Getting more Americans out of their cars
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    OCT. 1, 2002
Getting more Americans out of their cars and onto buses or trains is the most effective way of cutting air pollution and reducing energy consumption without imposing new taxes, regulations, or government mandates, a new study says. Public transportation generates 95 percent less carbon monoxide, 92 percent fewer volatile organic compounds, and about 50 percent less carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide per passenger mile than private vehicles, according to the report paid for by the American Public Transportation Association. Per passenger mile, public transportation is twice as fuel-efficient as private automobiles, sport-utility vehicles, and light trucks. The study was written by three economists: Robert J. Shapiro, managing director of Sonecon LLC and a fellow of Brookings Institution and the Progressive Policy Institute, Kevin A. Hassett, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Frank S. Arnold, president of Applied Microeconomics. The Washington Post described the report as “the first scientific analysis that compares mass transit with private vehicles in terms of the fuel they burn and the pollution they spew.” If one in 10 Americans used public transportation regularly, reliance on foreign oil would decline more than 40 percent, the economists noted. And if one in five Americans used public transit daily, this would eliminate more carbon monoxide than is emitted by all the nation’s chemical manufacturers and metal processing plants. William Millar, president of the Transportation Association, called for more public investment in transit and for land-use policies connecting jobs and homes to transit. Since 1995, use of public transportation has grown sharply — faster than the use of private vehicles, researchers pointed out. The economists said the biggest environmental and economic benefits would come from boosting use of public transportation, especially rail, in metropolitan areas where the air quality is poorest and the population density is greatest. The study, “Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment: The Role of Public Transportation,” is available on the web at www.apta.com.