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Washington, D.C. – Metropolitan areas with higher public transportation use – among modes such as, heavy rail, light rail, frequent bus service and commuter rail – can cut their traffic fatality rate in half, according to an analysis released today by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the Vision Zero Network.

The analysis, Public Transit is a Key Strategy in Advancing Vision Zero and Eliminating Traffic Fatalities, shows that metro areas with higher public transportation use have lower traffic fatality rates.  Specifically, metro areas with frequent public transit use of more than 40 annual transit trips per capita, have half of the traffic fatality rate of metro areas with fewer than 20 transit trips per capita.

“One of the most powerful traffic safety tools a city can employ to eliminate deaths and injuries due to road traffic crashes is its public transportation system,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas.  “It takes just a modest increase in public transit use to result in a dramatic decrease in traffic fatalities.”

Metro areas that move from 20 annual public transit trips to 40 per capita represent a modest increase in public transit mode share but can provide disproportionally larger traffic safety benefits, according to the analysis.  On average, this increase would translate to people taking just two additional public transit trips per month.

“Every day 100 people die due to traffic crashes on America’s roads, and increasingly communities are committing to Vision Zero because they believe that everyone deserves to be safe on our streets,” said Leah Shahum, Founder and Director of the Vision Zero Network.  “Investing in strong public transit systems helps communities improve safety for everyone on the roads.  For too long, we have undervalued the significant safety benefits of robust public transit networks, so we look forward to stepping up cooperation to grow public transit and safety together.”

The analysis of this most recent data shows that for individuals public transportation continues to be one of the safest ways to travel. It is ten times safer per mile than traveling by car.

Public transportation modes that serve longer trips can help reduce total vehicle miles traveled and provide safety benefits to users, according to the study.  For instance, traveling by commuter and intercity rail is 18 times safer for passengers (measuring fatalities) than traveling by auto.  Public transit benefits even people who do not use it and are otherwise safe drivers because it helps reduce the risk of being the victim of other drivers’ mistakes, according to the analysis.

The study highlights that a robust public transit system creates these life-saving benefits because it provides for a greater mode shift from the auto to safer travel on public transit; an alternative for high-risk and vulnerable road users; and compact development which provides for lower and safer traffic speeds.

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there were 37,461 deaths due to automobile traffic crashes in 2016.  This is a 5.6% increase from the previous year.  In addition, these auto traffic deaths cost the nation $871 billion per year.

“It is essential our elected leaders on all levels continue to provide strong investments in public transportation because of its extensive traffic safety benefits,” said Skoutelas.  “We are partnering with the Vision Zero Network to encourage city leaders, public transit and traffic safety professionals to collaborate and leverage use of their public transit systems to move towards the goal of zero deaths and injuries on our roadways.”

This analysis is based on the methods used in the APTA research publication The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation. APTA is pleased to partner with the Vision Zero Network to share promising strategies for greater coordination and cooperation between public transit professionals, Vision Zero proponents, and others interested in safe mobility for all. For more information, go to www.apta.com/safety​​​​​​

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Traffic safety and public transit leaders discuss how cities can leverage their public transportation system as a powerful traffic safety tool to move towards the goal of zero deaths and injuries on our roadways. 

Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, Board Member, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 

“At the NTSB, we investigate transportation disasters of all types, but by far, more Americans die on our roads than in any other mode. Public transportation is an important safety tool because it allows high risk drivers, such as those who are drinking or fatigued or distracted, as well as those who are simply inexperienced or unable to drive for health reasons, to be able to get around without endangering themselves and others. I am pleased to learn about this APTA and Vision Zero Network partnership and report which I hope will help all of us put safety first in our communities and our nation, no matter what form of transportation we choose.”

Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the New York CityDepartment of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Transportation AuthorityBoard Member

“Subways, buses and trains are the safest modes oftransportation and serve to make the roadways in transit-rich cities like NewYork among the safest in the country.  As New York continues to improveand expand our mass transit systems, we are also aggressively working towardsthe goals of Vision Zero – eliminating all fatalities and serious injuries onour roadways.”​

Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) 

“Vision Zero starts with the premise that traffic fatalities are both avoidable and unacceptable and that even one fatality is too many. In San Francisco, we are redesigning our streets to achieve the dual benefit of safety for all road users and increased transit reliability, in support of our goals to eliminate traffic fatalities while increasing public transit ridership and mode share.”

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, Board Member of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority 

“Shifting trips onto public transit creates safer, healthier, and more vibrant communities. Creating less conflict among modes and building the infrastructure to support it is fundamental to Vision Zero’s success. Giving dedicated access to transit vehicles is a major step in improving transit movement and keeping other modes safe.”

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The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is a nonprofit international association of 1,500 public and private sector organization which represent a $68 billion industry that directly employs 420,000 people and supports millions of private sector jobs. APTA members are engaged in the areas of bus, paratransit, light rail, commuter rail, subways, waterborne services, and intercity and high-speed passenger rail. This includes: transit systems; planning, design, construction, and finance firms; product and service providers; academic institutions; transit associations and state departments of transportation. APTA is the only association in North America that represents all modes of public transportation. APTA members serve the public interest by providing safe, efficient and economical transit services and products.


The Vision Zero Network is a nonprofit project workingto advance the goal of Vision Zero – zero traffic deaths and severe injuriesamong all road users. The Network convenes leaders in the realms of publichealth, transportation planning & engineering, policy, law enforcement,community advocacy, and the private sector to develop and share promisingstrategies and to support strong, distributed leadership to make Vision Zero areality. More than 30 U.S. communities have committed to Vision Zero goals andstrategies since 2014. Find out more at www.visionzeronetwork.org


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