Study: Public Transportation Best for Environment

A new independent study by three top economists demonstrates that increasing public transportation use is the most effective, and possibly the only way to improve air quality and reduce energy consumption without imposing new taxes, government mandates or regulations.

Washington, D.C. – July 19, 2002 [] Based on the findings of the new national study, energy and environmental savings have been calculated for more than a dozen major metropolitan areas in the United States. “Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment: The Role of Public Transportation,” released recently in Washington, DC, concludes that public transportation generates 95 percent less carbon monoxide (CO), 92 percent less in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), per passenger mile, as private vehicles. The report was authored by: Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, Managing Director of Sonecon, LLC, and non-resident Fellow of the Brookings Institution and the Progressive Policy Institute, Dr. Kevin A. Hassett, Resident Scholar of the American Enterprise Institute; and Dr. Frank S. Arnold, President of Applied Microeconomics, Inc. In energy conservation, the study shows that public transportation already saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline or 45 million barrels of oil a year. This number is equivalent to the energy used to heat, cool and operate one-fourth of all American homes annually, or half the energy used to manufacture all computers and electronic equipment in America annually. “We all know that a rail car or bus carrying 40 people is far more efficient than a car moving just one person. What people may not realize is exactly how much energy is being saved, and how these savings add up to millions of barrels of oil conserved and millions of tons of harmful emissions avoided each year,” said Shapiro. “Increased use of public transportation is an important answer to two national challenges — greater energy independence and a cleaner environment — that our nation has been grappling with for decades.” The study also shows that if one in ten Americans used public transportation regularly, U.S. reliance on foreign oil could be cut by more than 40 percent. This is nearly equivalent to the amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia every year. Environmental benefits would also be significant. Without any new government mandates, regulations or taxes, the United States would be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 25 percent of the standard set under the Kyoto Agreement.