Providing the traveling public with more energy-efficient choices for “getting around” is an important strategy to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that would also improve the efficiency and resiliency of our transportation systems. Data trends suggest Americans are increasingly seeking ways to drive less. Public transportation (including buses, ferries, subways, and commuter rail), walking, and biking enable Americans to drive less, save money, and, in many cases, save time.

Public transportation is a practical alternative method of travel. It is beneficial because it creates jobs, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and promotes safe travel. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), in 2012 the transit industry employed 388,880 operating employees and 12,050 capital employees. Transit riders typically consume half as much gasoline per person compared to those without reasonable access to public transportation. Riding public transportation instead of private vehicles reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 16.2 million metric tons per year. Transit also provides for safer transportation. According to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), "During 2009, the bus occupant fatality rate was 45 deaths per 100,000 accidents compared with 251 deaths per 100,000 accidents for passenger car occupants."

Infrastructure for walking and biking, including bike lanes, sidewalks, and safe road and rail crossings, is a critical but often overlooked element of transportation planning. An estimated 40 percent of all personal trips are under two miles, creating vast potential to increase walking and biking as practical, clean and cost-effective means of travel that promotes public health. Biking and walking are most common when safe, convenient, and comfortable options are made available. Well-rounded transportation policies that consider all users and promote all modes of travel are necessary to ensure that America’s transportation needs are fully met.

An effective national transportation network is critical for each state and city. Inversely, the quality of each jurisdiction’s network has a direct impact on the quality of the system as a whole. Commuter rail and other transit options are essential to rural residents, because they enable rural goods to be brought to large markets by avoiding impenetrable urban congestion. Similarly, urban residents need rural roads to enable those same goods to be transported to urban markets.

EESI is part of the Smart Growth America coalition, which advocates for transit-, pedestrian- and bike-friendly policies at the federal level.

 

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