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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

9/27/2007



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

APTA study: Public transportation use substantially reduces greenhouse gases


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The most powerful weapon you can use to combat global climate change may be a daily transit pass, according to the results of a study released yesterday by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

When compared with other household actions that limit carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, taking public transportation can be more than 10 times greater in terms of reducing this greenhouse gas, according to Public Transportation's Contribution to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reduction, a study prepared for APTA by Science Applications International Corp.

Moreover, one commuter switching his or her daily driving routine to using public transportation can reduce his/her household carbon footprint by 10 percent. And if one household's driver gives up that second car and switches to public transit, a household can reduce its carbon emissions up to 30 percent.

"Encouraging use and expanding public transportation should be a part of our national strategy to address global climate change," said U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in a prepared statement. "The report provides further evidence that public transportation is one of the most important tools to minimize carbon output, help the environment and assist the nation in achieving a sustainable transportation system."

How important a tool is it? An individual switching to public transit can reduce their daily carbon emissions by 20 pounds; that's more than 4,800 pounds per year, which APTA says is "far greater," for example, than home weatherizing and adjusting the thermostat for heating and cooling — which saves 2,847 pounds of carbon annually. It also would have more of an impact than replacing five incandescent bulbs to lower wattage compact fluorescent lamps, which saves 445 pounds of CO2 per year, or replacing an older refrigerator freezer with a high-efficiency unit, which saves 335 pounds of CO2 per year.

Meanwhile, the problem of pollution from vehicle emissions is accelerating, the study concluded. Greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources grew 27 percent from 1990 to 2004, with autos and light-duty trucks representing 61 percent of the total.

"While it is good public policy to require more fuel efficient automobiles, increasing the use of transit can have a more immediate impact on our nation’s transportation fuel consumption," said William Millar, president of APTA, which is calling on Congress to incorporate public transportation into a national climate strategy. "It could take 20 to 30 years to see a complete turnover of the vehicle fleet. A household does not need to go to the expense of buying a new vehicle to make a difference; they can simply take advantage of the nation’s existing bus or rail services to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint."



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