopping, and more trips can be made by walking, biking, or just a short car ride. 
  • Even for those who do not take transit this means they can walk, the can drive shorter distances, and they can travel less. 
  • Embracing public transportation at the local level is a first step toward energy independence and protecting our environment.

 What Does this Mean for Households?  The Value of Public Transportation

  • The most energy efficient households are located within America live within close proximity of a bus or rail line.
People living in households within one-quarter mile of rail and one-tenth of a mile from a bus stop drive approximately 4,400 fewer miles annually as compared to persons in similar households with no access to public transit.
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