What’s the significance of the actions of one person, or even a neighborhood or city, in making meaningful progress? Are you concerned about obesity, diabetes and hypertension; do the recent storms in Oklahoma and Texas make you feel apprehensive about your carbon footprint. If there was something you can do, and you can do it today, you can do it immediately, would you do it?
There is a mass transportation system in 439 urban areas nationwide. For every $1 invested in public transit, $4 is generated in economic returns; this translates into a savings of 796 million hours of travel time, 303 million gallons of fuel, and a reduction in the nation’s carbon footprint by 37 million metric tons annually.
Gas prices are now in the $4 per gallon range, the American Public Transportation Association estimates that a two-person household can save an average of $10,000 each year by downsizing to one vehicle. If you did this for ten years you would save $100,000…isn’t that like winning the lottery with vastly better odds.
Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Public transportation is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, transportation is responsible for 27% of U.S. energy consumption, and almost one-third of all U.S. carbon emissions, this is more than any other sector. Riding public transportation instead of your car can reduce these emissions and conserve energy. The same gallon of gasoline that gets you to work can get 30 or more people to work in a bus. Also, a bus emits 80% less carbon monoxide than an automobile. Whether you use the bus, train, trolley, subway, or any other form of public transportation, you reduce your share of pollutants and carbon emissions, and the reduction is significant.
Taking public transportation far exceeds the combined benefits of using energy-efficient light bulbs, adjusting thermostats, weatherizing a home and replacing a refrigerator. If an individual switches a 20-mile roundtrip commute to public transportation, his or her annual CO2 emissions will decrease by 4,800 pounds per year, equal to a 10% reduction in a two-car household’s carbon footprint.
There are personal health considerations: since the bus doesn’t pick you up at your front door, chances are that you have to walk some distance to get to the bus stop (I walk six blocks). If you were driving yourself, the walk from your door to your car hardly constitutes exercise, but walking the few blocks to the subway or bus stop, or biking the distance to the public transportation depot in your town might help contribute to keeping you healthy. You might also consider that driving time is wasted time. When you ride a bus, you can read, work on that last minute presentation for work, or finish up the report you didn’t have time to complete last night. If you were driving, you wouldn’t be able to do any of these things. Also, the National Safety Council estimates that riding a bus is 170 times safer than traveling by automobile.
You can determine your cost of driving by filling out the Commute Solution’s The True Cost of Driving Survey. Input the number of miles you drive each day for work and play, the site calculates the cost of driving associated with vehicle ownership as well as greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere plus wear and tear on public roads. It is a nifty tool.
The mass transit system in every metropolitan has a web page where you can get cost information. In Seattle you can go to Orca Card. While you are on your local site look at the tools to plan trips with destinations and times, information on how to combine other forms of transportation such as bikes (in Seattle the buses and the lite rail system has bike rakes). You will also be astounded by what is being done to move to hybrid and electric buses to further reduce cost and emissions.