Environmental Benefits of Public Transit
Switching to public transportation is one of the most important actions we can take for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Expanding public transit in Cook County will make it easier for people to adopt a low-carbon lifestyle.
- In 2011, the EPA estimated that the transportation sector accounts for 28% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Half of that, 14% of all U.S. emissions, comes from cars and light-duty trucks. The average number of miles traveled in the US has increased by 34% from 1990-2011, partly due to population growth and urban sprawl.
- The average car emits 432 grams, or almost one pound, of CO2 per mile. If that car drives the national average of 12,000 miles per year, annually that amounts to 5.1 metric tons, or 11,243 pounds, of CO2.
- The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) reports that public transportation reduces total CO2 emissions by 37 million metric tons each year. That’s the equivalent of taking 7,254,901 cars off the road.
- A 20-mile commute to work will produce 4,800 pounds of CO2 in a year. The average Chicagoan commutes 22 miles per day.
- This 4,800 pounds of CO2 per year represents 10% of a two-adult, two-car household’s annual CO2 emissions. If that household completely eliminated one of its cars and switched to public transportation, their annual CO2 production would be reduced by 30%. Annually, public transportation saves 4.2 billion gallons of gas, or 11.5 million gallons each day.
- Subway and metro systems, like the CTA and Metra, produce 76% fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile traveled as compared to a typical private vehicle. A rail car only has to be 19% full of passengers to surpass the efficiency of a car.
- Increasing access to public transportation will increase its ridership, which will eliminate even more cars from the road and increase the rail system’s efficiency, keeping more CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Flickr photo by Steven Vance