The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a Congressional briefing presenting the findings of a new report by ICF International entitled, “Public Transportation and Petroleum Savings in the U.S.: Reducing National and Household Dependence on Oil." Commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association, this independent, quantitative analysis looked for the first time at what public transportation saves individual households and the nation as a whole. It also examined a possible future in which twice as many Americans would have the choice to use public transportation. The report found that current public transportation service in the United States reduces overall petroleum consumption by millions of gallons a day and saves those households that take advantage of public transportation thousands of dollars in local transportation costs, compared to a household with no access to public transportation service.
Since 1995, public transportation ridership has gone up by 25 percent. Transit riders rode over 46 billion miles in 2004, reducing fuel use for private automobile travel proportionately. However, according to the 2001 National Household Transportation Survey (NHTS 2001), only half of all households have access to public transportation. Of those residents, not all have service that can deliver them to their destinations for work, school, shopping, and socializing. Of those who can, many have seized the opportunity to save money on fuel consumption by taking public transportation. A dramatic expansion of public transportation service and usage across the United States would provide a significant opportunity for U.S. households to reduce their spending on petroleum consumption, and for the nation to reduce its dependence on petroleum as a fuel source, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The reduction in petroleum consumption is attributed to three factors: 1) the efficiency of carrying multiple passengers in each vehicle; 2) the reduction in traffic congestion from fewer automobiles on the road; and 3) the use of fuel efficient buses and electric rail cars.
The Leadership of the 110th Congress has said that addressing energy and climate change are legislative priorities. This new report provided an important look at the role of public transportation in addressing these issues. Our speakers discussed how transportation and land use policies can be fundamental components of energy and climate change initiatives.