On March 8, 2006 the Environmental and Energy Study Institute held a briefing on the role of transit-oriented strategies in reducing energy consumption. By decreasing the number of car trips made by Americans each day, transit helps lower smog-forming emissions and greenhouse gases and improves public health. The briefing speakers included national experts on transit related policies. The briefing speakers included national experts on transit related policies:
William W. Millar, President, American Public Transportation Association
Mariia Zimmerman, Vice President of Policy, Reconnecting America
Winston Harrington, Senior Fellow, Resources for the Future
In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush declared that America is “addicted to oil,” calling for reduced petroleum use. The U.S. consumes more than 20 million barrels of oil each day, with two-thirds used by the transportation sector. Currently, nearly 60 percent of our oil is imported. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT), or the number of miles traveled by automobiles each year, has rapidly increased over the past 15 years, resulting in clogged highways, increased energy consumption and air pollution, and expanded sprawl. With accompanying gas prices skyrocketing, Americans are increasingly looking to reduce the burden of high transportation costs. In addition, state and local officials from areas in non-attainment of federal air quality standards are looking for ways to reduce emissions from the transportation sector. Strategies such as transit-oriented development ( TOD ), congestion pricing in conjunction with transit provisions, and sustained support for existing public transportation offer opportunities to decrease energy consumption, lower vehicle emissions and promote smart growth.
Transit-oriented development ( TOD ), characterized by mixed-use development with a network of walkable, bikeable streets, has helped boost transit ridership as well as spur economic development. TOD projects in Atlanta and Dallas have attracted $1 billion in private investment. In Evanston , Illinois , TOD has helped increase transit ridership between 60–155 percent, prompting property values to grow by 40 percent.
Congestion pricing (higher road prices under congested conditions and lower prices at less congested times and locations) is another strategy designed to reduce driving and spur transit. In London , congestion pricing has resulted in a 14 percent increase in bus ridership while decreasing congestion by 30 percent. Increased city revenues have allowed for greater investment in transit.
In the third quarter of 2005, high gas prices saw national transit ridership go up 3.3 percent with some cities such as Minneapolis , Houston , Cleveland and Sacramento showing even more robust growth. According to the American Public Transportation Association, public transportation saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline each year. Experts suggest that if Americans used transit at the same rate as Europeans - for 10 percent of their transportation needs - the U.S. would reduce its dependence on foreign oil by more than 40 percent. Despite the numerous benefits offered by transit and the President’s call to reduce oil consumption, the FY 2007 budget request funds transit at $8.87 billion (slightly higher than $8.5 billion appropriated in FY ‘06), which is $100 million below levels authorized in the recently enacted Transportation Bill, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU).