Recently we read an article in the Birmingham Business Journal (Original Article HERE) that showed Alabama as only one of five states in the country that doesn’t provide any funding for public transportation at the municipal level. While most of this study focuses on the job creation and service benefits of public transportation, we believe that the importance of public transportation goes beyond these and would like to bring attention to another, often under-appreciated benefit. Saving energy and saving even more money as a result.
The Importance of Public Transportation
While it is true that some people who currently do not drive would use public transportation, and thereby increase energy consumption, it is also true than many who currently drive cars would opt to use a well designed public transportation system. To further demonstrate this point, consider the following data points from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
- Riding public transportation far exceeds the benefits of other energy-saving household activities, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, adjusting thermostats, or using energy-efficient appliances.
- Public transportation use saves the U.S. the equivalent of 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually — and more than 11 million gallons of gasoline per day.
- Households that use public transportation save an average of more than $8,000 every year — even more as the price of fuel rises.
- Household residents with proximity to public transportation drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles annually compared to those with no access to public transportation.
Other forms of alternative transportation shouldn’t be ignored either. Walking and biking have substantial health benefits along with their financial and energy savings. Cars aren’t going away but they are becoming smarter and more efficient. Smart policy that places requisite value on public transportation, green ways, bike ways and alternative fuel vehicles will be imperative to improve livability in our communities.